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What to Give Up for Lent
Traditionally, Lent is meant to be a time of preparation before Easter - a time for prayer and self-denial to remember the sacrifices during the Passion of the Christ. Usually, Lent is described as 40 days long, but that can vary within each religion. Most Christians celebrate some form of Lent, but some Protestant churches do not.
Three practices are typical of a Lenten season, when many people give things up or promise to do things better in their lives in the time leading up to Easter. Prayer, which represents justice toward God; fasting, justice toward oneself; and almsgiving, which is justice toward others.
Here are a few ideas about what you could give up for Lent.
Read a Book Instead!
Giving up television usually has the benefit of allowing you to focus on other important things in your life: hobbies that you might have tossed by the wayside or spending time with your family. This is a good idea to do with someone else - a friend, your spouse or another member of your family - so you can fill your time with other interests together.
This is a great option if you have noticed that television is your default when you don't have anything more pressing to do. Instead of focusing on bettering ourselves or taking time out for friends and family, we sit ourselves in front of the television.
Make a list of 10 things you want to do, but have always thought you didn't have "time" for and try to do them during this time. You will be surprised how open your schedule is once you aren't fitting things in around your TV schedule.
Yummy Veggie Meals
In Ancient times, fasting was much more strict then it is now and for the entirety of Lent, most people did not eat animal products. The most popular practice was to fast until after 3:00 when people would eat small meals, still without meat. Even now, the strictest churches prohibit all animal products, including fish and eggs for all the days of Lent. Most people abstain from meat on Fridays.
These products were considered to be pleasurable and also nourishing for the body and so abstaining from eating them was a sacrifice for the believer. Try out a vegetarian diet - there are many cookbooks now that provide advice for healthy (and tasty!) meals if you decide to give up meat for all 40 days of Lent.
Giving up alcohol can improve your health as well as make you more focused during Lent. Improving yourself is an important part of the Lenten season and giving up alcohol allows you to focus on things like spiritual growth. You should be able to enjoy your life and time with your friends without the use of alcohol. Since you should give up something for Lent that is a sacrifice, if you are a social person who drinks frequently, this should be something you consider giving up this Lenten season.
When I had some friend give up alcohol, it was a fun time to experiment making different kinds of drinks like fruit spritzers and non-alcohol pina coladas. No reason to give up the umbrella drinks even though you don't add alcohol!
Like sodas and alcohol, giving up sweets for Lenten has a two-fold benefit: if you really like sweets, this is a true sacrifice. And, it will also have health benefits for your during the 40 days you give them up. Try to think of snack alternatives like fruit that are still sweet, but have more nutritional benefit. A handful of frozen grapes or a cup of natural yogurt will satisfy a sweet tooth without a lot of refined sugar that you will find in typical desserts like cakes and cookies.
No More Biting
Biting Your Nails
This Lenten promise is about focusing on yourself and improving your life. Make sure to stock up on nail polish and a buffer so as your nails grow out, you can keep them looking nice, which will motivate you to keep going. It takes willpower to stop biting your nails and making the commitment to stop for 40 days will most likely mean that you will stop forever. Don't be too hard on yourself if you slip, just keep making an effort to stop biting your nails - keeping them filed down shorter will be helpful. Make sure you tell your friends and family about this sacrifice so they can make sure to remind you if you ever take an unconscious bite!
Make Your Own Natural Soda!
For people (like me!) who drink multiple sodas a day, diet or regular, this is an important thing to give up for Lent. If you cannot give up caffeine cold turkey, make sure to ween yourself off in the days leading up to Lent. Switch soda out for water - you can flavor it with things like Crystal Light if you like a sweeter taste. Tea is also a good, natural switch for acidic drinks like soda. This will make you healthier and, after Lent, your soda consumption should stay down.
They even have soda machines that carbonate water and allow you to add your own natural flavors like fruit juices. Something fun to experiment with while you are giving up conventional sodas for Lent.
Instead of giving something up, for some years during Lent, I have committed to doing something different in my life to make it better. Spending time with family, making yourself healthier by exercising, complimenting strangers - these are all great options for focusing your energy every day on something that improves your life and the lives of others for the Lenten season.
Spend More Time With Family
This could go hand in hand with something like giving up television. From family game night to nightly dinners, whatever works best for your family, spending more time together has a multitude of benefits. Besides just bonding time, parents and kids connecting means that they are more likely to do well in school and less likely to get into trouble.
And, doing things together like cooking or playing outside, creates interests that the whole family can have together and then keep doing once Lent is over.
Send Something Special
Connect With Old Friends
Sometimes our lives get so busy that we forget about old college friends or neighbors who have moved away. Instead of email or Facebook or texting, pick up a piece of paper and write a letter. It can be a short note or a virtual novel, but a traditional letter tells the recipient that they are special to you. More times than not, you will see that a line of communication will open and you can stay in touch with these olds friends. Even family that lives elsewhere could benefit from a nice note!
Pray Every Day
This is a great Lenten promise - even if you just commit to sitting in silence for five minutes a day to contemplate your faith and your relationship with God, that will be beneficial to your spiritual growth. Reading inspirational quotes or passages from the Bible can inspire you to strengthen your faith. Thanking God for the good things in your daily lives allows you to focus on the good things, instead of struggles that you might be having, or solve problems and make decisions you might not be sure about.
Dedicating time every day to make yourself healthier is a great way to focus your time during Lent. Making yourself a priority is essential to improving your life. You don't have to run a marathon every day, but commit to some type of physical activity. Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, play HORSE with your kids, get on the treadmill, pop in an exercise DVD or try to outbowl your friends on the Wii. Whatever gets you moving, choose that instead of something sedentary like watching TV and you, and your waistline, will see the benefits in 40 days!
Give Someone a Compliment Every Day
Just like giving gifts, the benefits of giving also extend to the giver. By complimenting someone - either someone you know or a stranger - it makes you feel better for improving someone's life. Seeing the smile you put on someone's face will lift your spirits for the whole day, if not longer. Putting this good energy out into the world makes you happier as well. And don't be surprised when you get compliments right back!