Why a 24-Hour Fasting Habit Will Make You Happier
Living the life of an essentialist…
“The best of all medicines are resting and fasting.” — Benjamin Franklin
The best things in life are simple and free.
When everything is about making things “bigger and better” — the wise person looks at what makes her life simpler and powerful.
Likewise, when being healthy is about eating better, the wise person will practice eating less by eating nothing for 24 hours.
The meaning of life can be felt through “essential” things we choose to have in our lives. This “essentialism” discerns between what we need and what we don’t.
When you choose to live the life of an essentialist, you practice living with simplicity and power, which brings meaningfulness. This is how you stay sharp, healthy, and happy.
Some basic things we do naturally every day have the power to transform us if we do them differently or don’t do them at all.
Eating is one.
Food is the #1 source of our pleasure, and therefore the #1 addiction we have. Nothing compares to it. Period. This has been proven through research, over and over again.
Enter fasting. When you fast from food for 24 hours, you are breaking that #1 addiction!
Regular fasting is the way of an essentialist. By fasting for 24 hours, you are breaking a very basic and powerful structure that defines your current self — the way you feel, the way you think, and the way you are.
Fasting allows you to break free from that structure and create a new one that can take you towards better health and happiness.
Let me explain.
My Story with Fasting
I have been doing 24-hour fasts for the last 10 years — once every 10–12 days. I started this practice to become healthy and happy.
Each fasting period lasts 24 hours — where I cut myself off from food, technology, and speech. That’s right, I don’t eat anything, I don’t talk to anyone, and I don’t use any technologies like phones, computers, TV. I also abstain from any intense physical activity like exercise, sexual activity, or any form of work.
I drink plenty of water — about 2 liters in the 24 hour fasting period. It is important to keeping drinking water so that you are constantly peeing out the toxins from your body.
When fasting, all bodily systems get a break. The immune system then kicks in and “takes care” of your problems. For instance, I use fasting as a medicine when I feel that something is happening in my throat — a pre-cursor to flu. After a day of fasting, I am back to normal.
Since the pandemic started in Jan 2020, I have been especially careful not to slack on this fasting habit, and I haven’t been sick at all.
In this article, I am sharing with you from my experience, the 3 major ways that fasting from food for 24 hours contributes to your wellbeing and happiness.
1. Happiness Comes from Inside — Your Cells!
A 24-hour fast supports the saying “true happiness comes from inside” like no other. If you want to feel true happiness, fast. Simple and easy as that.
It takes about 20 hours for our body to clean itself thoroughly. More like a ‘deep clean.’ It is during this period when all the cells in our bodies undergo a process called autophagy — a natural mechanism where the cell removes its unnecessary and dysfunctional components and thus keeps itself “in shape.”
No wonder, after 24 hours of fasting, you will see that your skin and eyes have a different glow in them. Your abdominal area feels much lighter. You also feel a renewed type of energy throughout your body. You feel great in 2 ways — from the “feeling of achievement” of the fasting experience itself, and, from the “deep cleaning” of your body.
A few hours into fasting, I feel that happiness starts expressing from within my cells. Yes, it’s true, happiness is an inside job, literally. The happiness I feel by not needing anything is of the highest quality. This sense of happiness is very different from the joy I feel from achievements and sensual pleasures. It is grounded into who I already am and does not depend on anything outside like success or accomplishment.
The first 8 hours is the hardest part — this is when your body and mind craves for food, entertainment, and anything else you are addicted to. This is a good way to know for sure what you are addicted to you. You are addicted to what you crave.
This addiction cycle eventually breaks, and we begin to start feeling better. Our mental chatter now starts being more positive and thus our thoughts are more appreciative of the basic things we take for granted.
The best feeling that fasting gives me is the happiness that has nothing to do with things and events outside my body.
Our body is extremely intelligent — it is a complex makeup of different types of nano-technology that we call ‘cells.’ As the well being of an organism depends on the health of its parts, our wellbeing also depends on the health of our cells.
I do get cravings for eating in the first few hours during my fast. When that happens, I just stay with the “struggling feeling” for about 15–30 minutes and it goes away.
I don’t need to fight with myself. I just remind myself that my thoughts are simply chemical reactions and observe them. Only after a few hours, that feeling of food-craving was not only gone but replaced by the feelings of confidence, progress, and power.
When you allow any sort of addiction or craving, be it food or any other sources of pleasures, to just pass, you generate happiness. You allow our cells to exist freely on their own.
Similar to the world wide web, our bodies also have a powerful system that works really well when all the cells start communicating with each other. This level of communication can only happen when the cells are free from the regular burdening task of digestion, removing toxins, processing emotions, and such.
At this stage, the body and the mind are detached from external sources of sensory inputs and start generating self-love. Your cells start thanking you for taking care of them. You begin to have a better relationship with yourself.
The body is now simply focused on breathing and drinking water. The mind also eases a lot on negative thoughts and mental chatter and directs itself towards appreciation and gratitude.
