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Do yourself a favour(DW#750 )

If you do good, you do good for your own souls, and if you do evil, it is for them [the souls]Sura Israa [Holy Quran 17:7]

In verse 7 of Chapter 17 [Sura Bani Israel/Isra], Allah lays out a foundational principle of the way He has created the universe. Whether we do good or evil, the effect of our actions impact us more than they impact anyone else. This is true on this plane of existence as well as the hereafter.

Firstly, this verse acknowledges freedom of choice for human beings. While we have been guided, internally and externally, the choice of action remains ours. We choose, every moment of our lives, whether to take the path towards our wellbeing and His pleasure, or against ourselves and away from His pleasure. (can you see how both are connected?)

So, even when we think we are doing others a favour by doing an act of kindness for them, or harming someone by criticizing them, being mean spirited, gossiping, betraying them, lying to them or any other act, this verse is...

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Rose bud and thorn(DW#737)

Here is possibly my favourite way to check in with others.

Ask family members to think of their "rose, bud, and thorn" of the day:

Rose: this is the best thing that happened to them during the day.
Bud: is something they are looking forward to with hope.
Thorn: is the worst thing that happened to them today.

Please remember that the point is not to discuss why they think a particular thing is a rose or a thorn. Please do not discuss how their "thorn" is not so bad or try to get them to see the rose amongst the thorn!

That is NOT the point of this exercise.

The more we are able to validate and listen with understanding and compassion, the more open the others will be to moving beyond their current feelings and emotions.

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Do you feel guilty about negative feelings?(DW#732 )

Over the last few days I have been hearing some version of the following over and over again:
 
"I shouldn’t complain. I have it so much better than so many other people". "I am missing this and that. But really I should not feel bad about it. So much bigger stuff going on in the world".
 
This is true. Alhamdullilah. We certainly have it better than many many people in the world who are suffering so much. And it is very good to remind ourselves of that from time to time especially when we go down a negative thought spiral.
 
But here’s the thing: it is also okay to feel sad about something small that meant something to you. Disappointment over something that you were looking forward to that got cancelled. That you cannot invite anyone over for a barbeque even though the weather is getting better. That your favourite restaurant has closed its doors for ever. That you cannot run out and get something from the store.
 
That single mom who is also a...
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What did you do with the hour you gained last week? (DW#695)

In North America and Western Europe, the end of October/beginning of November signals the switch back from Daylight Saving Time. The clocks go back and we "gain an hour" on Sunday.

While many of us cringe at the coming of Winter and the shorter, darker days, there is a significant statistic that we need to be aware of:

"In the autumn within the Northern Hemisphere, when the clocks move forward and we gain an hour of sleep opportunity time, rates of heart attacks plummet the day after", writes Mathew Walker inWhy we Sleep.

He explains that the opposite is also true of course. Here is how he puts it:

"When communicating science to the general public in lectures or writing, I’m always wary of bombarding an audience with never-ending mortality and morbidity statistics, lest they themselves lose the will to live in front of me. It is hard not to do so with such compelling masses of studies in the field of sleep deprivation. Often, however, a single astonishing result is all the...

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The second pillar of self-care (DW#691)

As we continue our series on self-care, let us remind ourselves that we are keeping it super simple for now.

Instead of making self-care an elaborate and unattainable practice that takes up three hours of our time, we are starting with our most basic needs.

What is the second most basic self-care routine that can have a major impact on our wellbeing?

Sleeping.

To start with, let us reflect on this passage from Matthew Walker’s fantastic book Why We Sleep:

"I was once fond of saying, ‘Sleep is the third pillar of good health, alongside diet and exercise.’ I have changed my tune. Sleep is more than a pillar; it is the foundation on which the other two health bastions sit. Take away the bedrock of sleep, or weaken it just a little, and careful eating or physical exercise become less than effective, as we shall see."

Given that the vast majority of us are sleep deprived these days, doesn’t it make sense to prioritize this as a fundamental of self-care?

