When you think of fasting, certain memories likely come to mind. You recall your friends who couldn't have chocolate for a while until they got treats in their Easter baskets. A Muslim friend declines a lunch invitation for religious reasons. You may even think about the things you do to prepare for a doctor's visit.
While food is the most common type of fast, the general term can refer to any kind of temporary abstinence. It may be chocolate, meat, or all food. However, it can also be taking a break from entertainment or social media. Anything you release for a certain amount of time can make room for reaping spiritual benefits.
Who Fasts on a Regular Basis?
Fasting is not limited to any particular faith group. You may be familiar with the seasonal abstinence in Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism, but there are many religions in which fasting is practiced in some form:
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Eastern Orthodox
While the specific reasons for each community's fast may vary, the benefits they gain from their rituals may have a lot in common.
What Are the Advantages of Fasting?
Fasting is not a competition, and it's not something to brag about or seek recognition for. In fact, the practice is designed to humble you, thus opening your mind and spirit to what the divine has to speak into your life. This can have several outcomes.
Loss of Bad Habits
Most of the time, fasting involves giving up something you love or lean on for sustenance for a short amount of time. You may discover, however, that giving up a certain habit for a little while has such a positive impact on your life that you want to continue to limit it or do without it altogether even after your period of fasting is over.
For example, if you abstain from eating meat for 40 days, you may discover that you not only don't miss it but also find it easier to get all the nutrients you need by eating more vegetables.
Silencing the constant fear of missing out that you feel when you scroll through social media may be so rewarding that you gleefully delete the app from your phone forever. Fasting can help you identify habits that are no longer serving you or impeding your spiritual progress.
Clarity of Mind
When you take a regular habit out of your life temporarily, it can free your mind to focus on other things. The time you spend watching TV in the evening may be just the space you need to tackle a problem you've been trying to figure out. The extra prayer or meditation that typically occurs during a fast can help you get to the root of the issue and finally overcome it.
Deeper Spiritual Practice
You probably have a busy life. It's easy to get sidetracked and let good practices such as scripture study and regular meditation fall by the wayside. Fasting slows life down a little bit, allowing you to reflect on the spiritual habits you want to start or deepen.
Finally, fasting can improve your spiritual mindset. For example, if you are plagued by constant worry, a boost to your prayer life can remind you of the strength you derive from it. You are likely to come out of your fast more aware of, and thus more grateful for, the good things in your life.
Many religions involve some type of fasting, but you don't have to be a member of those specific communities to incorporate the practice into your own spiritual life. Whether you are fasting for the first time or a seasoned practitioner, you are likely to enjoy many of the benefits that come with it.