Self-help: Leading Your Own Journey

Supporting your own mental-health healing and personal growth can seem daunting, and it’s best we seek support from others when we’re struggling. But there are loads of things aside from talking that can help you take your healing journey into your own hands, so that you can keep learning and evolving at your pace, in ways that you choose, for the benefit your wellbeing and peace of mind. 

“Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” — Qur’an 13:11 

Seeking help from others is brilliant, brave and important. It will change your life. Keep doing this. But remember, the people in our lives don’t necessarily have all the answers. And even if you are fortunate enough to have the best supporters in the world around us, the truth is, change comes from within.   

If you’re suffering right now, this does not mean you’ve chosen to feel the way you’re feeling. You’re not responsible for everything that happens to you. You’re not a bad person. In order to begin a healthy self-help journey, it is so important to let go of any feelings of guilt or self-punishment that might be tied to whatever you are feeling. And it is also important to let go of the idea that strength or self-help means you have to go through this journey alone.

Self-help and accepting support go hand in hand.   

Challenging your normal

There’s a popular saying: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Makes sense, right? If we keep on doing the same things, and thinking exactly the same things, we’re likely to continue feeling the exact same way. Our beliefs and emotions influence our choices. And if we keep making the same choices, chances are we’ll keep heading further down the path we’re unhappy with. So how do we begin to change things? 

Talking therapy is often a good option but it’s not the only thing you can do. Thankfully, there are many life-changing self-help tools out there to help us recognise unhealthy thoughts and behaviours, and get out of difficult or toxic situations.  

Change really doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. 

Start small.

No no one needs to notice the changes you make, except you. With each small change you make, you will start to notice differences in how you think, feel and act. 

1. Set your intention

Making that decision to change things in your life can feel overwhelming, which is why it’s important to give yourself permission to believe things are going to get better. And remind yourself it’s ok to not know exactly what you’re doing. 

Set your intention to: 

  • make changes that will help your wellbeing 
  • be open-minded and leave your comfort zone 
  • be kind to yourself
  • serve Allah’s purpose through your sincere actions

Finding ten minutes on your commute to listen to a podcast, or ten minutes before bed to read a book, is enough to keep you learning and progressing – self-help doesn’t need to feel like a full time job. 

2. Self-help to find self-love

Sometimes people approach self-help with the mindset that they need ‘fixing’. The truth is, no matter how you feel, you are not broken. You are a perfectly whole human being just the way you are. Read that again. 

You’re not a problem that needs solving, you’re a person who is learning and growing.

When you believe you are good enough, and when you realise that you are already loved, and worthy of love, simply because you are who you are, life starts to get easier. Yes, self-help resources can give you a blueprint for action, but remember, love, success and happiness are natural by-products of being authentically you. 

Get advice on building feelings of self-love

3. Improve your self-care routine

Your self-help journey might introduce you to new ideas and concepts and you might feel encouraged to make big life changes. You might start opening up old traumas and this might get overwhelming at times. That’s why it’s important to make sure you create good self-care habits. This will make it easier to cope if you hit a few bumps in the road. 

Make sure you’re looking after your body and not neglecting your basic needs. 

Treat yourself how you would want to be treated. Be gentle with yourself. Be encouraging. Be patient and forgiving when you slip up. 

Read more about practising self-care

4. Give yourself a spiritual health check

There might be some really obvious changes you want to make in your life – like improving your confidence, earning more money, or finding/improving a relationship – but before you dive in, it can help to go right back to basics.  

Take some time to check in with your values, beliefs and your individual passions and interests to help you focus your energies in a direction that feels aligned to who you are, and not what other people want or tell you to be.

A spiritual health check might help you hone in on which aspects of your spiritual health are most in need of attention in order for you to realise your dream of showing up each day as the best possible version of you – whatever that might look like.

Take the spiritual health check.

5. Start listening and learning from the experts

Getting into self-help doesn’t have to be a big deal and take up all your time and money. Make the most of the free resources available online. You can follow world-recognised specialists, life coaches, therapists etc who post regularly on social media and YouTube who can help you figure out how to improve the areas of your life and mental health you are concerned about. 

But it is important to remember, learning about a topic online is not necessarily the same as being able to apply it to yourself – even chatting about what you’ve learnt with people who know you well can really help put things into perspective. And if you’re determined to go it alone, that’s ok, give yourself time to explore different experts to find what feels right for you. 

Popular advice (whether from Muslims or non-Muslims) won’t always align with your faith and values, so it is up to you to be discerning and decide whether implementing the advice is going to bring you closer to Allah – and that isn’t always easy to recognise! So keep your intentions clear, and hold on to the golden rule: ask Allah for help, clarity and guidance on all matters on your journey. You will always get a merciful answer, even if it isn’t delivered in the way you might expect – so pay attention.

If the experts you’re listening to are making you feel worse, or causing you worry or distress, reach out to someone you trust for support. 

Before following any medical or dietary advice always consult your doctor first.  

Take a look at these Muslim-friendly mental health resources to get you started. 

Read more about prayer and mental health

6. Keep a journal

Progress can feel slow and difficult, especially if you’re trying to get out of a dark place. It can feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. Keeping a diary or notebook can help you keep track of how much you’re learning, breakthroughs you’ve had, and things that have particularly inspired you. 

A journal might help you identify any patterns in your moods or triggers – things that help and things that make you feel worse – as well as being a good way to express any pent up emotions. You can look back over your notes to motivate yourself and reflect on your journey. 

7. Give yourself time

“It is not permitted for the sun to overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day: Each swims along in its own orbit.” — Qur’an 36:40

In a world where everything is instant, we can forget that some things take time. Have patience; don’t try to force things. 

Slow progress is still progress. 

Some weeks might feel like we’re making so much progress, we’re flying! Other times it can feel like months are rolling by and we’re stuck in the same place. That’s totally normal. And if someone is trying to sell you an instant fix, be cautious – remember, we always have to go through autumn, winter and spring, before we make it so summer. Each fruit grows in its season, at the right time.

8. Let yourself live

You can’t focus all your time and energy on changing your life, you have to spend your time living it! 

Say yes to the invitation, make plans, treat yourself, read a book, watch a movie – unwind and switch off. Giving yourself regular, planned breaks from consuming self-help materials and worrying about whether or not you’re ‘succeeding’ is so important.

You need time to process new ideas and concepts.

You need space to feel your emotions as you react to these new ways of seeing and being, especially when difficult emotions come up. This isn’t about running away and hiding, or using avoidance tactics, it’s about making your self-help journey feel empowering. 

By being intentional about your down time and your ‘learning/self-discovery’ time, you can avoid losing motivation, or adding unnecessary pressure, so that you feel less overwhelmed by your healing journey and the twists and turns it might take. 

It’s ok to be a work in progress.

You’re doing so well, be proud you’ve made it this far.

May Allah’s blessings and support down on you with every little effort you make towards healing realising your potential and finding peace in who you are and what you have been through, ameen.

Self-help resources 

Take a look at these Muslim-friendly mental health and wellbeing resources

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