In the previous article, we discussed physical activities to ensure a healthy and happy heart. In this article, we will be sharing mental and spiritual exercises to make sure our qalb (heart) continues to be strong and healthy.
Mental Activities for a Happy Heart
Our thoughts affect our hearts. One of Shaytan’s tricks is that he puts negative thoughts in our minds. Cognitive Behavioral Theory, a widely used theory of counseling, teaches that our thoughts cause our feelings.
so here are four mental exercises for your heart
1. Maintain a positive and cheerful attitude
The Prophet Muhammad taught us to maintain a positive mental attitude about Allah and about life. Having a positive attitude will give you peace in your heart and mind. The Prophet Muhammad said,
“How excellent the affairs of the believer! His affair, all of it, is good for him, and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If prosperity comes to him, he is thankful, and if adversity falls on him, he perseveres patiently. So it is all good for him.” [Sahih Muslim]
The Prophet also encouraged a cheerful attitude:
“Do not belittle any act of kindness, even that of greeting your brother with a cheerful countenance.” [Sahih Muslim]
A man once requested from the Prophet the use of a camel. The Prophet replied, “I can loan you a camel’s baby.” “What use to me is a camel’s baby?” queried the man. Laughing, the Prophet quipped, “Isn’t every camel the baby of another?” [Shama’il Muhammadiyah]
2. Engage in hobbies
Hobbies are a form of “play” that fill your mind with joyful thoughts. Play expert Dr. Stuart Brown believes that “play” is necessary for a happy heart. Examples of “play” include sports, games, art, and reading (and if you read The ProductiveMuslim book, you will be performing both a mental and spiritual exercise for your heart!)
3. Practice gratitude (shukr)
Mentally recognizing what you are thankful for is an exercise for your heart that is also pleasing to Allah . Try keeping a “gratitude journal” in which you write down things that you are thankful for about each day. Remember to feel the genuine gratitude in your heart.
“If you give thanks, I will give you more.” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
4. Use coping mechanisms in times of stress
Sometimes our negative, fearful thoughts fill our hearts with negative feelings. In order to tame these negative thoughts, we need to use coping strategies that help us to feel calm. Examples of coping strategies include going for a walk, taking a bath, making wudhu, talking to a caring person, and of course making dua to Allah .
A 7 step process for coping with negative thoughts and feelings
A healthy heart should be free of negative thoughts and emotions. Being a positive and loving person means that you will be able to look after yourself, be kind to others, and be the best you can be in ibadah and in daily life. Here is a seven step process for coping with negative feelings:
- Negative Feeling Emerges: You feel a negative emotion such as anger, sadness, fear, frustration, etc.
- Awareness: You are aware at the beginning of this feeling that you have this feeling. You accept that you are a human being and it’s normal to have negative feelings sometimes.
- Goal: You tell yourself that you want to feel calm.
- Coping Strategy: You use a coping strategy such as going for a walk, making dua to Allah , leaving the room, taking a bath, etc.
- Patience: You are patient with yourself until your heart becomes calm. The time it takes to become calm will vary for each person and situation.
- Positive Thoughts and Actions: When your heart is calm, you feed your mind with positive and solution-focused thoughts. You focus on what you are thankful for and what positive actions you can take to solve your problems.
- Peace: You feel inner peace and a sense of accomplishment for handling your negative emotion in a calm way.
Spiritual Activities for a Happy Heart
Regular spiritual exercise for our hearts will gain us the love of Allah . The Prophet was asked,
“What deeds are loved most by Allah ?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” [Bukhari]
1. Prioritize the 5 Daily Prayers
Consider this hadith: Narrated `Abdullah ,
I asked the Prophet “Which deed is the dearest to Allah ?” He replied, “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
It is functional to organize our daily to-do lists in a manner which highlight prayer timings such as “Meeting with team members after dhuhr” or “Grocery shopping after ‘asr“. Organise your day around prayer times, rather than organising your prayer around your day. When we prioritise Allah , He makes our day easy for us, and we are fulfilling our purpose.
2. Remember Allah
Regardless of whether you want a confident heart or a positive heart or a satisfied heart, dhikr can give you this and more, as Allah says in His Book,
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah . Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” [Qur’an: Chapter 13, Verse 28]
Reciting duas for specific activities like waking up, morning and evening adhkar, saying bismillah before doing even the simple and regular tasks, saying alhamdulillah ‘ala kuli hall (all praises and thanks to Allah in all circumstances) while coming across something displeasing, saying astaghfirAllah when you make a mistake are simple ways to act upon this verse.
In a study by German psychologists at Saarland University and the University of Mannheim, it was found that prayer can reduce the chances of developing non-productive habits while carrying out mentally exhausting tasks or trying hard to control thoughts and emotions. As Muslims, we have this beautiful sunnah of reciting bismillah before doing even the simplest tasks. Developing the habit of reciting bismillah before doing something and praying Allah to make it beneficial and successful is good for our heart especially in coping up with stress. Try and make this a regular part of your day – remember there is a dua for almost everything!
3. Read the Qur’an with concentration and understanding
The Prophet told Ibn Umar not to finish reading the Qur’an in less than a week. He also said that one who finishes it in less than three days does not understand any of it [Jami at-Tirmidhi].
Make it a habit to read the Qur’an and memorizing some of its verses. The scholars suggest that a Muslim should not consider his/her day complete without reciting the Qur’an. Tilawah (recitation) does the same thing as the process of learning; it enhances us psychologically and shapes us into a more God-conscious person.
4. Ask for Allah’s forgiveness
Asking for Allah’s forgiveness polishes our hearts, and literally is the key to success. The Messenger of Allah said,
“Verily, when the believer commits a sin, a black spot appears upon his heart. If he repents and abandons the sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished, but if he increases in sin, the blackness increases. That is the covering which Allah has mentioned in his Book: “Nay, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned. [Qur’an: Chapter 83, Verse 14]”” [Jami at-Tirmidhi]
The Prophet said,
“Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and I supplicate Allah for forgiveness a hundred times in a day.” [Sahih Muslim]
If the Messenger of Allah , the best of creation, asked for forgiveness one hundred times a day, imagine how much we need this! Make the effort to make istighfaar a habit for you and your family.
5. Make Dua and ask of Allah
The Prophet said,
“The supplication is worship.” Then he recited, “And Your Lord said: ‘Call upon me, I will respond to you.’ ” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi]
Allah knows us better than our own mothers and He knows what is best for us and our deepest desires. Sit and raise your hands to Him and empty your heart out to Him . Knowing that your life is in Allah’s Hands will give you ease and contentment with what you have. Allah loves to give to us when we ask – so make dua in times of ease and hardship.
6. Leave what disturbs your heart
Lastly, I would like to remind you of the following,
Ibn Mas’ūd said,
“Beware of what disturbs the hearts. If something unsettles your heart, then abandon it.” [Jamī’ al-‘Ulum wal-Hikām, (2/95)]
For the sake of your heart, cut down on mindless entertainment, especially on social media and television, and replace it with Qur’an, lectures, anasheed and the company of good, pious people.
What are your activities to have a happy heart? Share them with us in the comments section to benefit others!