Much like New Year’s resolutions, Lent is a very popular time of year for many folks to make big adjustments/resolutions/changes to their lives, and often, their health. A huge part of the Christian Lenten season is fasting or giving something up for the 40 days duration. The meaning behind this is a significant one in the Christian faith and goes beyond the scope of this blog. My focus is on how anyone (religious or not) can use this Wednesday- February 22nd- as a starting point for change in their lives. I believe it does not have to be limited to abstinence of a single thing; sometimes adding something enriching is just as great.
Here are some helpful tips and things to consider:
1) Think about your overall goals and what you want to accomplish in general. Then, try to find one small part on which you can focus your Lenten promise. It is impossible to try to cover everything, so pick a part that is important to you. For example, if you are aiming to rid your diet of all processed foods and move toward a more clean way of eating, choose ONE food to omit during Lent.
2) Choose to give up OR add something that you will try to maintain even after Lent is over. Consider which choices are most beneficial to your health and well-being in the long haul, not just 40 days. For example, don’t give up alcohol for 40 days while stockpiling 6-packs of your favorite beer so you can binge on day 41. Instead, try making the promise to reduce your alcohol intake from X drinks per week to Y drinks per week, and stick with that beyond Easter Sunday.
3) If you can’t think of something to give up, then DON’T! I know many folks that struggle with thinking of what to omit from their lives when they actually could benefit a tremendous amount from adding something in. For example, you could promise to add 1 hour of sleep per night if you feel you’re not getting enough. Or you could add more water, fruits, veggies, exercise, etc into your daily routine.
4) Do NOT, by any means, give up something good or beneficial for you!!! It is mostly in jest, but people have told me they plan on giving up exercise, fruits or veggies for Lent. This is an opportunity to build in healthy habits, not get rid of them!!
5) Do not set yourself up for failure. I’ll give a personal example here: I am a very busy person and need a little caffeine to get through my long days. While I HAVE successfully given up coffee several times for Lent in previous years, I have never gone so far as to give up caffeine completely. Without coffee, I turned to green and black tea for my caffeine and consumed these things in small amounts. I know that trying to give up caffeine, in totality, is probably not a likely option for me.
6) Lastly, here are some of the best Lenten promises I have made in the past, for you to use as inspiration:
Gave up: coffee, swearing, biting my nails, beer, peanut butter (this led to my love affair with almond butter!)
Added: more sleep, more water every day, taking 20 mins each day to write, read more books for pleasure (non school related), call family at least 1x/wk, keep in touch with old friends/colleagues
And this year I am going to start a special Lenten promise: I am going to incorporate the Paleo Diet into my life! I will be blogging weekly about how this goes, so you can all follow along and ask questions.
I’d love to hear your comments on what you think about “giving up” things for Lent and what you choose to do this year!