Ash Wednesday is here; the first day of Lent marks an important period of reflection and penitence for Christian denominations around the world.
For many, the best way to observe Lent is by choosing a small luxury and giving it up for 40 days – the small sacrifice brings into focus the religious meaning of the season and clears a space in our minds for reflection and prayer.
Even those of us without religious beliefs are often motivated to take on a Lenten challenge. It’s a long enough stretch of time – 6 weeks – that we can form a new habit or break an old one, but short enough that it feels achievable and has a clear beginning and end, something that’s essential to staying on track with a goal. Even in an increasingly secular society, Lent’s popularity and appeal endures.
Whatever your reasons, Lent can be a great opportunity for self-improvement. Why not challenge yourself and set a new goal to work towards until Easter? Here’s a few of our favourite ideas:
Take a break from Facebook
Facebook and other social media sites are so convenient they have a way of instantly embedding into our lives, to the point we can’t remember what life was like without them. While Facebook can be a wonderful source of community and a way to reconnect with family and friends, it can also be the place we go to seek approval and validate our lives, ideas and beliefs through likes and comments. Since Lent is all about stripping back to our essential selves, stepping away from social media is a fitting challenge. This is a perfect choice if you find yourself turning to Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram) several times a day; first thing in the morning; before you go to bed at night; idle moments on your smartphone. Set a goal to step away for Lent and challenge yourself to connect and share your life with family and friends without the ease and convenience of social media.
We’re just one month away from No Smoking Day, an annual campaign that aims to motivate people to give up smoking and support them when they want to quit. If you thought about quitting smoking as your New Year’s Resolution but haven’t quite made it happen, try again during Lent. Instead of saying you’re quitting forever, challenge yourself instead to stop or cut back significantly for the six weeks over Lent. By the time No Smoking Day rolls around, you’ll have gained the momentum to keep going and be past the magic number of days – 21 – it takes to form a habit.
A glass of wine with dinner or a pint on the weekend is, for many, one of life’s great everyday pleasures. So it’s a prime target for Lent and an extremely popular challenge around this time of year. Though simple in concept, it’s difficult in practice; having the self-discipline to forego wine while out for dinner or a pint at the pub with friends can be challenging when you’re socialising and enjoying life. All the more reason to give this challenge a try – it’s difficult enough that you will be reminded of Lent regularly and when the Easter long weekend rolls around that first drink will be all the more satisfying.
Will you set yourself a new goal for Lent? Share your ideas in the comments below!