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What You Need to Know About Fasting and Mental Health

April 12, 2024 Mahevash Shaikh

Fasting can be related to mental health. Fasting, the practice of abstaining from food or drink for a specific period, is significant in cultures and societies across the world. People fast for various reasons, from religious observance and spiritual purification to weight management and personal health goals. In fact, Ramadan, a month of fasting observed by Muslims, ended very recently. And it got me thinking: how does fasting impact mental health? Let's take a look. 

Fasting Can Benefit Mental Health

Fasting is associated with a range of mental health benefits. According to research, 

"Short-term fasting can cause mood enhancement, which is reflected by increased positive mood and vitality and decreased negative mood. In an 18h [hour] fasting among healthy women, they found that fasting can lead to increased irritability and increase positive affective experiences such as a sense of achievement, reward, pride, and control."1 

Conversely, Fasting Can Harm Mental Health

On the flip side, fasting can also have undesirable effects on one's mental health. 

"Some studies reported that short-term fasting can increase negative emotions (depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, fatigue, and tension) and decrease positive emotions and vitality. In a two-day consecutive fasting study, lower positive mood, higher negative mood, and lower perceived work performance were observed."1 

Balancing Fasting and Mental Health

As you can see, fasting can benefit or harm your mental health. From what I have seen, fasting benefits the mental health of individuals in good mental and physical health and those with strong religious beliefs. Fasting may be detrimental for those who are struggling with mental illness or have physical limitations. 

It is crucial to strike a balance between fasting and mental wellbeing based on your individual needs. For example, if you struggle with disordered eating or mental health conditions like depression, fasting may be dangerous for your wellbeing. Make sure you consult a healthcare professional well in advance so you can make an informed and safe choice, especially if you are new to fasting.

By finding a balance that prioritizes self-care, you can take advantage of the potential benefits of fasting while protecting your mental wellbeing. However, if you are unable to fast for health reasons, know that there are other ways to show your reverence to whatever higher power you believe in. 

Remember: to fast or not to fast should be a personal decision, not one made out of social pressure.

Source

  1. Wang, Y., & Wu, R. (2022). The Effect of Fasting on Human Metabolism and Psychological Health. Disease markers, 2022, 5653739. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/5653739

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2024, April 12). What You Need to Know About Fasting and Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2024/4/what-you-need-to-know-about-fasting-and-mental-health



Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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