Why minimising Late night TV viewing will uplift your mood

watch less TV, do more

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This Minimalistic Sunnah Design Lifestyle by the will of Allah will explore a) improving those mood swings b) freeing up more time for contemplation, reflection, prayer or quality time with family c) social interaction with Muslim in the morning.

In 2005 the authors of Freakonomics, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt wrote an article for the New York Time titled Does the Truth Lie Within?

It follows the work of Seth Roberts who at the time was a  psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley age 52.

The article reflects on the  variety of problems Roberts had and, the self-experiment carried out on himself to find solutions to these problems.

I came across the story in the one of the books by the two authors, unfortunately I can not recall if it was in Freakonmics 1 or 2, anyway; the article is compact of the content in the book. What was striking to me was;

“He wasn’t depressed, but he wasn’t always in the best of moods”, stated the article.

The proposed solution to this problem was:

“Stranger yet was the fix he discovered for lifting his mood: at least one hour each morning of TV viewing, specifically life-size talking heads – but never such TV at night. Once he stumbled upon this solution, Roberts, like many scientists, looked back to the Stone Age for explication. Anthropological research suggests that early humans had lots of face-to-face contact every morning but precious little after dark, a pattern that Roberts’s TV viewing now mimicked.”

When I read this part of the experiment, what stood out to me was the narration of the Prophet of Allah صلىالله عليه وسلم :

“Abu Barza reported that the Messenger of Allah صلىالله عليه وسلم, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to dislike sleep before ‘Isha’ and talk after it.” [Agreed upon]

The explanation that scholars provide in the detailing for this narration is that, if necessary conversation is needed i.e. religious, family, crisis, etc. then this is acceptable.

Other practices of the beloved Prophet صلىالله عليه وسلم would confirm that he did not like idle pursuits and his evening times were spent in contemplation, reflection and all manners of prayer. Most TV in the evening serves as entertainment purposes only.

Roberts experiment mimicked real life conversations in the morning by watching TV.  Life-size talking heads are from either news and Good Morning type programs. This would make sense in modern western cultures, whereby most people are either sleep in the morning our getting ready to go to work and minimal interactions occur.

For a Muslim, the sunnah (Prophetic Lifestyle) would be to visit the Masjid for the Fajr (Dawn) prayer.  One practice of the Prophet صلىالله عليه وسلم would upon completion of his prayer ask his companions if they had any dreams that needed interpreting, if there was none, then he would narrate a dream he had.

Those engaged in the effort of Dawah (Propagation of the Deen) either have a short talk presented in the Masjid or engage in Mashwara (consultation).

If you are not engaged in the effort of Dawah and will leave the Masjid without talking to anyone, or are a women who prayers in the home, then the suggestion would be to strike a conversation with members of your household.

Obvious conversations would include asking how they plan to spend the day.  What would be more proactive is to discuss how we can spend the day implementing minimalistic design lifestyle according to the Sunnah towards fulfilling the commands of Allah.

There is some obvious advantages of not watching TV in the evening and spending that time if not in refection and prayer, then at the least talking to the family.

 

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10 Essential Benefits of Eating Less

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One of the greatest blessing of the Almighty is the blessing of food.  However we have become a culture of embellishment and obsession of food.

It is my understanding that the Prophet Muhammed صلىالله عليه وسلم would spend the minimal time on eating and would only eat on most days only the once.

Further, the food of those days would be bland and technically you could consider him صلىالله عليه وسلم a semi-vegetarian, although he was extremely fond of meat, it was only on occasions that he could relish it.

For the last 2 weeks I have been attempting to adjust to a minimalistic eating pattern of once a day!

On most days I have succeeded and on occasional days I have lapsed and eaten twice, however the quantity on both these times would have been reduced.

A few weeks before Ramadhan, 3 of us started on a Lipotrim diet.

Lipotrim is a liquid diet which consists of powder mixed with water.  Besides this, you would only drink water.  We spent an  entire week without food and just Lipotrim, the contents contained sufficient nutrients to sustain the body. 

I can say that upon completion of our course I truly started to understood what it meant to be sustained by Allah

Lipotrim was the first step towards gaining the self-control towards being able to minimise eating food. 

Over the last 2 weeks, not only has there become a reduction on the number of times I eat, but also what I eat; reducing crisps, sweets, chocolate, etc. almost to zero; and only eating healthier food.

Here are the 10 Essential Benefits of Eating Less

1. The first is the purification of the heart, the illumination of the natural dispostion and the sharpening of one`s insight. Satiety (overeating) engenders stupidity and blindness in the heart

2. The second benefit is a softness and purity of the heart, by which it is readied to attain the delight of intimate discourse with God and to be affected by His remembrance.

