I haven’t eaten in over 24 hours. Not because I haven’t been around some solid options for delicious and sustainable choices of sustenance. This is actually challenge I take on by choice.

That’s where the concept of voluntary hardships comes into play.

We live in a world where we can get our movies instantly streamed, our food delivered in 30 minutes or less and hold a world of information in the palm of our hand. It’s important that we step back from some of these silver spoon first world luxuries to challenge ourselves from time to time.

A voluntary hardship is the idea of adding something not so awesome into your already awesome life through challenges like fasting, biking to work or cutting off electronics for a period of time. It helps us all to better understand how to go without the many privileges we are used to enjoying by building fortitude and character.

The upshot of this concept is that through a voluntary hardship, we tend to better appreciate the many things you already have in our on demand lifestyle.

It’s not unlike the idea of Lent. A religious observance that takes place in the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is symbolic of the 40 days leading up to the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Jesus and his 40 days alone in the desert being tempted by Satan.

It’s utilized mainly by the Christian faith as a time of reflection and typically involves fasting from food and/or festivities.

Many denominations observe different takes on the observance of this period, but the concept is shared and followers are encouraged to celebrate Lent through a personal and voluntary hardship.

Most people opt to give things up for Lent in the form of vices like chocolate, alcohol, porn, electronics or anything that perhaps allows for the individual to step away and reflect on the actual relationship with that vice in order to better themselves after the period of Lent comes to a close.

Unfortunately, so many of us celebrate Lent and then forget about this idea of personally challenging and pushing our believes until the next year comes around and it’s time to give something up again.

Voluntary Hardships Improve Our Gratitude for What We Already Have

If you’re reading this post right now, you’re likely doing so from your phone or your own personal computer. Which means you’re also in top 30-40 percent of the world in the ability to stream internet to your own device.

Freeing ourselves from some of these resources and opportunities is liberating and an eye-opening experience.

It’s intent is not solely just because we can, but rather as a chance to get to know ourselves a little better through the process.

Voluntary hardships allow for the individual to reflect on the many benefits that he or she actually enjoys throughout the day.

In our on demand society, it’s easy to forget just how easy we have it. That’s way it is so important to practice stepping away to look back at the wonderful things we actually do have in our benefit to get a bigger picture of the journey.

A little more gratitude and appreciation for the things we do have can go along way in helping achieve the many things we want and strive to receive.

I struggle with this myself. I’m constantly looking ahead to the future to try and figure out how to better myself through personal health, professional wealth or through the chance to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.

But only through full appreciate and contentment for what I do have will I be able to understand just how awesome and happy my life truly is right now.

This is where the idea of voluntary hardships can help us all hit that reset button.

That’s why I haven’t eaten in 24 hours.

To be honest, the concept of intermittent fasting has many benefits from a health standpoint, including, but not limited to:

  • Reduction of insulin resistance
  • Increased fat burning
  • Reduction of stress and inflammation
  • Improved cellular repair
  • Improved appetite and blood sugar control

I could write an entire post about the benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF) from a health and fat loss point of view. But, if you want some comprehensive reads on the topic, look for the knowledge bombs of the godfathers of IF, Martin Berkhan and Brad Pilon.

There’s also a great guide on IF provided by the team at Precision Nutrition, you can find that here.

Voluntary Hardships make difficult obstacles in life feel easier

Sure, practicing an extended period of not eating does end up benefiting me in the long run. That doesn’t mean that I’m not fucking hungry while this is going on.

I’m voluntarily invoking a hardship on myself that will make me a better person for it on the other side. Instead of complaining about something to eat and giving in to hunger pangs, I focus on creative works and being productive.

In fact, the days that I fast are some of my most productive days of the week. I wouldn’t know this unless I took action, ripped off the band aid and jumped into the deep end of the pool.

Now, if I’m ever in a situation when a meal must be skipped for one reason or another (late flight, long day of work, etc.), it never hits me that hard because I practice going 20 to 24 hours without food a few times a week.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been doing this for several years – before the cool kids were all over the TV morning shows promoting the idea of not eating for extended periods of time.

Types of voluntary hardships

When you’re ready to challenge yourself with a voluntary hardship, it doesn’t have to be something as rigid as fasting for 40 days and 40 nights or living like a hermit without electricity for two weeks.

As I always point out, the key is for small tweaks to your current lifestyle and then go from there.

Maybe you’ll enjoy the idea of personally challenging yourself so much that you’ll up the intensity level and make it all a part of your ongoing lifestyle.

Here are a few ideas to help get started.

Intermittent Fasting

We could do an entire post on the many approaches to Intermittent Fasting and how to implement it into your nutritional toolbox. But, without getting into too many of the principles of it, the idea is simplistic in nature: don’t eat food. Drink plenty of fluids, like black coffee, tea and lots of water, throughout the day and then enjoy a regular meal when you have completed your fast and go on with your day.  

Cold showers

There are some health benefits to this one, too. But, considering how many people don’t have the luxury of clean running water, let alone hot water, this one seems like a nice way to awaken the senses as a personal challenge.

Walk or Bike to work

Think about the extra calories burned here if you could use your own motor to power the commute to the office a few times a week. It also saves on gas and cuts down on the wear and tear of your automobile.

Digital Detox

Restrict the access to all of your screens and technology for an extended period of time (Related – Digital Detox Day: How to Unplug from Technology). Cutting back on all of that can work wonders for your eyes and your brain and even the neck – for those that are in that constant crane neck position while checking smartphone updates for texts, Facebook and SnapChat.

Shop only ONE time this week

How often do we load up on groceries for the week ahead, get about halfway through the week and then realize that we need more food for whatever upcoming meals, so we scramble to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

Don’t do that. Challenge yourself to make use of all the food that is in your pantry and refrigerator that could be salvaged to create a worthwhile meal that doesn’t require extra trips to and from the supermarket.

You’ll be surprised how creative you get when you force yourself to be more resourceful through this type of voluntary hardship. Added benefit: savings to your checking account.

Here’s my challenge for you: Start implementing a few voluntary hardships today

Figure out a few ways in which you can implement a voluntary hardship in your day-to-day lifestyle and get to work. Let me know in the comment section or find me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know how it’s going.

Cover photo by Viktor Kern on Unsplash