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11 Non-Food Fasts That You Need to Try

by | Nov 6, 2021 | DOING/BEING

Of the dozen-plus fasting methods we’ve talked about here at Fasting.com, there’s actually an entire fasting universe that we haven’t explored:

 Non-food fasts.

These include social media fasts, news fasts, even sex fasts to name a few. And some of them might have just as big of an impact on your life as an intermittent or prolonged fasting habit, for reasons we’ll explain shortly.  

See, the word ‘fast’ originated from a pre-historic Germanic word that meant “to hold firmly.” This meaning eventually morphed into “having firm control of oneself,” – which is what you need to resist the pleasures of food.[1] And it’s precisely this self-control that confers so many fasting benefits, both in food and non-food fasts.

 Without occasionally fasting from the things we enjoy, we’re not really in control of our lives: we’re on autopilot, constantly steering toward pleasure.

It feels good to scroll through social media notifications; it feels good to open up new emails. But if you’re doing these things automatically, you’re probably doing them to the exclusion of meaningful activities that will give you happiness and confidence. (Like taking time for silence, or knocking out a task.)

Once you’ve filled your day with so many mindless pleasures, your day is over without you actually having lived it. No purpose. No passion. No control.

Life’s just a series of unconscious attempts to feel a moment’s pleasure, this way. And you can only live like this for so long before you’re completely robbed of joy and mental wellbeing.

This is where non-food fasts save the day.

By consciously altering your behaviors, you’re creating consciousness. You’re opening up room for meaning – not just evanescent pleasure; you’re enhancing your self-control. And as you increase your self-control, you increase the chances of positive outcomes in your relationships, your career, and in all of your pursuits.

More control = better outcomes. And more fasting = more control.

If you’re down with the philosophy of non-food fasts, let’s check out some of the best ones that will reconnect you with your passions and purpose!

11 Non-Food Fasts That You Need to Try

1 –  Social media fast

Especially in such a disconnected time as the covid-era, social media can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family.

But even Facebook’s founding members have attested that social media exploits “a vulnerability in human psychology,” which can make it dangerous if used too frequently.[2] Studies show that limiting social media has significant impacts on wellbeing, too, increasing mood and decreasing loneliness.[3]

This makes social media fasting a healthy thing to do.

Start off with fasting from social media for a day. Once you’ve accomplished that, think about going for multiple days or even a week to detox from the habit of constantly checking your social media feeds.

Try going at least one day per week without any form of social media long-term, and also consider limiting your daily useage to ten minutes or less.[3]

2 –Sex fast

Before we get into abstaining from sex, first we’ve got to make something clear:

Sex is good. Really, really good.

Sex is incredibly important for all aspects of our health, both physical and mental, and having a healthy sex life is a strong indicator of a good relationship.[4] But just because sex is so amazing doesn’t mean that we can’t go without it.

In fact, sex therapist Ian Kerner, author of Sex Detox, recommends that all couples try out a 30-day sex fast. He says that thirty days of abstinence will rekindle passion and desire, ultimately “resetting, rewiring, and rejuvenating” our relationships. It’s a sure way to kick out of auto-pilot mode in your love life.

Not down with the idea of not ‘getting down’ for an entire month? You can always start with a week – or an entire day, if you’re a newlywed. (We joke.)

3 – News fast

Don’t get us wrong, staying informed is a citizen’s obligation in a free country. But considering how negative most news is, watching too much of it can actually be bad for your mental health.[5]

Try doing a news fast for an entire week – and that means refraining from newspapers, online news, and TV.

After that, consider an every-other-day fast from the news at least. Much like with eating, alternate-day news fasting won’t kill you. And your happiness (or sanity) might depend on it.

4 – TV fast

There is no single greater time drain than TV.

Yes, Hulu and Netflix have become staples in the covid era. Yes, life could get super boring if tv were completely eliminated. But tv can and will interfere with relationships and self-improvement if you don’t take regular breaks from it.

You can try doing an intermittent tv fast, limiting your ‘watching window’ to an hour or less daily. This will help you to watch only the things you enjoy most and will free up some time for things and people that matter to you.

Or if TV is a problem for you, consider a prolonged tv fast of three or more days to reset your relationship with it.

5 – Talking fast

More commonly known as silent retreats, talking fasts are an increasingly popular way to disconnect from the constant commotion of modern life. They range from a single day to a month and are paired with meditation and yoga in the context of a silent retreat.[6]

Participants describe silent retreats as life changing, and as a perfect way to reconnect to the present. 

But if you don’t have the time or the inclination to attend a retreat, try doing an evening of silence – or maybe a one-day talking fast on the weekend. You can expect a sense of clarity, peace, and ease of being while you fast from the chin music.

Experts also recommend abstaining from books, TV, and phones during a talking fast.

6 – Phone fast

More than tv..

more than social media..

more than the news..

your phone poses the greatest risk to your productivity and happiness because it’s all these things and more!

Between texts, snaps, tweets, and Youtube, there are endless opportunities for distraction on your smartphone. And each distraction can cause you to lose up to 25 minutes of focus and productivity, according to one study.[7] Other studies show that even the presence of a smartphone reduces cognitive capacity.[8]

Knowing this, it’s a good idea to fast from your phone – and the more frequently, the better.

