Mental Wellness: Principles

This is the second in a series of articles on mental wellness taken from the Mental Wellness Workshop: Balkhi’s The Health of Bodies and Souls.

Eight Elements of Mental and Emotional Health

Abu Zaid talks about certain elements of mental and emotional health which include:

  • Identifying the need
  • The planning for managing self-health
  • The ways of healing if lost
  • What affects the self
  • Anger management 
  • Fear and worries
  • Sadness and shaken-ness
  • Negative self-talk

This is a whole science. We are just looking at some of the related key insights and placing them in the context of our faith and religious perspective. 

Five Principles

One ought to seek the best interest of each thing. One directs one’s reason and religious understanding towards trying to make the most of everything that Allah has entrusted you with and blessed you with. Five principles aid one. 

The first is “Wholeness.” Your wellness as a believer and your fulfillment as a human being come from putting everything in the right balance as best as possible.  

The second principle is that good arises from keeping things in balance, in a sustained way by trying to build healthy routines. Good arises from balance and balance arises from consistency which is a regular sustaining of good. An example of this is when one is shaken, having a bedrock of good, healthy, and balanced routines gives you something to fall back on.

The third principle is that good arises from benefiting from wisdom. 

The fourth principle relates to religious wisdom. There is also practical wisdom that aligns with religious wisdom concerning how we take care of our bodies, minds, and emotions.

The fifth principle relates to experiential wisdom in your own life. What works and what does not? One should consult.

Seek Expert Help

Al-Balkhi uses a very interesting example, he uses the example of kings. Kings wanted to live, they wanted strength, power, influence, wealth etc. They wanted to make the most of what they had in life so they would keep doctors to take care of their health. Kings always kept advisers around them who helped them make the right decisions and helped them respond to the challenges they would face. If they heard that someone was attacking or there was some crisis, they would have advisors to put things in mental and emotional perspective to be able to restore balance. 

That insight applies to us. We are not kings perhaps but we have the same thing. We seek to have good physical routines but when that is tested, we should have people we consult about our physical health such as doctors.

Similarly, we need to have good routines for mental and emotional health so that we are cultivating the good. When tested, we should know whom to go to for guidance. Some of that guidance, practically in our times, would be spiritual guidance to give perspective.

Also, it would be from the Sunna to seek expert help to help us restore or cultivate the good with respect to our mental and emotional health. That would be fulfilling a Sunna of taking care of the trust that Allah has given and making the most of the gifts of God. 

The First Key: Identifying the Need

There is a need to take care of our mental and emotional health. You are a body and a self, both of these together make you a human being. The self has multiple faculties. The mind is the tool by which you make decisions and your emotions are what regulate how you are and how you feel about what comes to you. These are related to the heart. The heart has states of character: how you are with Allah and how you are with people now. 

For the mind to be able to function well and to make advantageous choices, you need to take care of its health. You also have to identify that the mind is surrounded by feelings. These feelings are your emotions and those emotions have a bedrock underneath which is your character. These are the traits of the self that are rooted in the heart. 

Feelings come and go but when they come they can hit hard. The traits of character are how you are and these traits can be seen as being spiritual traits of character which is how you are with respect to Allah and you have your social character which is how you are with people.  

Spiritual and Social Traits

Wellness arises by taking care of the health of the mind. Knowing that emotions will hit you due to what is happening outside and what is happening within. But also, cultivating positive spiritual traits of character such as hope in Allah, awe of Allah, reliance upon Allah, gratitude to Allah, steadfastness with Allah, and trust in Allah. 

The social traits of character include having a good opinion of others. Bearing no malice, envy, or rancor towards others. Not feeling pride or arrogance or looking down on others. Being unattached to what people think of you, etc. The spiritual traits of character and the social virtues give a bedrock by which we can deal with our emotions. We do not deny the emotions. 

Your spiritual and social traits of character are not enough on their own. You experience loss so you feel sad externally or internally. Or you wanted something and it did not happen so you feel saddened. However, the wellness of the spiritual heart in its connection with Allah and its connection with creation helps balance emotions.