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The breathing cheat sheet (DW#690)

[Daily Wisdom #670] The breathing cheat sheet

As we wrap up our first self-care practice of breathing, let us remind ourselves of what we discussed:

[DW #675] Attend to the basics of self-care

[DW #676] Remember the three golden rules of breathing

[DW #677] Breathe Through Your Nose (all the time!)

[DW #678] Breathe deeply

[DW #679]Exhale for longer

[DW #680] Flip the switch on stress

[DW #681] Slow down

[DW #682] Breathe into your belly

[DW #683] Notice the impatience

[DW #684] Take breathing breaks

[DW #685] Balance your mind

[DW #686] Establish your baseline

[DW #687] Breathe vertically rather than horizontally

[DW #688] Distinguish breath awareness and intentional breathing

[DW #689] Boost your willpower using your breath

As always, I would love to hear from you. How has using these practices impacted your life? Which of these practices do you find the most useful? The most challenging?

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Establish your baseline (DW#686)

If you are still sceptical about how something as simple as breathing properly can impact your overall wellbeing, there is a simple way to measure and monitor your wellbeing before starting a breathing regimen and then again, a couple of weeks after.

Vranich Belisain Breathe: 14 Days to Oxygenating, Recharging and Fuelling Your Body and Brain suggests scaling the following on a scale from one to ten.

1. Stress level. On a scale of 1 to 10, where is your stress level right now? Note if it is normally this high or is it higher at present for some reason? The stressors do not really matter that much – just note a number on your subjective stress scale

2. Pain. If you are experiencing pain of any type, put a number to it. 1 being no pain, 5 being tolerable and 10 being intense or acute.

3. Energy level. Although your energy level obviously fluctuates throughout the day, put a number to the average energy level these days. 1 being no energy and 10 being bouncing off the walls...

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Balance your mind (DW#685)

Have you ever heard of, or tried, alternate nostril breathing?It’s an ancient yogic technique that’s been shown to effect brain waves and reduce anxiety and stress while inducing a calm, balanced mind.

Research from UCSD indicates that the nasal breathing cycle corresponds to the dominance of the left or the right hemisphere of the brain. The study suggested that the "cycle of hemispheric dominance" could be manipulated by using breathing techniques: "Closing the right nostril and forcibly breathing through the left nostril produces greater EEG activity in the right brain and vice versa. These changes in the pattern of EEG dominance occur almost instantaneously; at most, they require periods of about five minutes."

Here’s how alternate nostril breathing works. Please note that it sounds much more complicated than it is in practice.

Place your right thumb over your right nostril and rest your pointer finger on your forehead. Inhale through your left nostril. I like...

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The three golden rules of breathing (DW#676)

Over the weekend did you complete the ‘noticing your breath’ assignment? Have you been noticing your breath? What have you noticed?

Do you breathe through your mouth or your nose? (Many people breath thru their mouth. Look around and/or in the mirror. Notice yourself and others. How many mouths do you see open?)

Do you breathe deeply (and calmly) into your belly? (For many of us the breath stops at the chest, especially if we breathe through our mouths.)

How long is your exhale compared to your inhale? (If we are stressed, we gasp for air without emptying out our lungs fully)

Here are the three basic rules for breathing:

1. Breathe through your nose. All the time, even when exercising.
2. Breathe deep into your belly
3. And exhale slightly longer than you inhaled
Let us explore each of these a little more over the next few days.

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Attending to the basics (DW#675)

If you are a perfectionist, you have already started researching the "best" and most "perfect" self-care routines. You may have downloaded some apps and trackers and telling yourself that once you have done enough research and have a handle on best practices, you will start your routine. (Please do not ask me how I know this . .)

If this describes you, please STOP right now.

Instead of making self-care an elaborate and unattainable practice that takes up three hours of your time, keep it super simple. Start with your most basic needs for now.

What is the most basic self-care routine that can have a major impact on our wellbeing?

Breathing.

Yes, yes, of course we are already doing it but in order to make it part of self-care, we need to be a little bit intentional about breathing.

Over the next couple of days, just notice how you are breathing. Is it shallow or deep? What happens to your breath when you are stressed or anxious?

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