By Sadia Khan

When you think of building a happier life, what do you think of?  Grand vacations? A trip to the spa? A shopping day with unlimited funds?

These things are nice (incredible even) but as you may have experienced, they’re temporary. Once the novelty wears off, we usually return to our default state. So how can we build a happier internal state on a daily basis? How are some people able to cultivate a generally happy attitude and positive mindset while others seem chronically negative and depressed?

First things first: perhaps you have depression. Remember that there are lots of ways to get help for it. In some cases, the problem is chemical and requires medication. In other cases, the problem is situational. In those cases, talking things through with a therapist or strategizing with a life coach can help. If you’re not a big talker, other therapeutic interventions can also help.

Now what if you’ve done those things and still find yourself continuously falling into the same negative patterns? Here are some additional things to consider:

Strengthen your relationship with Allah

Strengthening your relationship with Allah (swt) can have an incredible and immediately noticeable impact on your energy level and mood. To build a more positive mindset and connect with Allah, you could:

  • Pray on time
  • Making time for dhikr
  • Listen to motivational lectures
  • Follow inspirational accounts
  • Recite Qur’an on a daily or at least regular basis
  • Making time for heartfelt dua made in your most comfortable language and from deep within your soul
  • Be conscious of Allah in your daily life

Remember how you felt during Ramadan? Most women report feeling happier in the blessed month. Why? Because we are doing what we are CREATED to do: KNOW and worship Allah. 

Move daily for Ten Minutes

Many people underestimate the power of movement, however our ancestors spent the majority of their days physically active and our bodies are designed to almost constantly MOVE. Between the kids, the husband, the in-laws, our work and other commitments, it can be hard to incorporate exercise, I know.  But try exercising for 10 minutes today–for just 10 minutes you could:

  • Go for a quick walk or jog around the block.
  • Follow an aerobics video on YouTube.
  • Dance with your kids.
  • Take a kick-boxing or swimming class
  • Skip a rope in your living room or (even better) your back yard

Whatever you decide to do, don’t do it to lose weight, don’t do it to fit into that dress for so-and-so’s upcoming wedding, don’t even do it for your body– but do it for your MIND. Surely you can carve out 10 minutes for your own wellness. And see the difference it makes. Document it. Savor it. Numerous studies have shown that regular, vigorous exercise is even MORE effective than antidepressants at improving mood and outlook. Exercise also benefits you in a myriad of other ways, including, yes, toning your body and helping you lose weight. But that’s a side-effect and never the main goal. You can even get rewarded if you make your intention that you’re exercising because you want to be a stronger, more energetic, more productive believer for the sake of Allah. An additional note – if you can get out in the fresh air and sunshine to exercise, even better.

Make time for JOY

In my coaching practice, I often ask women if they make time for joy. It causes even the most confident, successful women to either fall silent or start fumbling over their words. The truth is, we have been taught from a young age to put everyone’s needs and happiness before our own. But you matter too. And just like you need to fill a jug before you can pour water into people’s cups, so too do you need to fill yourself before you can truly be there for the ones you love. You cannot pour love into others when you yourself are empty.

Only you know what brings you joy. That’s the first task. Ask yourself this question and list out the things that when you do them, you feel free, happy, energized. For one person, it may mean making time for quiet reading. For another, it may mean pursuing some kind of art. For a third, it may mean gardening or another outdoor activity. Whatever brings you joy, be sure to do more of it. In fact, try to do a little everyday. And watch how your life and mindset transform.

If you still find this a difficult ask yourself this:

  • Do you want your children to grow up thinking joy doesn’t matter?
  • Do you want them to think that life is just work work work?
  • Do you want your daughter to live for others and never enjoy anything?
  • Do you want your sons to think joy is only for males and have unrealistic expectations of their future wives?

Your current actions are shaping your children’s future lives. If you can’t incorporate joy for yourself, do it for them.

Assess and improve your relationships

How is your relationship with yourself and other people around you? To assess this, ask yourself:

  • Do the people closest to you drain or energize you?
  • Do you feel psychologically safe? For example, are you in a nurturing marriage or in a toxic one?
  • Is your relationship with your children, family and in-laws based on mutual love, trust and respect or is it filled with tension and hostility?
  • What about your friends?
  • Do your friends inspire you, love you, support you?
  • Do they talk about things that matter? Or do they spend their time gossiping, and/or make you feel small or unimportant?
  • Do you look after your physical and mental health? (The above 3 tips will help in this regard Insha Allah)

It has been said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Either you choose wisely or you suffer the consequences. Of course, almost all relationships can be improved with time and patient attention. But to improve any external relationship, often times we must start by addressing and improving our internal relationship with ourselves.  

My dear sisters, I hope the ideas listed here benefit you. This is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty of other ways to cultivate happiness. But start here and watch how your life improves InshaAllah. May Allah (swt) Grant us all the ability to live generally happy, fulfilling lives, ameen! For an in person in depth discussion about habits that can make you happy, please attend my workshop at the end of June.

About the Author

Sadia Khan is a certified educator, curriculum developer, writer and certified professional life coach specializing in helping Muslim women live their fullest, most authentic lives. To see more from Saadia Khan or to book a 1:1 coaching session, please follow her on Instagram @strongmuslimah_lifecoach