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Posted 01/24/2023 in Christian Mental Health Tips

Understanding the Mental Health Benefits of Fasting

Understanding the Mental Health Benefits of Fasting

Fasting may seem like a physical process, but it's actually so much more than that. There's a reason it’s been interwoven into so many religions and cultures throughout history. The truth is that fasting has benefits that transcend the physical. 

Along with the physical benefits it brings, fasting improves our mental and spiritual health as well. It's one of those things that rejuvenate our mind, body, and spirit, so everyone should try it at least once in their life.

Mental Benefits Of Fasting

Fasting has several physical health benefits, ranging from weight loss and increased metabolism to disease prevention. However, since this is a mental health blog, we would naturally be focusing on the mental health benefits of fasting. And the benefits are amazing.

For starters, research has shown that fasting can help people overcome mental illnesses like anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia. This leads to an improvement in memory and overall mental health.

Fasting also improves focus and concentration while reducing brain fog. This results in better mental clarity. Optimal mental clarity is also the reason many religions ask you to pray before you break your fast. When you pray in a fasting state you are able to focus better and therefore say deeper prayers.

Another amazing thing fasting does for our mental health is that it improves our mood. Thus making us feel good from within.

How Does Fasting Help Mentally?

There are many ways that fasting helps us mentally. Over and above the psychological benefits of fasting mentioned above, here are a few specific ways fasting will help you mentally:

Fasting Increases Your Connection with God

When you're fasting you tend to replace the time you would normally prepare food and eat, with prayer. You might also use that extra time to read your Bible or listen to worship music. All this extra time spent with God naturally enriches your connection with Him.

Fasting Helps Your Brian Take the Trash Out

Fasting activates autophagy. If you've never heard the word before, autophagy is the process in which your brain takes out the trash it has collected all day. It is your brain's self-cleansing process for the removal of old damaged cells or debris.

This process allows your brain to detox and promotes the growth of healthier, newer cells. Fasting, therefore, reduces your risk of illnesses like depression, Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder, and many other neuropsychiatric disorders that have been linked to autophagy issues.

Fasting Decreases inflammation

Studies have also shown that fasting reduces inflammation. You may be thinking, "that's a physical benefit" and you're right. It is a physical benefit, but it helps mentally as well.

It helps mentally because a variety of mental illnesses are linked to chronic inflammation. These illnesses include depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, schizophrenia, and many more. Therefore, fasting also reduces your risk of all the mental illnesses that are linked with inflammation.

Fasting Lowers Blood Sugar Spikes

This may seem like another physical benefit but it's very similar to the benefit above. Just like with inflammation, research has also shown a link between poor sugar regulation and mental illness.

According to a study found in the British Journal of Nutrition, fasting enhances insulin sensitivity and the improvement in insulin sensitivity helps your body prevent blood sugar spikes.

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Types of Fasts for Mental Health

There are many types of fasts you could do for your mental health. In this post, we will focus on a few biblical fasts and one modern-day fast.

Biblical Examples of Fasting

Fasting is something that God's people have been doing throughout history. People in the Old Testament were doing it back then, and billions of Christians still do it today. 

This is because of the power of fasting and the benefits that come with it have never changed and will never change. There are a lot of examples of fasting in the Bible, but we'll focus on the most common and popular ones today.

The  Forty Day Fast

Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25-29; 10:10), Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-18), and Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) all fasted for 40 days. They did it at different times for different reasons but all of them filled their days with prayer. They went without food or water, but you don't have to do the same. If you want to do a 40-day fast, cut out certain things for 40 days but still keep yourself nourished.

The Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast (Daniel 9:1-19)  - This is probably the most well-known Christian fast today. It's practiced by millions of Christians at least once a year. In the Bible, Daniel had fasted for 21 days drinking only water and eating only fruits and vegetables. He ate no meat, sweets, or luxurious foods for all 21 days and was still as strong as those eating from the king's table. This is a great fast to try if you're just starting out and would like to detox your body while receiving all the mental benefits mentioned above.

The Esther Fast

The Esther Fast (Esther 4:13-16)  - Esther fasted for 3 days and asked all the Jews to fast with her before she went to the king for their lives. None of them ate or drank for 3 days leading up to her going to the king. This fast is a lot easier than the forty-day fast, but it is still difficult. If you were to try it, we'd recommend at least drinking water and speaking to your doctor before you do. 

Modern Day Fasting Example

There are tons of different modern-day fasts and one of the most popular is intermittent fasting. Research has shown that intermittent fasting comes with a lot of mental health benefits which is the reason we're focusing on it in this post.

Intermittent Fasting For Mental Health

Intermittent Fasting For Mental Health -This study says that participants who performed intermittent fasting for 3 months reported improved moods as well as less tension, disorientation, and irritability.  

With such great benefits in such a short time, of course, one would like to learn more. Below are 2 types of intermittent fasting you can try out:

One-Meal-a-Day (OMAD)

The OMAD fast is different from most other fasts because you can eat whatever you want. However, whatever you want will have to be eaten in your 1-hour window. You get to have one meal a day in a one-hour time window and then you'll have to have nothing but water or drinks with fewer calories such as coffee or green tea for the next 23.

The 5:2 Method

The 5:2 intermittent fasting method is a lot more popular than the OMAD. This is because it's a lot easier than OMAD but the benefits are almost the same. This method allows you to eat what you want for 5 days a week and then limit what you eat for 2 days. The 2 days do not have to be consecutive but they have to have strict calorie restrictions. The other 5 days should also be healthy, just not as restricted as the 2.

How long should you fast for mental clarity?

If the main reason you're fasting is to increase your mental clarity or reduce brain fog, not eating for 12-24 hours would work. Intermittent fasting is definitely one of the most effective strategies to strengthen your mind.

What You Need to Know to Get Started

Fasting is not easy. Although it has a lot of benefits, fasting can be a real challenge too. So make sure you ease into whichever fast you choose to do.  Don't go on an OMAD fast if you haven't been able to go more than 6 hours without eating before. Be realistic with what you can do and then build from there.

As you begin your journey into fasting for your mental health know that God is surely pleased with you. Doing the work to feel strong physically, mentally, and spiritually, is no small feat. Your mind, body, and spirit are all extremely important to God. He loves you, and He loves it when you take on a challenge to better yourself for His glory.

Final Thoughts on The Benefits of Fasting

Fasting is an important tool to deepen your relationship with God and spiritual growth.  My prayer is that you continue to explore ways you can honor Christ’s sacrifice by sacrificing something yourself. As you fast remember it is important to keep God as your focal point each day and set clear reasons for your fast so you can see God working in your life during and after the fast is completed .

About the Author:

Christian Life Coach in California Lanna Lewis Lanna is a nationally board certified health and wellness coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her business is called i2U Wellness Coaching. To learn more about her visit her profile here: I2UWellness

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