Many people fast, or give up food, as part of a religious sacrifice to spend time concentrating on their spiritual life or to look for spiritual guidance. Jews fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to reflect and repent their sins. Muslims fast during Ramadan to increase spiritual awareness and empathize with others less fortunate. While giving up food is seen as a big sacrifice, there may be times when you can’t practice a food fast for health reasons. The fasting experience isn’t only about food and drink. Here are some alternatives to a long fast that can help you focus on your spiritual life.
Instead of giving up all food and drink for an extended period, some people give up certain items, such as refined sugar, caffeine or meat as a way of fasting. Many people don’t drink alcohol in January after all the excesses of the holidays. Intermittent fasting is a popular topic these days. Instead of fasting for 24 hours, a common religious fast, choose to fast for a particular cycle each day. You may choose to eat only a certain amount of calories each day.
Fast From an Activity
Fasting is a sacrifice from something you enjoy. If you want to spend time on spirituality, you may have to give up something else to make room in your schedule. Giving up video games or social media for a few days can help reset your spiritual life and give you a mental break that can be refreshing. You could also limit television or fast from secular music for a while to focus on your spirituality. Instead of listening to the radio in your car on your commute, you could spend the time in prayer or self-reflection.
Fast From Self-Destructive Behaviors
Everyone has bad habits that don’t add anything positive to the day. It might be worrying, acting violently while driving or holding grudges. Maybe you think you use swear words too often. Fasting from those behaviors for a day or more can help you make effective changes. It won’t be easy to change those habits, so you’ll want to think about the behavior that you want to exhibit instead.
Start by asking yourself not to worry or use swear words for a short time frame, like an hour. What will you do instead of worrying? What can you say instead of swearing? How can you contain your road rage? Don’t try to change too much at first. Start slowly to make new habits.
Adding a Component to Your Routine
Fasting is usually about taking something away from your life, but many Christians take on new disciplines during Lent when it’s customary to fast. Instead of giving up food for a while, make a commitment to:
- Do a random act of kindness daily for a month.
- Donate one item daily to a food pantry for a few weeks.
- Clean your closets and donate one nice item daily to the less fortunate.
- Read one chapter of scripture or from another spiritual book daily.
- Write in a journal daily for a month about gratitude or another spiritual practice.
- Spend one hour daily with a family member doing something together without electronic devices. Play a game, have a meal or exercise together to strengthen your relationship.
Remember Why You Fast
Fasting isn’t about legalism or self-denial to earn favor. Fasting is a discipline that should help your spiritual life and bring you closer to your higher power. Set goals for your fasting so that it is meaningful for you. The Bible says that fasting should be private. It’s not something you do to brag about it to others. Fasting is for your spiritual life. It’s for your benefit to make your life more meaningful.