There are a lot of reasons to exercise self-restraint, give up luxuries, and “repent” of some of our bad habits — reasons like improving our health, increasing our self-respect, and becoming more intentional and resourceful. But even with a lot of good reasons, it seems like it is never the right time to go on a sugar fast (after all, it’s my friend’s birthday next week) or start an exercise program (because have you seen the weather report for next week?) or to clean out the closet (it’s not that bad! I can still close the door!).
But Ash Wednesday — the beginning of the 40 (or so) days of Lent this week, a time of fasting, self-denial, and resisting temptation — is the perfect time to commit, or re-commit, to doing something to improve your health and your life.
Lent is done in remembrance of Christ going through, and resisting, the temptations of Satan before he started his ministry. To honor that, believers traditionally give up a vice, take up a habit to bring them closer to Christ, or serve in their communities by giving of their time or money. But whether or not you are a believer, there is power in exercising restraint or in attempting to improve your life or someone else’s — even if it is just for 6 weeks.
While I’ve personally never observed Lent as such (though I’ve definitely gone on “sugar fasts” and other periods of self-denial), I think it is the perfect time to re-examine my life and look for something I can do to be more conscientious, aware, and intentional — and, I hope, improve my relationship with myself, with those around me, and with God.
I know Lent only lasts for about six weeks, but that’s enough time to develop a healthy habit that lasts for a lot longer than that. Here are a handful of ideas of things you can do to make Lent more meaningful and mindful:
1. Meditate Daily
Taking a few minutes to relax, clear your mind, and quiet the clamor of everyday living can allow you to hear the things quieter things — the things that really matter.
2. Give Up Your Most Addictive App
Am I the only one who finds myself mindlessly checking various feeds a dozen times a day — looking for who knows what and missing out on whatever is actually happening in my house? (You know, things like my daughter using a Sharpie on her clothes … ) Giving up the app — even if it means deleting it — might be a good way to bring me back to reality.
3. Cook at Home
From scratch, with real ingredients. Not only is this a great way to improve your diet, your health, and your relationships, it can also improve your appreciation for food and where it comes from.
4. Give Up TV
Or at least one show. That’s an hour of time you can use to meditate, get some sleep, or connect with your spouse. And you may also prolong your life.
5. Write Thank-You Notes
Even if they aren’t to anyone in particular, taking note of the things you are thankful for on a daily basis — that it wasn’t as cold as you thought it would be, that the kids had fun doing their chores rather than complaining — changes the way you see the world and improves your sense of well-being.
photo: Lizzie Heiselt