When asked to write an article for MuslimGirl.net, I was so excited, because I always have a lot to say, I always have a lot on my mind, and I believe I have something in my experience that I can share. As a Muslimah, majoring in science has been eye-opening. I want to share with you the spaces where Islam, Science, and Western Society intersect. I thought, where better to start than with your heart?
Yeah, okay, I did have to start with the technicalities. Your heart is a muscle. It is made up of what is called the myocardium (myo: muscle, cardio: heart.) This miraculous little muscle is about the size of your fist, and it works as a pump to circulate blood throughout your whole body. It is also important to note that your heart beats to the rhythm of your pacemaker cells. As you may guess, your pacemaker cells regulate the physical contraction and relaxation of the myocardium. These pacemaker cells are very special, because there is nothing like them anywhere else in your body. They generate the electrical signals that cause the heart to keep pumping at the right pace for you, based on your level of activity, your diet, and stuff. Notice how they generate “electrical” signals, this is also why doctors use those big electric pads to rehabilitate you when you go into cardiac arrest (heart attack). That was just a fun fact.
1. Love it!
The Emotional Aspect: As you may know your heart also serves other functions that you probably will not find in a physiology textbook. It is important that we take care of this aspect of ourselves. But what does that even entail? I think it is two-fold: a delicate balance between self-care and social well-being. To be emotionally heart-healthy you MUST set aside time for yourself. There are many ways in which we can do this, and I have a few suggestions.
Write in a journal, to give yourself time to reflect on your day, or your week, or just your life in general. Journal writing is also a good self-check, so you can tell yourself, “maybe next time I should be more patient with my sister,” or “next time, I will stand up for myself,” etc. Self-reflection is extremely important for your growth as a person, and especially as a Muslim. Allah (SWT) wants us to reflect and become better people, inshallah.
Ok, so I am a little bias, because I keep a journal. But there are other outlets, like painting, drawing, and the visual arts. This are also super helpful, because they allow for great emotional release, you let it off your chest, and express it in a way that is unique, creative, and beautiful. Now, music is also fun. Although this may be controversial, I play a musical instrument, I listen to music, and sometimes, it just helps to exercise another side of your brain. It helps you work things out through creative expression. Arts and crafts (or working with your hands) provides similar benefits, and I suggest you try them all and see what works best for you.
As far as social well-being, surround yourself with good people. I cannot emphasize enough that you are who your friends are. Choose them wisely. That being said, you should choose a wide spectrum of friends, and do not simply surround yourself with like-minded individuals. You don’t want “yes-men.” What I mean by that is you should not just have friends that agree with you and say you’re right all the time. You should have friends that tell you when you slip up; who can critique you, guide you, and learn with you.
2. Work it!
The Physical Aspect: By this I mean EXERCISE! As I mentioned all those details about the heart’s functionality above, your heart is arguably the most important muscle in your body. One way to gratify Allah(swt), relieve stress, and increase your life expectancy is to work out. You can go to the gym, grab a pair of sneakers and a friend, and go running (or you can go by yourself, its just as therapeutic), go swimming (there are awesome hijabi bathing suits that you can find online), jump rope, or even get an exercise video that you can do at home! I think Netflix even has some work out videos, and so does YouTube — Yoga, pilates, kickboxing, etc. You pick, but taking care of your heart physically is so important.
I was shocked when I found out my cousin in Amman doesn’t have gym class in her school! Exercise will strengthen your immunity (help fight sickness), boost your metabolism (help you digest and breakdown food), increase your energy level, and improve your focus! There is no losing with good health. Of course, do not get too intense and hurt yourself; start small and work your way up the ladder of healthy.
Note: Be happy with your body and your body type. We are all beautiful and perfect the way Allah (SWT) created you. We shouldn’t exercise to “fix our problem areas” because “problem areas” are a construction of our society, and if we weren’t bombarded with the media’s photoshopped images of “perfect women” we wouldn’t believe in “problem areas.” So they don’t exist. Do yourself a favor and NEVER say, “if only I was…” You are you and you’re wonderful. Yup, so, I am glad we agree! Stay positive.
3. Believe in it!
The Spiritual Aspect: This is the last part, I promise, but I have saved the best for last. Reading the Qur’an purifies your heart. If you cannot read it, listen to it! I use QuranExplorer.com. To re-focus your faith and get your life back on track (because we all have our bad days), you should always turn to Allah (SWT) first. Pray and supplicate. Ask Allah (SWT) to guide you in everything you do. Addressing the spiritual aspect of the heart is seriously lacking in modern society. Plus, praying five times a day and taking your mind off of everything around you actually decreases blood pressure and reduces stress. We get so many blessings out of prayer, and listening to Allah (SWT) because He truly does know what is best for His creation.
Be the Queen of your heart.