The Lenten season has roots in Christian tradition and spans the six weeks before Easter. It’s a season for reflection and repentance in the church, but many use the time for self-improvement by “giving up” a practice.
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The practice has become increasingly popular even for those who aren’t religious, according to TIME magazine.
"This mystique isn't reserved for Christians alone," one 2015 article said. "The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion."
In the past, popular guilty pleasures from chocolate to social media were common to abandon during Lent, according to Independent.co.
In 2020, try these ideas for a more self-disciplined and fulfilling season leading up to spring:
Giving up negativity, whether complaining about a situation or gossiping about someone else, is a wholesome way to reset your tendencies during Lent.
Studies show that it may be harder to kick this habit than it seems. One article states most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation.
There are dangerous health implications as well for complaining because it increases your body’s level of the stress hormone cortisol. This impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to heart disease, among other ailments.
Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, addressed this Lenten sacrifice in his Angelus Address in Vatican City last year.
"We all know it usually is easier or more comfortable to notice and condemn the defects and sins of others rather than seeing our own with that kind of clarity. ... If, by the end of Lent, we are able to correct this a bit and not go around always criticizing others behind their backs, I assure you the celebration of Jesus' resurrection will be more beautiful." — Pope Francis
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This resolution for Lent goes along perfectly with the sacrificial spirit of the season leading up to Easter. Catholic tradition holds that Lent is not only about prayer and fasting, but also about almsgiving, according to the Three Catholic Pillars of Lent.
"Almsgiving is really just another name for charitable giving. Alms comes from a word that means pity, while charity comes from the Latin word 'caritas', that means love. That's why some translations of 1 Corinthians 13:13 it reads 'faith, hope, and charity,' " wrote Charles Johnston on a Catholic blog
There are many options for this, whether it is simply nixing an afternoon coffee habit or setting a strict no-spending budget for the six weeks of Lent.
By giving up one area of spending, more money can be freed up to practice charitable giving, if you choose.
This idea was included in Country Living's roundup of things to give up for Lent in 2020.
"You've been meaning to stop using straws, plastic bags, and containers—there's no better time than now to get into a better habit," Country Living wrote.
According to the United Nations, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year.
“In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away,” they wrote.
Make this season of mindfulness the one in which you give up single-use plastics and instead opt to skip the bag and bring a reusable water bottle.
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For those wanting an unconventional vice to give up during Lent, try giving up self-imposed unrealistic expectations.
One religious blog advocated doing nothing instead, referencing a book by Jenny Odell called "How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy."
"Before you decide to give up candy or french fries or even Facebook, I encourage you to take Odell's advice: do nothing. Rather than optimize your Lent with a waistline conscious fast or a bold test of your willpower, simply take time each day to do nothing...Maybe even while you're eating french fries." —Jake Braithwaite, The Jesuit Post
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