You can start by doing a ‘modified phone fast’. This is where you still keep your phone handy, but you’ll turn all your notifications off (except for phone calls). Once you’ve gotten comfortable with that, you’ll want to do your first phone-free weekend.

Think it’s impossible? Try it! You’ll see your self-confidence and self-control increase almost immediately!

7 – Email fast

With how normal it is to roll over and check your email before you even realize you’re awake, you might not think of email as this secret villain that’s ruining your life. But it might be just that – no exaggeration!

When you read an email before praying, meditating, making the bed, working out, or completing some type of task, you’re training your mind to look for external direction the entire rest of the day. So when you have a free second, you don’t ask, “What can I do to live my purpose and be my best?” – You just reach into your pocket and see if there’s anyone else who will direct your life for you.

This is a recipe for constant distraction and zero productivity!

You can fix your email addiction by setting a time-restricted email window. Unless your job absolutely requires you to check email first thing, limit emails until after a certain time, say 10:00 am, or until after you’ve accomplished some tasks. Then when you’ve finished the workday, don’t go back to your inbox until the next morning.

Another option is to do a prolonged email fast every weekend.

8 – Alcohol fast

We definitely don’t live in the Madmen era anymore, with the ‘liquid lunches’ and office cocktails. But alcohol is still an important part of many people’s relaxation rituals at the end of the day and week.

Just like any other habit, though, mindlessly consuming alcohol can bring about more stress than pleasure – and particularly in the relationships department. If you feel you’d benefit from it, try a month without any drinks.

You can wait till Fast Feb or Dry July, or you can start with a single week to see how you feel. Lean into life sans alcohol by becoming Sober Curious—and explore how you can combine Dry January with a fasting experience to match your goals. [9]

9 – Meat fast

Fasting from meat has been part of many religious traditions, from Hindu to Catholic. But the practice of eschewing meat (at least for a time) is grounded in solid science for health reasons.

Animal proteins are high in amino acids such as methionine that are known to be inflammatory. These same proteins also activate growth pathways such as mTOR and IGF-1, which, when engaged too frequently, are associated with age-related diseases.[10]

 Dr. Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet, recommends eating a pescitarian/mediterranean diet to reduce IGF-1 and inflammation.

You can start with a once-per-week fast from meat to see how you feel. If your body gives you the green light, try substituting even more plant-based entrees or fish meals for burgers and steaks.

10 – Negativity fast  

The consequences of mindless negativity can have rippling effects not only on your attitude and happiness but also on your relationships. And you’d never know how many negative things you say about other people until you commit to going two weeks without saying one unkind word about another person.

(It’s the auto-pilot!)

If you commit to two-weeks of fasting from trash talk, be prepared to forgive yourself for any slip-ups and to keep on with the commitment. By the end of two weeks, you’ll have a built-in auto-correct for negativity – and you’ll be much happier and more positive for it!

11 – Shopping fast  

A life of endless consumption is a dead end.  You likely already have everything you need to ensure everlasting happiness. In fact, you probably have more than enough. If you live in the west, we have been conditioned over and over that more is better, that we are incomplete without this amazing widget in our lives. We are constantly bombarded my sophisticated messaging designed to trigger your inferiority complex or whatever other deep scars you have been mending your whole life in order to feel good.  This chase is empty, you don’t need 30 white t-shirts or another self-help book (okay you can have one more for the new 2021, but just because 2020 was so intense). What you really need is space, time, room to breathe and feel your own thoughts and heal your own body and create your life.

Going cold turkey on purchases is tricky—there are some experts who do it well. Start with a minimalist mindset, audit what you already own, and while you do so, put a moratorium on buying things that you may or may not truly need—this will help you identify your purchase triggers.[11] Often, a purchase is a band-aid for something else that we are avoiding or trying to fulfill. Once you complete your audit, set some boundaries and some criteria around the purchases in your life even including the food you consume. Schedule regular shopping fasts and only make purchases during specific windows each week. [12] Similar to time-restricted eating, you can do time-restricted or situation restricted consumption. This will also stop mindless spending that is situation-specific, and it will give you great insight into how you spend your time and what pulls the trigger on the click here button.

Read More:

[1] Etymology of the Word ‘Fasting’
https://www.etymonline.com/word/fast

[2] Facebook’s Sean Parker Admits Flaws in Social Media
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/09/facebook-sean-parker-vulnerability-brain-psychology

[3] Social Media Affects Mental Wellbeing
https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/pdf/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751

[4] Affection Mediates the Association Between Sex and Wellbeing
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312260169_More_Than_Just_Sex_Affection_Mediates_the_Association_Between_Sexual_Activity_and_Well-Being

[5] Television Watching and Depression: No News is Good News
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08838159409364247

[6] Silent Retreats: 10 Fantastic Retreat Centers In The U.S. For Peace & Quiet
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/silent-retreats-america_n_2727408?guccounter=1

[7] The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress
https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/chi08-mark.pdf

[8] Are Cell Phones Really a Brain Drain?
https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/691462

[9] Sober Curious
http://www.rubywarrington.com/i-am-an-author/sober-curious/

[10] Low Protein Intake is Associated with Lower IGF-1 Levels
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3988204/

[11] The Minimalists
https://www.theminimalists.com

[12] Try A Shopping Fast
https://www.asmallwardrobe.com/home/twelve-tips-for-a-shopping-fast-archive