Ramadan: A Behavioral And Spiritual Celebration That All People Can Benefit From.

Ramadan can be a challenging month regardless if you are fasting or not. These challenges can bring out the best and worse in us. For fasters, the long hours of food and water deprivation can test your limits. Add to that the stress of giving up our addictions and habits, even if it just a few hours a day. For all others, Ramadan can be challenging when everyone around you is fasting, and you are not. You might be bombarded with questions regarding your faith, or perhaps you are an expat who has to adapt to a new life style for the next 30 days.   Regardless of our relationship to Ramadan, how we go through the next 30 days is our own unique journey.Here are some general suggestions for Ramadan that can be beneficial no matter what your beliefs are:

1- Set your intentions

Intentions are intangible and focus on inner results – it’s a mindset rather than tangible goals.Examples of intentions: To be aware of my thoughts and actions, be more mindful in my prayer, be more mindful while eating, and how I interact with others.Examples of goals vs. intentions:Praying more is a goal, but the decision to be in the present while praying is an intention. Finishing a task is a goal, while declaring that “I will do my best” is an intention.

2- Put SMART goals

Whether it is Ramadan or not, we tend to declare unrealistic goals. The end result is usually that we don’t meet those goals or don’t reach the deadlines. Not only do we miss our goals, but we actually tend to forget about them as time goes by.  Ramadan is a perfect example of this. Many people decide to use Ramadan as a weight lose regimen, but that never work. People will keep trying year after year, but instead of tweaking this goal to better suit their needs, they continue to fail at it every time.A good way of testing our goals is to use the SMART method: * Is your goal SPECIFIC? Can you answer questions like what, where, when, why, and how?* Is it MEASURABLE? How will you know that you have achieved your goal? * Is it ACHIEVABLE to you? Do you have resources (time, money, energy, etc.) to achieve it? * Is it RELAVENT to you? Why are you making these resolutions? Are you trying to change something about yourself to fit in with other people’s expectations? Or are you doing it to honor your true self and live your life to the fullest? * Is it TIMELY?  Are your deadlines reasonable and realistic? It could be helpful to put several mini measurable deadlines throughout the year. Another goal tool which I like to use is to pick the minimum and the maximum.Minimum is the goal that must be achieved and nothing less, whereas maximum is the bonus. 

Example 1:

Sarah would like to be more active in Ramadan. She decided her minimum and acceptable target would be to go the gym twice a week, each time for 30 minutes. The maximum amount of time she would go to the gym would be 4 times a week for 30 minutes each.  The maximum is an added bonus!

Example 2:

Sally wants to plan taraweeh (A night prayer usually preformed at the mosque during Ramadan). From her experience, going every day to the mosque is a major a stretch, given her family and work obligation. Rather than set herself up to fail, she decided to plan taraweeh prayer that better suits her busy schedule. Instead, she plans to pray taraweeh on the weekends, this is her minimum. Her maximum would be to pray taraweeh during the weekend and two extra times during the week.

3- Mind your own business:

Ramadan is a great time to reflect. Preoccupying ourselves with what others do or don’t is a waste of precious times and energy.

4- Practice compassion towards self and others.

 Ramadan is referred to as the month of mercy. It is a wonderful reminder to have mercy and compassion towards ourselves and others. You might be irritated if you want to fast but can’t, due to illness, pregnancy or whatever your reason may be.  Remember that God has given you that permission and the best thing you can do is appreciate this gift and forgive yourself. Everyone on this planet can make use of some self-compassion. So, in honor of this month, ask yourself: what do I need to forgive myself for? and perhaps, who am I unable to forgive?

5- Practice gratitude

Research has showed that there are many benefits of daily practice of gratitude. For example, it improves physical and mental health, and better sleep quality. what better time to start practicing gratitude than during a month where one gives up a lot of earthly pleasures for a few hours a day.

6- Charitable work:

People feel generous during the holidays, Ramadan is no exception. Join in and do charitable work. As someone put it out nicely “giving spirits are contagious”. 

7- Do check ins

Throughout the day, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself how you are feeling. Be aware of what comes up for you. no judgmental  

8- Be mindful of negative emotions.

It is common for anger and resentment to surface during Ramadan. when is occurs, be kind and ask yourself what is really causing these emotions and how are they expressed.

9- Enjoy the month and everything that it brings along.

I would love to hear from you. what are some of your goals and intentions for Ramadan… what might be challenges you anticipate facing in Ramadan? NOTE ON NEW ON CHANGING BEHAVIORS:   On average, It takes more than 2 months (66 days) before a new behavior becomes automatic and somewhere between 18 – 254 days to form new habits (study by health psychologist Philippa Lally – University College London, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology). Of course, the length of time also depends on the behavior and person involved.

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