And believe me, when this connection kicks in, the body starts doing amazing things like generating endogenous medicine and inner happiness. This is why your immune system “boosts” during fasting.
In a nutshell, if you want to experience happiness, fast. If you want to improve your quality of happiness, improve your fasting experience.
Fasting brings out happiness, which by nature, is inside of us.
2. Food Can Make You Feel Good, but Not Happy
Satiety, pleasure, and fulfillment are important in life, and often time, these emotions are the motivation behind many amazing things we do. This is why we enjoy eating, drinking so much — because we feel good.
Why do we feel good when we eat? Besides the biological function of food (to keep us alive), the pleasure factor (that eating makes us feel good) is important to understand.
We do what we enjoy. Pleasure is one of the strongest motivators of behavior. Imagine how we would survive if eating was not a pleasurable experience. All that ice cream…
While food is the fuel for our body, and also a major source of pleasure, how much does it contribute to our happiness?
Happiness is already programmed in us. It is simply of matter of feeling it. And we can best feel it when there are no other distractions. In other words, happiness is a decision that we must make — whether we want to tune in into ourselves to feel it, or not.
The more we depend on outside sources, the more vulnerable we are to true happiness.
Now let’s turn this upside down. Imagine if food simply served the function of keeping us alive and the ‘pleasure’ part did not exist. Now, you would look for sources of pleasure other than food, yes? Now, imagine there wasn’t anything outside of you (like food) that gave you pleasure.
Yes, that’s exactly my point. Fasting is the ritual you follow to discover the power that is inside you and can only be felt when you detach yourself from external sources of pleasure.
Once you come to this realization and surrender, you give permission to your body to do amazing things. You will discover that your body is an amazing biological machine!
All our lives we go running around, searching for techniques to being happy. This is why it demands a lot of willpower, motivation, and resources to “do” stuff for happiness, examples — fitness, healthy diet, coaching, learning, therapy…and the list goes on.
The more “work” we do, the farther away we drift from happiness.
Fasting is a direct path to happiness. No going around, no guessing, no trying. When you fast, you remove the distractions (most of which come from food) that keep you from feeling your happiness which is already programmed in you.
I love food, especially trying new varieties. Pleasure drives me to explore, learn, and grow. But when it comes to happiness, one thing for sure I don’t depend on is the #1 source of my pleasure: food.
Food can make you feel great, but not happy.
3. Happiness Comes from Detachment
“The philosophy of fasting calls upon us to know ourselves, to master ourselves, and to discipline ourselves the better to free ourselves. To fast is to identify our dependencies, and free ourselves from them.” — Tariq Ramadan
Being able to cut yourself off from the very thing that you need the most (ie. food) for 24-hours gives you a sense of freedom that comes from you making a conscious choice. This freedom can also be perceived as detachment.
Detachment is nothing negative, but simply a way of isolating yourself from something so you can appreciate it more, and depend less. And this is exactly what increases your level of happiness.
When we eat every day for a lifetime, we lose appreciation for food and even take it for granted. Fasting allows us to become more appreciative and also gradually develop our senses for subtler tastes.
The quality of my thoughts is much clearer, sharper, and positive after about 12 hours into fasting. I get a lot of new, creative, meaningful ideas.
For this reason, I also use fasting as a powerful technique to recover from challenging situations. For instance, last time when I was facing some difficulties in my relationships, I fasted for a day. During this fasting period, I healed myself, attained positive thoughts and emotions. When I came out of it, I also found that people around me were more positive.
It is during the fasting we can detach ourselves from distractions, addictions, negativity and allow ourselves to feel the innate love and compassion that we lose constantly in our daily lives.
All this happens without us trying hard.
I always journal a lot during fasting. This is the time when I get to feel and think about what really matters in my life. This is the time when my attachment to food is relinquished and I have the freedom to think. It is during this time great ideas just come without me trying at all.
Happiness is an inside job. And to be good at this “inside job”, your inside needs to stay clean, and healthy. Fasting is a direct, easy, and natural way to stay clean and be happy.
We all enjoy eating. This also means that food is a major source of our pleasure and thus, attachment.
Fasting allows us to free ourselves from such attachment. After fasting we begin to appreciate more what we eat, and also refine our sense of taste.
Fasting boosts our immune system which is why it should be taken seriously during this pandemic.
When you fast, you not only change yourself but your environment, and the people around you change as well. They feel that wonderful energy from you during and after your fast. And yes, they mirror your energy back to you. You will find others also more compassionate, respectful, and loving.
People around you will admire you for this deed. Perhaps, it inspires them in some way to do the same — to look into their innate source of power that can be realized through fasting.
Complex problems need simple solutions. Fasting is as simple as it gets. Take that first step. Try it out.
Upen Singh writes about people, progress, and the future. He is interested in making lives better.
Having traveled over to 25 countries he is always seeking new adventures to learn from and share. He has an M.A. in Developmental Economics from West Virginia University.
He lives in Thailand, Nepal, and the United States, constantly traveling. He is currently involved in a village development project called Metta Valley in far-west Nepal.