Proven Techniques for a Successful Positive Change this Ramadan
The Messenger of Allah Muhammad[peace be upon him] has said,"Almighty Allah says, 'I treat my slave (man) according to his expectations from Me, and I am with him when he remembers me. If he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My heart…. if he walks towards Me, I run unto him."[Hadith-Qudsi]
"Change" is the vogue today. "Change" is being chanted by the Presidents to rally up public support; "Change" is being demanded by the masses suffering due to skyrocketing fuel and commodity prices; "Change", a drastic one indeed, is what we are witnessing with awe in the global weather patterns.
For Muslims, Ramadan is the prime time for change. This month dramatically alters our routines and schedules. From tight sleep schedules, to hunger for extended hours, to reduction in consumption of junk foods, to a technology diet; to withdrawal from caffeine addiction, to lengthy standing in Taraweeh prayers at night, to extensive listening to the Quran. What a change indeed!
The real change, however, Ramadan demands of us is the internal change – a change that positively transforms our lifestyle, character, attitudes, conversations, and habits. Allah has described this change in the month of Ramadan as follows: "O you who believe, fasting has been ordained on you as it was decreed upon those before you so that you may adopt Taqwa[Taqwa is Allah consciousness ]" (2:183 [Quran 2:183].
If our change is limited to outer physical practices only, we become slaves to Ramadan, instead of being servants to Ar-Rahman (Allah, the Merciful).
Prophet Muhammad[peace be upon him] has warned us about those who don't fast from bad behaviour:
"Allah has no interest in any person's abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest actions" [Sahih al-Bukhari].
Every Ramadan we make resolutions and tell ourselves: "This Ramadan will be different. I'm going to change my ______ habit." "I will give up ………", "I will take my practice of Islam to the next level". But how many of us are really able to follow through? Plenty of good intentions, many amazing wishes, but sadly enough, life goes on as usual the morning of Eid.
Ask yourself, how is my fasting benefitting my spiritual connection with Allah? How is my extensive worship in Ramadan helping me discipline my tongue (taste and speech), eyes, ears, and habits?
Are you ready to take that first step to transform your bad habits into good ones?
Few things are more demanding than eliminating bad habits, since they are part of our daily routines and personality. It takes days of patience and practice to break old habits.
However, the good news is, Ramadan offers a perfect and natural environment for moral training. Interestingly, researches from "positive psychology" (scientific study of successful people) have repeatedly shown it takes between 30 to 40 days to kick a bad habit and develop a new one.
In addition to the physical discipline during the month of Ramadan, the increased spiritual exercise and connection with Allah, can transform your habits for life.
Try these proven techniques for a successful positive change in your habits during Ramadan and beyond!
4. Remember, Allah loves those who commit mistakes and repent: Prophet Muhammad[peace be upon him] said:
6. Replace a bad habit with a good one: Completely eliminating a habit is more challenging than replacing it with a more productive habit. Moreover, it's crucial to replace the lost natural needs, such as the need to socialize and to be entertained with something healthy.
For instance, it's easier to replace or balance your addiction to TV with a physical workout or reading, than to suddenly remove the TV from your life. Interestingly, Prophet Muhammad[peace be upon him], the greatest 'psychologist' of humanity, illustrated this principle in these words:
8. Exercise: Spiritual exercise is important for lasting change. You may not realize that by exerting your yourself in spiritual exercises like the reading of Quran and Hadith, fasting, giving charity, Zikr[remembering Allah] etc helps in eliminating a number of bad habits. Through the spiritual light of doing noble deeds evil ones will gradually be eradicated from your life. Allah says : "Indeed, Salah restrains from Shameful and unjust deeds" [Quran:29:45]. A person complained to the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] about someone who read salaah and also committed theft .The Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] said "His salaat will very soon wean him off that sin.' This shows that the evil habits can be got rid of by adhering to good practises. The doing of good deeds such as remembering Allah cleanses the heart. A clean heart encourages a person to do good deeds and refrains one from evil habits!
10. Reward success: The most fundamental law in all of psychology is the "law of effect." It simply states that actions followed by rewards are strengthened and likely to recur. Unfortunately, studies show that people rarely use this technique when trying to change personal habits.
16. Ask Allah for Help: MOST IMPORTANT!-Make Asking for Allah's Help an integral part of the overall change process. Ask for Allah's Help before, during and after every attempt at kicking a bad habit. Do so sincerely, even begging and crying, like a child does when he or she really wants something. Allah is Ever-Willing to Help and to Respond to our needs, but it is us who must take the first step towards Him. Allah will NEVER disappoint us!
"And whosoever is conscious of Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He (Allah) will make a way for him to get out (from) every (difficulty), and He will provide him from (sources) he could never imagine." [Quran 65:2-3]