Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam (Sawm). It is a holy month where every year Muslims fast and abstain from eating and drinking (even water, chewing gum and smoking) during daylight hours. This year Ramadan began in the evening of 26th May, and will fend on 26th June (depending on the moonsighting).
The month can have a considerable impact on someone's health. For a lot of people it can be a huge physical and mental challenge, with factors like the hot weather, long summer days, a lack of food and drink, and disrupted sleep patterns. Despite this, people take these challenges in their stride, going about their daily lives, whilst also making time for extra charity work, prayers and reading the Quran - all key activities during the month of Ramadhan.
Many Muslims, including myself, actively look forward to this month, as it provides a temporary change in lifestyle, and can bring a new perspective to things. The month is often a time for self reflection, self control, and a chance to focus on putting others needs above your own. I think of it as something similar to an annual 'training exercise' for self-improvement, a bit like a deep clean physically, mentally and spiritually. Even after the first day of Ramadhan, I notice a difference in myself. Even though it can be a challenge, it also has a positive impact, improving mental wellbeing through finding inner peace during prayers and improving self-esteem through acts of charity.
The month is intended to bring Muslims to closer to God, to encourage us to be kinder to one another and remind you to help others who may be in need of support. It's a time when friends, families and communities come together, and demonstrates the importance of support networks in helping our mental wellbeing.
Ramadhan, through its focus on charity, and helping others, enables you to connect with people outside or your own community too. Helping others is known to have benefits for our mental well-being - it feels good, as it gives us a sense of self worth and purpose.
After years of observing Ramadhan and seeing others participate in charity work, I thought I'd give it a go. I decided to do a fundraising campaign to raise money for homeless people in Canterbury and in parts of Central London to provide food, water and other necessary items. This process not only taught me a lot, but enabled me to engage with people I wouldn't have normally. It really helped my self-esteem, and I enjoyed having a project to focus on, contributing to helping me maintain my own wellbeing during this month. Some of the people I helped began to recognise me, and I would frequently stop and have lengthy conversations with them, discovering a lot about their lives. Many people, who find themselves homeless often have problems with their mental health. Having experience of depression and anxiety myself, I know how helpful it can be to have someone to talk to, and someone to listen to you. I hope that the conversations I had, and the food and drink we provided, went some way in supporting their wellbeing during this month too.
Despite the challenges that Ramadhan entails - the long days and nights, the sleep deprivation and fasting, the process of self-reflection, and my experience of volunteering has had positive impact on my mental health.