For about two weeks now, my heart has been fluttering around in my chest like a butterfly in a cage. As soon as I felt it, I didn’t trust it. Not in the slightest. This happiness distilled, inexplicable joy, had appeared from nowhere.

When was the last time I felt so…right? It pains me to admit, but it’d been years. Now, I’m not telling you that I haven’t been happy. I’m not a zombie. It’s just that I haven’t been effortlessly joyful for no reason at all, in quite some time.

I was sitting in the shower last night (yes, sitting) and it dawned on me. This lightness I feel, this renewed vigor, appeared in my heart on the first day of Ramadan. Now, as much as I believe in the power of this blessed month, I was still seeking a more practical answer to explain the bounce in my step.

Ramadan is about new beginnings. Breaking old destructive habits and starting new productive ones. After a bit of reflection, I realized that some of my habits were robbing me of my happiness.

Ramadan Changes

I’d hate to say duh, but by observing Ramadan, I’m abstaining from food, drink (among other things) during from dawn to dusk. Leaving behind food and drink (oh the coffee!) is quite a shift from my normal routine. You don’t really realize how much of your day centers around food until it’s gone.

Reduced work hours

During Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, companies reduce work hours for their Muslim employees. Instead of working 7-4 pm, I work 9-3pm.

Prayer time challenge
I’ll be quite honest. Praying five prayers a day exactly on time every day is a struggle. I think it is for most of us. I’ve been truly putting forth more effort this Ramadan on trying to hit each and every prayer at its appropriate time.

No Netflix
Goal setting during Ramadan hasn’t always gone well for me. This Ramadan, I decided to set reasonable and realistic expectations. I simply decided to give up Netflix for the month. Simple, right? Well, not really. I don’t own a television, but quite frequently I zone out in front of my laptop for a binge. A seemingly small act, but little did I know House of Cards would premiere in June. Netflix you are my Everest!

For the first part of the year, I suffered through crippling writer’s block. I have a very large project deadline looming, and I just couldn’t get moving. Without food, drink, or Netflix, what else was I supposed to do with myself? There is only so long you can stare at the couch.

In addition to writing more, I’ve already read two books! That being said, I will be sleeping with the lights on for awhile. I both love and hate you Tana French.

After all of this, I feel pretty stupid. I mean, who forgets how to be happy? Well, I did. I’m the human equivalent of Dory from Finding Nemo.

P.Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney!

My happiness formula

Set priorities. Carve out time every single day for positive and productive means. Consumption does not feed the soul, creativity and expression do.

Prayer is important to me and I feel ‘off’ if I miss it. Lots of writing, reading, and not so much Netflix. Daily exercise. And perhaps not eating so much food that I can’t get off the couch. Spending time with people who value, not trample all over,  my soul. Love.

Use this month to return to the basics. Build your life around your priorities, not ‘should’ or ‘must’ or ‘have to’.  Find whatever renews your soul with effortless joy and build your life around that.

Oh, yeah. And just keep swimming.