3. The third benefit lies in mortification and abasement, and the removal of exultation, rejoicing and exuberance, which comprise the beginning of rebellion and heedlessness.

4. The fourth benefit is that one comes never to forget God`s trials and torments, or those who are afflicted by them. For the man sated is liable to forget those people who are hungry, and to forget hunger itself.

5. The fifth and greatest benefit lies in the breaking of all one`s desires for sin and in achieving mastery over the soul which commands evil.

According to Ghazali all sins originate in one`s desires and strength and when the source of that strength is cut off meaning one starts eating less then the desires become weak.

6. The sixth benefit consists in the repulsion of sleep and acquiring the ability to remain awake for long periods. A man who eats his fill will drink abundantly and whoever drinks abundantly will sleep abundantly also.

7. The seventh benefit is that lengthy acts of worship are made easier. (He goes on to explain how food makes one lazy and the time that is taken in eating and preparing the food can be spent in worshipping much more)

8. The eight benefit is the bodily health which results from eating little. Again simple and something we over-look way too much on how eating less is much healthier etc etc and saves us from various diseases.

9. The ninth benefit lies in reduced expenditure. Whoever becomes used to eating little will find a modest income sufficent, whereas a man who is habituated to eating his fill will find that his belly becomes a creditor impossible to shake off, who seizes him by the throat every day saying `What will you eat today`.

10. The tenth benefit is that the aspirant is enabled to put others before himself and to give in charity to the orphans and the poor that which is surplus to his wants.”

15 ways to increase solitude in your life

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One problem with our complicated lives these days is that many of us never find time to spend alone, in peace, without being bombarded with noise and information. There’s no time for solitude and quiet contemplation, and as a result, we have stress, anxiety, depression and repression.

Periodic seclusion from people is a positive thing. Everyone needs a breather – a time of rest and relaxation – after enduring the stresses of life, such as a string of social events, exams, work project deadlines, or extensive traveling.

Staying cooped up inside the home for too long, though, is detrimental for mental and physical health, because it turns one into a hermit.

However, withdrawing from people for smaller intervals of time is something that the soul needs, especially to achieve higher levels of moral enrichment and spiritual growth.

Several contemporary terms are used to describe this social withdrawal, such as meditation, reflection, introspection or de-stressing. This concept is endorsed by Islam.

Find time each day to be alone, for your mental health, by stealing pockets of time from other areas of your life.

This time will pay off for you in the long run. You will become sane, and with the ability to reflect on your life, on what you’ve gone through in the last 24 hours, in the last week, in the last year, you can slowly improve it or learn to be happy with it.

Prophet Muhammad صلىالله عليه وسلم withdrew into a cave to meditate for months before he received the first Divine revelation.

The Qur’an tells us how Maryam daughter of Imran withdrew into a private chamber to worship her Creator in an era in which moral decadence was socially prevalent.

Her uncle, Prophet Zakariyya, worshipped Allah in a special chamber or “mihrab” to ask Him for a vicegerent after he witnessed how Allah provided Maryam with provision.

During Ramadan every year, Prophet Muhammad صلىالله عليه وسلم would diligently observe a 10-day period of social isolation from everyone, even his family, which was filled with intense and devout voluntary worship.

Finding time for solitude is extremely important, and yet it’s an area that is often neglected.

I don’t mean time alone, where you’re watching TV or surfing the Internet or reading or watching the news. There’s nothing wrong with those activities, but they aren’t conducive to contemplation, to getting to know yourself, to reflecting on what you’ve been going through, for thinking about your dreams.

Learning to spend time in quiet solitude is also very difficult. It’s probably best if done in small doses at first, so if you only do it for 20 or 30 minutes at first, that’s OK. Learn to fight the urge to turn the TV on or turn your computer on or play music or read. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Uqbah Bin Amir said: “I asked the Messenger of Allah صلىالله عليه وسلم, “How can salvation be achieved?” He replied, “Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins.” [Al-Tirmidhi]

When someone discards excessive socializing and stays mostly at home, he begins to experience a greater calm in his soul. This is because one of the effects of keeping to one’s self and not unnecessarily mingling with others is that one begins to remember Allah more, to offer prayers on time, recite more Qur’an and engage in more dhikr.

Some people get easily bored at home, citing the excuse of supposedly having “nothing to do”. Not so for the Allah-conscious Muslim, who considers actions such as remembrance of Allah by the tongue, relating real-life events to the words of Allah in the Qur’an, and reading books of Islamic knowledge, to be enjoyable acts of worship.

