*Featured photograph courtesy © Staci West
The first time I gave up something for lent I was about 9 years old. A big group of friends and I decided that we would all be giving up chocolate.
I’m not religious, and never really have been. For me, this mutual group decision was nothing to do with Shrove Tuesday, which we were inadvertently celebrating. Instead it was entirely based around fun, camaraderie and a little bit of healthy competition. I’ve always loved a challenge.
The silly thing is that my 9 year old self didn’t really care about chocolate – or the subsequent lack thereof. I was more of a sweeties girl, so the idea of sacrificing the handful of chocolate raisins that I’d have every now and then didn’t really phase me.
This is also why I didn’t really care when, one day, one of my closest friends and I swore a solemn pact to break our big-group-lent together. We went down to the local co-op for some chocolate buttons, under the firm understanding that no one but us two would ever know about it. (Sorry Claire, I think I’ve just broken that).
I really remember that trip to the co-op, and I’m pretty sure Claire does too.
Despite my less than successful first attempt at lent (I believe the chocolate button incident occurred around 10 days in) – it is something that I still enjoying taking part in.
I was trying to explain this to a client a few weeks ago, who simply could not get her head around the idea that someone who isn’t religious could genuinely want to take part in this form of abstinence
Lent for me is more of a fun challenge. Less pressure than the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions, but still with potential to go far. It’s good to test yourself every now and then, practice self-control and see what you truly can or can’t live without.
Here’s just a few top tips to have a successful lent.
1) ‘Lent’ doesn’t have to equate to ‘Abstinence’
A lot of the negative connotations of lent stem from the “giving something up” sentiment that most people equate it to. But sometimes it can be just as rewarding setting yourself a ‘doing’ challenge for the 40 days and 40 nights. Boost your fitness regime by adding a new class to your schedule every week, or become a better person and do one selfless act every day. Challenges like this are often much more fun- and much more proactive!
2) Find the reason why
If you don’t know why you’re doing something, why bother doing it in the first place? Think about the ultimate aim or purpose of your lent challenge. Write it down on a piece of paper, and use it to spur yourself on in the struggle-some moments. Are you cutting out coffee so that you sleep better, or to stop yourself spending money on those to-go starbucks? Are you quitting facebook so that you stop procrastinating, or so that you can spend more time with friends and family in person? Having the answers to little questions like these will help increase your motivation because you’ll know why this whole thing started in the first place.
3) Go Hard or Go Home
If you decide to give up alcohol, then give up alcohol! Every day. For the whole thing. Not “I’ll give up alcohol except every other Saturday and if we go out to dinner then it’s okay”. It’s much more difficult to stick to something if you do it half-arsed because there’s no clear boundaries between what is or isn’t acceptable. Plus, it won’t be as satisfying afterwards.
4) Don’t give up absolutely everything all at once
It’s equally important to find some balance. If you decide to give up alcohol, facebook, chocolate, crisps, cakes, meat and clothes-shopping all at once…well, something is bound to slip! Zone in on just one thing- two max- and really focus your energy on it.
5) Make it your own
Don’t make the same mistake as my younger self and go along with it for the bants because that’s what all your friends are doing. Choose a challenge that you actually care about and it will be so much more rewarding when you reach your goals! That’s not to say that the mutual support isn’t encouraging- but if you do something you care about then you’re less likely to find yourself in a clandestine trip to the co-op for chocolate buttons.
Are you doing anything for lent this year?