Personal Challenges: 18 Fasts to Improve Your Health, Wealth & Outlook

updated Mar 11, 2020
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Lent. No-shave November. By nature, people love to challenge themselves. Changing the routine for a short time gives us a temporary pass to explore another lifestyle — one without meat or with the addition of a lumberjack beard, perhaps. Breaks and fasts can definitely be fun, but they can also teach you a lot about yourself.

With a definite expiration date looming on the horizon, people find more willpower to stick to a diet plan or household budget. By giving your goal a measurable challenge — nothing but water, period — you’ll keep yourself accountable all month long.

Not all of these are perfect for every person (I could never go a month without a mirror), but everyone reading this should be able to find some inspiration to challenge themselves and discover a new outlook on life at home and away. The idea isn’t to drastically change your lifestyle for good, but take some temporary time — a week, or a month — to cut out expenses or distractions and lead a more mindful life.

Here are 18 ideas for lifestyle fasts:

Park as far away from the door as possible. Every time. Use a pedometer (high-end or super cheap) before and after to count how many extra steps a far-away parking spot adds to your daily activity. If you commute by rail, consider getting off one stop away from your destination.

Banish apps. Not ready to give up your smartphone whole-hog? You can still take time away from distracting apps. Banish everything but the essentials (phone, messaging, alarm) to a folder or back page for some time.

Say no to salt. Lock up the shaker and promise to not add extra salt to food. Too many people are heavy-handed with table salt; after a month, you may find that your tastes have changed a bit. (Lemon is a great substitute.)

Take a social media break. Facebook makes it easy to shut down your account temporarily. If you find social media is a timesuck, turn it off temporarily and discover something else to do with your evenings.

Limit your wardrobe. Have you ever seen features in magazines where they challenge a fashionista to create 30 days’ worth of looks from only 10 pieces? Try it yourself for a month (choose versatile pieces with coordinating colors) to gain a new perspective on what you really need in your closet.

Don’t eat the last few bites of your food. Decide to stop before you’re finished each time to see how much food you really need to feel full.

Don’t use heat on your hair. Put away the blow dryer and styling tools for a few weeks and see if your hair’s health improves.

Go cash-only. Freeze your credit and debit cards (literally, if you have to) and take out in cash what’s left of your paycheck after rent. Actually seeing your bank balance go down with every purchase makes you more mindful of spending.

No drinks other than water. No sodas. No alcohol. Nothing but H2O. You can do it!

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Cover all of your mirrors. When you get ready in the morning, focus on how you feel rather than how you look.

Banish the snooze button. Place your alarm clock across the room and pledge to get up at the first buzz. Snoozing actually makes you more tired, not less.

Try a media fast. The Apartment Therapy Cure suggests doing it for a night, but you can try it for even longer to gain new perspectives on your time in and away from your home.

Eat at home. Electing not to eat out for a month is like giving yourself a raise. You’ll see the savings immediately. Here are some good strategies to make your month of homecooked meals easier.

Go to bed early. Set a reverse-alarm on your phone and vow to hit the sheets every night when it goes off.

Drink black coffee. I didn’t like coffee as a kid, but I’ve grown to appreciate the taste. Similarly, you can learn to love the taste of your morning coffee without calorie-adding cream and sugar.

Buy only generics. A month of store-brand groceries will show you where you can save (cereal and baking basics, usually) and where you should splurge on the name-brand stuff (toilet paper and garbage bags).

Use one pillow. Sleeping with too many pillows can put a lot of stress on your neck and cause chronic pain. Switch to the minimum — a single pillow — and see if your sleep improves.

Don’t use the dishwasher. Washing dishes by hand for a while will definitely train you to use less when you cook and eat at home.

What have you tried giving up? Leave a comment and share your own successful (or not) personal challenge.