5 TIPS TO OVERCOME ANXIETY, DEPRESSION
AND NEGATIVE THOUGHTS IN ISLAM
BY DUNIA SHUAIB
WE ARE TESTED WITH OUR EMOTIONS
When looking at other people’s media, everyone’s life seems perfect. When we compare our own lives with others and when we don’t feel like our own lives are perfect, we become saddened. But we forget that this life was never meant to be perfect.
Everyone of us will be tested in one way or another. Allah SWT made it clear that this life isn’t Jannah and He said:
‘And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits but give good tidings to the patient’ – Quran 2:155
What is fear? It is an emotion – and Allah will TEST US with our emotions!
Hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits are also a test for us. But then Allah gives us hope when he says, “But give glad tidings to the patient”.
WE ARE ALLOWED TO BE SAD
Sometimes the Shaytan tricks us and tells us if we feel sad or anxious, it means that we don’t have faith or that Allah SWT is angry with us – BUT that’s not true. Because Sadness and Anxiety are natural emotions that Allah SWT created in us and everyone experiences these feelings.
Even the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them all) experienced sadness and anxiety.
Prophet Yaqub (AS) was so sad that when he lost his son Yusuf (AS), he lost his eyesight from crying (too much). subhanAllah
Mariam (AS) (a woman who perfected her faith) even said before she was about to give birth, “I wish I had died before this and was long forgotten”. (Quran 19:23)
We even know that our beloved prophet (SAWS) experienced sadness, there was even a period in his life called ‘the year of sadness’ or the ‘time of sadness’.
When we experience sadness and stress, Allah warned us that we would be tested but He also told us:
“Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear”. Quran 2:286
So know that you are strong and Allah SWT is telling us that we can overcome whatever challenges come our way. Often times we underestimate our abilities, but Allah SWT knows how strong and resilient He created us.
5 TIPS TO OVERCOME SADNESS, WORRY AND NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Side note: It is recognised that Depression, anxiety disorder and negative thoughts are three different types of ailments. (But in sha Allah, these 5 tips will help with each of these). These 5 tips are based on the Quran and Sunnah and also backed by latest scientific research.
The latest scientific findings show that we can change our
emotions by using our breath. Try this:
1. Say Bismillah
2. Inhale for 5 seconds
3. Hold your breathe for 5 seconds
4. Exhale slowly for 5 seconds
Research proves that if you do the above 5 times, it can lower your levels of anxiety and sadness.
2. TURN TO ALLAH
Turn to Allah through dua, Salah and Quran. Even secular scientific studies show that prayer helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
When the prophet (SAWS) was feeling sadness or going through difficulty, he would rush to prayer. When Aisha (RA) asked the prophet (SAWS), ‘Yaa rasullallah, what was the saddest time in your life?’
He (saws) said, it was the time he went to Ta’if to give dawah. It was just after Khadijah (RA) passed away and his uncle passed away. And the people at Ta’if ridiculed him and they actually stoned him.
Right after this difficult time, Allah SWT gifted the prophet (SAW) – and He gifted us all the ultimate remedy for anxiety and sadness, depression and negative thoughts and feelings:
OUR FIVE DAILY PRAYERS
Right after Ta’if Allah SWT invited the prophet (SAWS) to the isra mir’aj and gifted the prophet Muhammad the 5 daily prayers and their timings. Salah is so effective in treating sadness. Dua is also a very powerful tool.
Reflect on this beautiful verse:
“And your Lord Said, “Call upon me and I will respond to you” – Quran 40:60
Allah SWT right now hears you and the prophet (SAWS) told us that Allah (SWT) is shy and generous. He is shy that if we ask him for something that HE wouldn’t give us it and He is generous because He gives us more than we ask for. (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3556, classed as Sahih by Al-albani)
So make a dua now to ask Allah (SWT), and have certainty that Allah is hearing you and that Allah SWT will respond to you.
Every morning and evening, the prophet Muhammad (SAWS) made a dua to protect him from depression and anxiety and he asked us to do the same.
