Fast. To abstain or go without. From food, alcohol, and/or water; from social media, technology, news, people in general or only certain people, etc.
Not a new concept. Many religions and various flavors of spiritual practices have utilized fasting in some fashion. During Ramadan, practicers do not eat or drink from sunup to sun down. Catholics have been known to fast during Lent. BUT tell someone you are fasting from food and they are likely to go into all the ways they believe it isn’t good for you.
The first rule of fasting? Know your audience before telling them you are fasting. While they may have good intentions - people are going to give you unsolicited advice and opinions. This is especially true when fasting from food.
Fasting from alcohol (i.e. dry July) or smoking are popular events for people. Coming together for a specified amount of time - groups of friends and even strangers - build community around changing a behavior or giving up a vice.
What about fasting from other things in your life? Social media, for example, contributes to some of the 3 hours on average we spend checking our smartphones - DAILY! A fast from social media frees up a significant chunk of time in your day to mediate, workout, pray, blog, read, or all of the above! You may be interested in Time Wasted, The Power of Morning Routine, or Too Distracted.
Fasting from technology allows you to be in the moment. Living in Montana, I often find myself in nature without a phone signal. While I may struggle initially (hey! I’m human) I eventually get to the point where I forget to carry my phone to even take pictures. I then have time to hike, sit quietly, play in the water, and share experiences with my husband or children.
Fasting from the news is FREEING. A few years ago I stopped actively seeking the news. My anxiety decreased and it allowed me to keep an open mind when people were talking about current events or general goings-ons. While I rarely get the actual news, more often getting peoples’ versions of world-wide events, I don’t know that I am missing out on much. I still have the ability to seek out what I need to know, from resources I trust.
But how do you fast from people? It isn’t easy and can be tricky because relationships are complicated. Declining invites repeatedly can start to trigger feelings of guilt. We are wired to be social creatures but not ALL people are healthy for us. Notice who gives you energy and who depletes your energy. You may need a break from those who leave you feeling drained or unsure of yourself.
Why don’t people practice fasting more often? When framed around what you are giving up - people often act out of fear. Fear of Missing Out. FOMO. They cave-in before they start. What if you framed it from what you are gaining? The time to meditate, the time to exercise, the time to pray or read, lungs that will heal, a body that detoxifies from alcohol, less anxiety and general worry, increased energy, more restful sleep are all positive benefits of fasting from things.
What else? Fasting is empowering. Learning to master your thoughts, cravings, and urges takes back the power you may have inadvertently given to objects and people outside of yourself. It’s a practice will propel you into the future and may help you identify behavior patterns you may need to further address. You may be interested in My Favorite Reads.
Tips and Tricks:
Know your why. You may need to remind yourself the purpose for the fast.
If you are going to tell someone, know your audience.
Keep track of your experience. DOCUMENT it all. I prefer a regular notebook but you can find habit trackers on Amazon. I like this one: Snap-In Wellness Dashboard.
Be prepared. Know that your brain is powerful. Urges and cravings will creep in. Decide now how you will address them. Will you pray? Meditate? Journal (The Five Minute Journal is quick!), call a friend, distract yourself with a walk or dance party?
Keep trying. This is not a perfect process and is much like growing a muscle. The longer and more often you do it - the stronger you become. You may like my post on resilience (We All Have Baggage).
**Here is a goal tracker to get you started.
As always, please feel free to to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am happy to provide feedback or suggestions!