The believer limits all distractive media and technology even at home, channelizing their worldly activities to maximize the benefit of his Aakhirah.

Solitude leads to more communion with Allah and a deeper connection with Him.

It enables one to conquer the art of reflection and introspection. This causes the materialization of the last part of the Hadith: a realization of past sins.

A quiet, uninterrupted domestic routine brings back memories of days gone by and sins committed therein. Therefore, keeping to his home sans distractions results in a believer remembering your past misdemeanors more often and vividly, as a result of which you are overcome with regret and remorse.

You are then more prone to shedding tears during prayers, turning back to Allah in sincere repentance.

What follows are just some ideas for recapturing about an hour a day of extra time, from other sources of time, so that you can have time for solitude. These are temporary fixes … ways for you to find that time for 30 days, and in those 30 days, you can find other ways to simplify your life so that you can have this time permanently. Use those 30 days, in part, for thinking about the complications in your life, about things you might want to eliminate to free up more time for important things, like your dreams, your loved ones, your passion, and solitude.

  1. Television. I’m not on a crusade against television, and I’m not saying you should get rid of it. I watch occasional programs via the internet. And though I’ve eliminated TV from my life, I’m not saying you should. This is a temporary fix, remember … so try to reduce your television consumption by 60 minutes, just for 30 days. You may find that you enjoy reduced TV consumption, but every person is different.
  1. Internet. Again, I’m not saying you should stop using the Internet. Just reduce your consumption of the Internet by 60 minutes for 30 days. Be sure to use those 60 minutes for solitude and contemplation. Reducing your Internet use will force you to use the time you do use the Internet more productively … you can still do the things you love to do, but you have to use them in a more focused way.
  1. Wake earlier. Try waking 1 hour earlier, just for 30 days. Or if that doesn’t work for you, stay up an hour later. Either way works. Of course, if you waking up for fajr Salaah; then this would be an ideal time.
  1. Email. If email consumes a huge part of your life, try going on an email diet. Only allow yourself to do email once a day, for 30 minutes. See if you can stop yourself from doing email at all other times. Remember, this is just for 30 days … after that, if you want to go back to doing email all day long, you can.
  1. Stop shopping. Again, it’s only temporary! But if you’re also trying to reduce debt or save money, this is a great permanent solution. But just try it for 30 days. Eliminate all shopping except essential grocery shopping. Everything else goes on a 30-day list.
  1. Leave work early. If your work allows it, see if you can leave work earlier. If you have a smart boss, the only thing that will matter is if you’re getting your work done — not how long you’re in the office. So really focus on getting the essential work done within the time you have, and leave an hour earlier.
  1. Go to work late. The flip side of the above suggestion. Again, this is if your work allows it.
  1. Take a longer lunch. Sometimes it’s easier to squeeze out extra time for your lunch break than it is to come in early or to leave early. If you can take 90 minutes for lunch, use the first 30 for eating (pack a lunch if possible) and the other 60 for solitude.
  1. Stop digesting news. Are you a news junky? It’s possible to go without it. See if you can stop reading newspapers, or watching TV news, for just 30 days. After that, you can go back.
  1. Don’t do anything after work. If you make social commitments after work, or business meetings, or whatever, stop making these plans for 30 days and use this time for solitude.
  1. Skip civic commitments. Do you volunteer or serve in an organization or are you a member of some group? Skip the meetings and other functions for a month. The organization won’t fall apart without you … even if you’re chairperson, you can temporarily hand the reins over to your vice president.
  1. Minimalize laundry. Do you do a load of laundry several times a week, or even every day? That’s an hour or two each time. Instead, go to a laundrette and do your laundry all in one shot — that’ll take about two hours. You can easily save 1-3 hours this way.
  1. Minimalize housework/yardwork. Do these chores take up a large part of your day? See if you can minimalize this, just for a month. Relax your standards a little. Or do a speed-cleaning stint once a week for two hours, and don’t clean the rest of the week. For yardwork, hire a teen-ager to do it for a month.
  1. Cut out non-essential reading. Cut out magazine reading and most book reading (unless it’s essential) to give you some extra time. This will also include cutting out newspaper and Internet reading, if you aren’t implementing the tips above.
  1. Minimalize recreation. Partying, playing sports, playing video games … however you spend your free time, see if you can cut into that time.

Remember to use any time you free up for solitude and contemplation, not extra TV time.

An Amazing Excursion to Africa With a Blink of an Eye

Moshahid Miah of Gt Norbury Street, Hyde, was very fortunate to spend two months in Tanzania, East Africa. A frequent traveler, planning this trip at the last minute after another trip fell through, but turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

While in Tanzania, he had the opportunity to teach, conduct debates, do group and community development work, go on safari, live with local families, and travel throughout the amazingly lush countryside.

