During the 30 days of Ramadan there are those who practice it traditionally, those who merely adapt to a temporary shift in schedule, and then there are those who see it as an opportunity to achieve a personal goal. One month is probably not enough time to break a bad habit and instill a better one in its place, but it’s enough time to give it a go and make a start.
With two more weeks ahead, making Ramadan more fruitful needn’t be an arduous task, so here is a list of simple and non-demanding ways to do so.
Whether you fast or not, Ramadan is an opportunity to inject some health back into your body. Since work and school days are officially shorter during Ramadan, this presents an opportunity to take better care of yourself. Beginning later and wrapping up earlier means you have more chances to work out and can go grocery shopping at a leisurely pace for a more inspired meal; it also means extra time to read, relax or reflect. Me time is just as important as any, so take advantage of these freed up hours and do something healthy for you. Since bars and restaurants are restricted when it comes to serving alcohol, Ramadan is a also useful chance to drink less and allow your body a break to rejuvenate.
Along with food, fawanees and endless TV, Ramadan is often associated with playing games. Backgammon, cards, Pictionary, Scrabble, whatever tickles your fancy. Research has shown the benefits of playing games, since they are mentally stimulating and can be quite therapeutic. Doing something tangible, like a game, grounds you in the moment and forces your mind to focus on the present and evade unwanted thoughts and stressors — at least temporarily. Games can be great for those Ramadan family gatherings, when you want some quality time, are fed up with the TV shows and also don’t have the energy for too much communication. And ultimately, no matter how much you resist, they’re usually fun. You never know, you might find yourself craving a match or two of backgammon once the month is over.
Now this may seem like a slightly mundane suggestion — or to some a rather obvious one — but the truth is, finding the time to sit down and bury your nose in a book is often a challenging endeavor. Work, appointments, exhaustion — and the biggest obstacle of all, smartphones — take away from the uninterrupted focus required to become properly (and happily) immersed in a book. You may snag 15 minutes of reading time here and there, or manage to get a few lines in before falling asleep at night, but where’s the satisfaction in that? So in this sense, with shorter working days and more time to yourself, choosing to properly read a book is a novel way to spend your time.
With summer about to hit, Ramadan is a good chance to save for an upcoming trip. With fewer events and nightlife happening around the city, there is less cause to spend exaggerated amounts of money on what were intended to be casual nights out. Of course there will always be temptations to compensate for this lack of usual spending, such as buying five konafas instead of one, or going to the cinema every other day to devour overpriced popcorn, but wouldn’t your summer thank you if you streamed those movies and learned how to make the konafa instead?
And speaking of summer, have you done your annual clothes sort; cleaning and packing away your winter woolens and bringing out your T-shirts? If not, now is the perfect time. Of course you will find things you no longer wear or that no longer fit, and with the economic crunch hitting everyone — some people harder than others — clothes for a local charity in the lead-up to Eid will be particularly appreciated.
While you’re in the giving mood, there are lots of simple things to be done, helping out at a Ramadan food tent (ma2idit rahman), bringing a meal to your doorman throughout the month, or putting out water bowls so that the animals on the street have something to drink in this heat (note: pick something heavy and sturdy otherwise it will most likely get “lost”).
Illustrations by Deena Mohamed