Mind Over Matter

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by JENNA M. EVANS

After receiving poor feedback, experiencing an embarrassing moment, or engaging in a heated argument, stress levels may remain high despite the passing of the situation. We often re-live negative moments hours, days, weeks, and sometimes even years after their occurrence. Learning from our mistakes contributes to our psychological and intellectual growth, but mulling over the past can be damaging to our mind and body. In addition to emotional breakdowns and poor self-esteem, this habit also contributes to chronic stress, which weakens our immune system’s ability to fight illness and disease.

Use your mind’s remote control to mute those disapproving voices and to switch off those unconstructive images. Embrace the peace of mind that comes with positive visualization.

Visualization is a stress management technique that involves forming mental images or visions using your imagination. It can help combat stress, improve your mood, and eliminate stress-related issues like headaches, insomnia, and anxiety. Find a quiet and relaxing place where you will not be disturbed or distracted. Although visualization can be done in any position, lying down is often most comfortable. As a result, beginners often find it easier to visualize in bed in the morning or at night before falling asleep. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and scan your body for tension. Relax any tense muscles one at a time until your entire body is deeply relaxed. Then use the power of your imagination to form positive mental images.
During visualization you can ask, “What’s bothering me?” to help identify the source of your stress or the reasons why you cannot let go of a particular incident. You can also visualize a negative experience the way you wished it had happened, but it is important that once you do so you avoid replaying the actual events.

Finally, you can visualize your hopes and dreams for the future. For example, you can imagine an upcoming presentation going very well, receiving good feedback from school or work, or reaching your fitness or Quranic (holy book) memorization goals. Imagine both the step-by-step process of reaching your goal as well as the outcomes of succeeding. During visualization try to use all of your senses; think about what you would see, hear, taste, smell and feel.

If you are visualizing for the first time you may feel uncomfortable with the technique, but once you try it a few times, it becomes easier and with time, habitual. Unlike the reliving of negative experiences, visualization is a habit that contributes to your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Islam teaches us to avoid pessimism and anger. The Qur’an states that “Allah (the almighty) does not impose on any soul more than it can bear” (Surah Al-Baqara: 286), which highlights the importance of accepting the past, learning from it, and moving on. Feelings of disappointment and hopelessness should quickly and consciously be extinguished for Allah (the almighty) promises that, “those who strive in Our way, We will certainly guide them to Our path” (Surah al-Ankabut: 69).

Like pessimism, anger is a destructive emotion. The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said, “When one of you gets angry while he is standing, he should sit down. Then the anger will leave him, and if not, he should lie down” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi). The art of visualization reflects the advice of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Through frequent positive visualization you can de-stress and regain physical, mental, and spiritual peace. Recognizing, identifying, and addressing negative habits and emotions through visualization can help prevent unnecessary, damaging impacts to yourself and those around you.

Use your mind’s remote control to mute those disapproving voices and to switch off those unconstructive images. Embrace the peace of mind that comes with positive visualization.

The benefits await you.