Finding out about this opportunity through a quick online search, the trip was run through an agency called Original Volunteers.

They offer trips from £100 to many different countries, and after registering, potential travelers need only pick their destination.

Moshahid was drawn to Tanzania for its hiking (since Mount Kilimanjaro is located there), and quickly chose that as his destination. The trip is very budget-friendly, since food and accommodations were provided.

Arrival in the village of Iringa was after various traveling challenges—missed flights, delayed luggage, buses filled to capacity, and a 10-hour bumpy bus ride through the desert with no air conditioning—and was met by his host, priest Emil, who took him to the village of Nyabula.

Priest Emil’s house was located in a Christian mission and was the height of African luxury: integrated with its very own suite!

There was also a school, a small hospital, and student housing on the mission.

His first morning, woken up to children singing and deciding to go meet some locals.

Though nervous because he knew no Swahili, venturing over anyway, determined to break the ice. The children were playing their version of football with carrier bags scrunched together and tied with string.

Eventually, the children began to disperse, but that did not deter him. Grabbing a drum, he gathered the boys’ attention, and then took out his video camera to entertain them.

The children loved seeing themselves in the camera, and eventually nearby girls joined in too, dancing and jumping for the camera.

Eventually, about 200 children had gathered and were all playing games and shouting “Kirki Kirki!”.

Attracted by the children’s laughter and the sounds of happiness, people from all over the village came to surround the play area to see what was happening.

The children insisted that he come see them sing at the church the next day, and he couldn’t refuse.

There, he met nine priests and a bishop, all of whom were very welcoming and invited him to eat with them that day. The dinner was enlightening, as the priests and bishops were very respectful of each other’s opinions.

When one person was talking, everyone else was silent and listened attentively. Later, Moshahid attended a discourse on finance at a local masjid, which was again very civil, unlike some debates Moshahid had previously witnessed. The civility expressed during this discussion was due to the immense respect everyone had for the masjid, which was learnt from asking a young local boy.

Moshahid was able to gain some teaching experience while in Tanzania as well. Joining forces with two other travelers, Rachel and Matt from the UK, Moshahid was able to teach mathematics to young children.

He had no teaching experience whatsoever, so the first class was a bit nerve-wracking, but the more he taught the easier it became.

Deciding to teach skill sets, since not much work was done on improving communication skills, confidence, debating skills, group work and presentation skills.

Moshahid was able to incorporate a therapeutic side to his classes, which got a great response.

By discussing in groups how they felt about Tanzania and presenting to the class how they would improve their country, the children were able to share their feelings and feel positive during the presentation.

The children were simultaneously improving their group work, communication, and presentation skills, and increasing their confidence. At the end of the day, Moshahid had impressed the children so much that some of them wanted to carry his books home for him!

The teaching strategies were met with such great response that the head teacher, brother Rashid, asked Moshahid to teach a class of teachers at Umu Salama school on how to use different teaching methods and how to incorporate more group work into their lesson plans.

Upon conducted a debate with year two students by spitting the class into two halves, one arguing that beauty is more important in life and the other half arguing that brains are more important.

A hilarious debate ensued and even got the attention of the head teacher, who decided to sit in for a short while.  Moshahid had never thought of becoming a teacher before this trip, but now plans to pursue a teaching career after social work.

Moshahid was particularly impressed by the kindness and religious tolerance between Christians and Muslims in Tanzania.

He was asked to say grace in his way at one Christian house, and a Christian host family even served him halal chicken for dinner one night.

Meeting many wonderful people that made his journey even more special. One such companion was Matt, another traveller who was encouraged by Mosh to get out of the car while on safari to get up-close pictures of lions!

For the last two weeks of his journey, Moshahid stayed with a host family in which one member was also interested in social work, a great coincidence.

Moshahid also met Musa, a young man who had been paralyzed by a stroke but regained his happiness and mobility through his religious conviction and relationship with God. He was truly an inspiration to him.

There were many great things about Moshahid’s trip, but one that stood out was this.

A child asked priest Emil to buy him some sweets.  A man came up to priest Emil and asked why he didn’t just give the money to the child’s mother so she could buy him some food.  Priest Emil responded by saying,

“Imagine eating ugali, which is like squashed watery rice, every day.  One becomes sick and tired of the same tasteless food.  This boy wanted to taste a bit of sweetness; he wanted to live life, not just merely exist.”

Excitement, fun, tasting goodness, laughter and happiness are not only reserved for the rich.

This is a lesson Moshahid will take with him to his next project, “Going to Gaza” tomorrow.