Once he saw a man who was sad and anxious and he told him, ‘shall I not teach you something that if you say it, that Allah will remove your worry and relieve your debt.’ And the man said, ‘of course yes yaa rasulallah (SAWS)’
Say this every morning and evening:
The man who was taught this dua said, I did this recommendation of the prophet (SAWS) and I swear that Allah (SWT) relieved my anxieties and my burden of debt. SubhanAllah.
MAKE TIME FOR THE QURAN:
Take time out to recite and reflect on the Quran. Allah SWT calls the Quran a healing and He said it is a healer of the heart. Read the Quran daily, even if its just a verse a day.
3. LOOK FOR THE GOOD
Look for the good and when you do I promise it will grow.
Each and everyone of us is blessed in so many different ways and the shaytan whispers and gets us to pay attention to what is going wrong with our lives and to completely forget everything that is going right.
So pay attention to the good and actually look for it.
Think of blessings in your life and be grateful for them.
There are countless studies that practicing gratitude does wonders for our emotional wellbeing and health. It helps with depression and anxiety as being grateful increases serotonin and dopamine in the brain which causes us to be happier.
The prophet (SAWS) said,
“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even it were a prick he receives from a thorn, but Allah expiates some of his sins for that”. [Sahih al-Bukhari , 5641, 5642]
So if you’re going through a hard time and you can’t think of anything good in your life, be grateful that while you are going through this hard time – your sins are being erased! Alhamdulillah. And remember Allah (SWT) proclaims:
‘If you are grateful, I will give you more’ – Quran 14:7
There have been scientific studies that show that even if you force a smile, it can change your mood.
The prophet Muhammad (SAWS) told us, ‘Don’t belittle any good deeds. And don’t belittle even if you were to meet your brother or sister with a smiling face.’ [sahih Muslim 2626]
Don’t forget that the prophet (SAWS) said smiling is a charity. [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1970]
5. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES.
Family support is so beneficial. When the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was anxious and afraid he went to Khadijah (RA) and found that support in her.
Allah SWT created us as social creatures. If you are feeling sad, reach out to someone.
Studies have shown that physical touch from someone you care about (such as your spouse) can be as effective than taking anti-depressant medication.
One study monitored people on MRI machines and would zap them on their feet and it would hurt. When no one was around and they got zapped, it was painful. When a stranger was with them and holding their hand, it was still painful. However, when a loved one was with them and holding their hand, the parts of their brain that processed pain didn’t light up like it did before. Chemicals such as oxytocin (which make us happy) get released through physical touch.
And think about it, the prophet Muhammad (SAWS) used to hug and shake hands with his companions and loved ones. And as Muslims we are encouraged to shake each others hands.
The prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said that when you shake someone’s hand, your sins fall. subhanAllah!
SEEK HELP IF YOUR FEELINGS OF SADNESS, WORRY OR ANXIETY PERSIST
If you have done these 5 tips and your feelings of sadness, worry, anxiety, negative thoughts and feelings are persistent and overwhelming to the point where it is affecting your life and relationships. If it affects your work, school, social life, your sleeping and eating habits or if you feel like you don’t want to do anything anymore. PLEASE reach out to someone.
Reach out to a mental health professional and make sure that they are licenced. In sha Allah, they can help you. Because the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said, ‘For every disease there is a cure.’
And know that depression, like other psychological ailments, can be caused by a physical, hormonal or chemical imbalance. And In the same way that a person who has hypothyroidism and has a hormonal imbalance sees an endocrinologist without thinking twice about it. We shouldn’t think twice about our mental health either. Our mind is an Amaana and Allah will ask us about it.
‘I ask Allah SWT by His beautiful names and perfect attributes, to make the Qur’an a healing for us all. And I ask Allah SWT that he replaces our sadness with happiness with joy and our anxiety with peace of mind. And that I pray… that He gathers us all in jannatul firdaws with the prophet Muhammad (SAWS)”.
Note: I just want to clarify that the above was not written here by Dunia Shuaib, but rather, these are notes taken from her beautiful speech that she gave at the ICNA-MAS convention. MashaAllah it was so beautiful that I thought we would share the notes. I wrote most of her transcript, there are some things that I had left out and I added some of the islamic quotes from this website. The video is here if you would like to hear the full speech, I highly recommend it.
I also made an infographic that summarises her 5 tips.