3. Fast from the News Media
No, I’m not talking about abstaining from all television, newspapers, blogs, or web-based news sources entirely for a week—or from streaming a Netflix video that lifts your spirits and brings your family together, especially during the holidays.
What I am suggesting is a fast from all the depressing news floating out there. Bad news shouts at us all the time: Grim financial outlooks, dropped healthcare coverage, children killing children, corruption and crime on every level. In today’s world, it feels as though nobody’s honest, nobody’s trustworthy, and nobody’s sure we’re going to survive into the next century!
Real life can be hard, scary, tragic. But it’s also filled with God’s presence and grace, and peopled with many kind and self-sacrificing folk. Life isn’t all dangerous, dire, bleak, or brimming with imminent disaster. Yet when on a steady diet of the news media, you can often feel as though it is.
My husband and I used to turn on the cable news shows after dinner and watch the political pundits in their screaming matches over the state of the nation (and it was never good). What a depressing way to cap off an already-stressful work day! Jangled nerves didn’t allow us to unwind and relax.
Now we’ve replaced that habit with watching one or two episodes of DVR’d Seinfeld reruns most weekday nights. Sure, we’ve watched this show a thousand times and know all the punch lines, but the sitcom silliness still makes us laugh.
The benefits of fasting even one week from the news media overconsumption are twofold. You can spend time bonding with each other by doing something else you both enjoy, and you can end the day with happy thoughts instead of divisive political rhetoric.
So this year, take a break from doom-and-gloom for just seven days—you’ll start looking up!
4. Fast from Facebook (and iPads and Smart Phones and . . . )
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Do I really need to check the latest post from one of my 500 closest friends? Do I really need to update my status by talking about my latest mood or “deep” thought? I mean, who really cares?
I often wonder what a truly ‘unplugged life” would be like. I love my iPad, iPhone, and Kindle—and spend a lot of time tethered to them. But how does all the technology we invite into our lives truly affect us? I pointed out to my husband the following irony: For years, we’ve resisted the temptation to bring a television into our bedroom, yet now we often lie in bed watching Netflix or YouTube videos on our respective devices before we zone out for the night. We check our personal email on our phones first thing in the morning (not that there’s anything so important it can’t wait an hour . . . or two . . . or five), and then so many times after that, I lose count.
I’ve taken intermittent fasts from Facebook and have discovered—to my surprise–once I’m off it, I don’t miss it. I instead spend my time living my true, real life—not the one created from random posts and self-indulgent updates and carefully selected “selfies.”
Could the same be true if I unplugged myself from my multiple devices? I’m going to find out. I’ve decided to fast for a week from surfing on my iPad at night in bed, opting instead to concentrate on reading a genuine print book or cuddling with my husband.
Technology, for all its simulated “connectivity,” often keeps us from truly connecting face-to-face in real time. Dare to fast from Facebook and from constantly checking email or surfing the web for one week, and you may discover you like it! Powering off can provide you with more time to cultivate the relationships that matter most.
5. Fast from Comparisons
When I was newly married, I remember being upset that my husband didn’t hold my hand in public like the husband of one of our couple friends with whom we’d gone out to dinner. Boy, Ted must really love Janet. He’s not shy about showing it either, I stewed.
To my shock, about three weeks after our outing with this PDA couple, we learned they’d filed for divorce. I couldn’t believe it! They’d seemed so outwardly affectionate with each other!
This was a big lesson is the danger of comparing my marriage to someone else’s. My husband and I have been married now for almost 37 years—lack of hand holding not withstanding. I’ve learned that as tempting as it is to compare how your husband (or your children, or your job, or your ministry opportunities, or your house—you get the idea) “measures up” to someone else, comparison never leads to positive change; it ends up tearing down rather than building up.
When I feel that little nudge to compare a perceived shortcoming in my spouse with what seems like a strength in another, I nip it in the bud. I purposefully abstain from “going there,” and instead intentionally focus on the strengths, gifts, and committed love my husband brings to our marriage.
So there you have it—five short-term fasts that just may jumpstart change in your life. Eliminating something for a week is less intimidating than vowing a year-long program of “will dos” that too often end up as “never dids.” Try my approach of deleting and you’ll discover what you can be gaining for a healthier, more positive you.
Copyright 2013 by Jane Johnson Struck. Portions of this article first appeared in Christianity Today International/Today’s Christian Woman magazine.
This is Part 2 in a 2 Part series