Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which will last until Thursday, April 9, 2020. Even if you don't participate in it, you may have some idea about what it is — kids at school might have talked about giving up chocolate for 40 days, for instance. For many practicing Christians, the season is meant to be a time to commit to your faith by abstaining from something you consider a pleasure or a distraction.
People observe Lent in different ways. But despite its reputation, the holiday isn't about deprivation — it's about reflection. "For many, it is a time to give up something like candy or smoking," William E. Rushman, who's running for Congress in California, wrote in The Los Angeles Times. "It may be a time for more frequent church attendance for others. But for [those] who mark the season, it can be an opportunity to see ourselves and our faith more clearly."
The Lenten season also includes prayer and giving to charity, according to New York’s Church of Saint Agnes. Still, one of the more common ways people practice is through fasting — like what your classmates would do by swearing off chocolate.
Ditching sweets isn't the only personal sacrifice that offers you a chance to reflect and focus, though. If you're practicing this year, here are some other ideas for what to give up for the next 40 days.
You can tailor this any way you want to. Swear off certain accounts. Pick one entire form of social media, like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Or go for a full digital detox and delete all three apps from your phone.
This is a surefire relationship-strengthener. “Sometimes you just need extra person-to-person contact,” says Huda Kattan, the founder and CEO of Huda Beauty, who’s done a digital detox. . “Try catching up with your friends and family in real life, instead of only through social media. Making real time connections with the people you love keeps you energized."
When you don't have the bandwidth for something, be honest — with yourself and with others — and just say no.
Chronic whinging can take a toll on your mental health and more. “Research shows that if you're complaining and being negative the whole time, friendships can dissolve," Margot Bastin, a psychologist who studies communication between friends in adolescence as a postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven in Belgium, previously told Refinery29.
Take it from someone who's tried it — giving up complaining is hard. Bastin suggested this to make it easier: "One rule of thumb is, while voicing a complaint, try and see if you can shift focus on to the solution rather than the problem. Perspective is everything.”
Specifically, assuming the worst. You know: Why even apply for the job? I'll never get it. Why even introduce myself? She'll never like me. This kind of defeatist thinking can feel like a kind of protection or preparation, but it's not. Instead, it can prevent you from taking a shot that could be valuable — even if you don't get the result you were hoping for.
Watch for this type of negative thought, and when you catch yourself quitting something before you've even begun, start to reverse your thinking. Starting up a positive practice, like a gratitude journal, may help too.