Background/Objective: Historically, fasting has been practiced not only for medical but also for religious reasons. Baha'is follow an annual religious intermittent dry fast of 19 days. We inquired into motivation behind and subjective health impacts of Baha'i fasting.
Methods: A convergent parallel mixed methods design was embedded in a clinical single arm observational study. Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted before (n = 7), during (n = 8), and after fasting (n = 8). Three months after the fasting period, two focus group interviews were conducted (n = 5/n = 3). A total of 146 Baha'i volunteers answered an online survey at five time points before, during, and after fasting.
Results: Fasting was found to play a central role for the religiosity of interviewees, implying changes in daily structures, spending time alone, engaging in religious practices, and experiencing social belonging. Results show an increase in mindfulness and well-being, which were accompanied by behavioural changes and experiences of self-efficacy and inner freedom. Survey scores point to an increase in mindfulness and well-being during fasting, while stress, anxiety, and fatigue decreased. Mindfulness remained elevated even three months after the fast.
Conclusion: Baha'i fasting seems to enhance participants' mindfulness and well-being, lowering stress levels and reducing fatigue. Some of these effects lasted more than three months after fasting.