By: Karima Burns
There are many examples in the Qur’an and Hadith of the virtues of a positive mental attitude, perseverance and optimism in the face of adversity. However, did you know that patience and a positive outlook on life are two of the greatest healing tools that you can use?
The Qur’an (2:155) says, “Give glad tidings to those who exercise patience when struck with adversity and say, ‘Indeed, we belong to God and to Him is our return.’ Such ones receive [the] blessings and mercy of their Lord, and such are the guided ones.” According to the findings of modern science, it appears that this mercy may often come in the form of improved health.
Bernard Jensen says, in his book The Science and Practice of Iridology, “The doctor of the new day will recognize that a man’s most important workshop is not the physical body, but the mind that controls it.” Dr. Ted M. Morter confirms this in his book, Your Health… Your Choice, when he says that “negative thoughts are the number one acid producer in the body (and high body acidity levels are a major cause of disease) because your body reacts to negative mental and emotional stress brought about by thought the same way it reacts to ‘real’ threats of physical harm.”
In fact, hospital studies show that, of all the patients who consult outpatient clinical facilities in the United States, an astounding seventy percent are found to have no organic basis for their complaint. That figure is amazingly high. However, although medically these patients are not found to have an obvious organic source for their complaints, there actually is a physical basis for this phenomenon. Since Freud popularized the idea of psychoanalysis, people have often focused exclusively on the mental realm to solve certain problems, forgetting that we cannot separate the physical and mental realms. The mind is in the brain, and the brain is an organ. Like all other organs, it feeds from the same pool of nutrients that other body organs feed from and is susceptible to all of the same problems. Ultimately, the brain is just a part of our body like all of the other parts and is completely dependent on the body. It requires sugar to develop energy unlike other tissues that can develop it from potassium and fats. Consequently, it is the first organ to suffer from low blood sugar and it reacts most severely. Freud himself said that psychoanalysis was not suitable for treating diseases such as schizophrenia, and he postulated that their causes eventually would be found to be biochemical.
If we keep in mind that the brain is an organ and that it works in harmony with the other organs and feeds from the same bloodstream, we can understand how various mental events can affect us physically. For example, simply using our brains to think and study burns up nutrients in our system, particularly phosphorus. Heavily exercising the brain can cause us to suffer from a phosphorus deficiency. And we find that the reverse is also true in this relationship. People who have high intellectual capacity usually have high levels of phosphorus in their system.
There is much wisdom in the Prophet’s (SAW) statement (narrated by Abu Huraira), “The strong [person] is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong [person] is the one who controls himself while in anger.” In fact, staying patient and calm is key to physical strength.
Phosphorus is not the only nutrient that can be depleted by mental stress and a lack of spiritual calm. If the thyroid gland, the primary organ to handle our emotions, works overtime, we can suffer from a deficiency in iodine. Stress from a demanding job, a divorce or relocating can cause a loss of potassium and sodium in the body because it effects the adrenal glands creating more of a need for these minerals.
Even hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be caused by excitement. The prophet (SAW) recommended our taking the more moderate path in life; however, we often engage in or expose ourselves to intense excitement by yelling, excessively watching television, and going to the mall, movies, parties, amusement parks, etc. When we see something exciting, our adrenal cortex is stimulated and there is an increase in our blood sugar. This, in turn, stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin into the blood to lower the sugar level, causing us to then feel tired or weak.
It produces calm and health to practice saying, “Alhamdulillah” for what we have and for what we are faced with. We should try to keep our home and work environments peaceful and as free from stress as possible. One way we can counteract the effects of stress are to simply be aware of the stress we are encountering, and to consume sufficient nutrients and supplements such as herbs.
For instance, if a person is up late praying or reading Qur’an during Ramadan, they can eat phosphorus rich foods and those that will help them maintain their phosphorus intake. If a person is moving, traveling or making Hajj or Umra, they may want to increase their intake of foods high in potassium and sodium as well as vitamin B complex.
If we completely ignore the relationship between mental and physical health, we are missing an important detail in the picture of personal health. And, as in most health problems, practicing prevention is superior to finding a cure. Therefore, the best manner to avoid having negative attitudes and emotions control our bodies is simply to practice the wisdoms that we have been given throughout the Qur’an and Hadith. We should say, “Alhamdullilah” for what we have; “Insha’Allah” for what we intend; and, “Subhana’ Allah” when we see something exciting or amazing. We should remember to say, Astaghfir’Allah” when we lose our tempers or become weak, and most importantly, “Allahu Akbar” when we are faced with the challenges of life. These five phrases, said regularly, are like taking a multi-vitamin for holistic health.