During the next 40 days of Lent, we as Catholics try to prepare ourselves for the Easter season. We are called to focus on improving our spiritual well-being through Lenten sacrifices based on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Fasting usually involves giving up or depriving ourselves of a something that we desire or is indulgent. For many, this is usually what they focus on during Lent such as giving up sweets or pop. Practicing prayer as a Lenten sacrifice can include adding an extra element to our prayer lives that may not be part of our normal routine. Almsgiving involves giving in some way such as your time, talent and/or wealth.
If you’re like me, it can be hard to come up with new ideas each year that are challenging, life-changing and creative. So here are some ideas that you could do that go beyond just giving up sweets:
1. Constantly caffeinated? Consider switching coffee for tea or tea for coffee. If you want to go further, give up caffeine altogether.
2. Remember to hydrate or die-drate! As part of your Lenten sacrifice, focus on keeping the temple that is your body as healthy as possible by drinking the recommended 8 cups of water a day. If you want to go further, give up drinking any other drink but water.
3. If you fight over control of the radio in the car, a challenging Lenten sacrifice could be to give up control of the radio. If control of the radio is not an issue, consider only listening to Christian music or not listening to music at all and spending time in silence with Jesus.
4. Do you have bedgasms: feelings of euphoria after climbing into bed? Try making your bed less comfy like sleeping without pillows or without your favorite blanket.
5. If you struggle to leave your bed in the morning, give up hitting the snooze button or lounging around in the morning in your bed. Remember: if you snooze, you lose...
6. If you struggle with self-confidence and vanity, a Lenten sacrifice could be to just wear the first outfit you put on in the morning or wear little to no makeup. Take this time to get a source of self-esteem beyond your fashion and focus on how you are beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image.
7. If you’re like me, you don’t just sing in the shower you perform. Make this part of your Lenten sacrifice by singing along to worship and praise music instead of your normal playlist. You can take this further by not listening to any music and using this time to pray and do an examination of conscience that way you can wash away the day.
8. Addicted to music? Commit to listening only to Christian music during Lent. Although this may be difficult at first, this is a great way to appreciate the depth and meaning behind many Christian songs. If this may be too hard, remember to treat yourself as a temple of God and only listen to wholesome, positive music. As my mom used to say, “garbage in, garbage out."
9. Are you a broke college student? Consider focusing on saving by not buying anything during Lent but the absolute necessities, like only your groceries or school supplies. You might be surprised by how much you can save by cutting out the small spending that you may think of as insignificant.
10. If money is not as big a concern, maybe consider taking the money that you would normally spend on luxuries to charity. The $5 you spend on Starbucks could make a significant difference if donated instead to Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
11. Addicted to a certain restaurant? Don’t eat there all of Lent. If you want to take this further, don’t eat out at any restaurants and only eat at home (this is also a good way to save money).
12. Are you an emotional or stress eater? Try to limit your snacking and keep a journal of the food and feelings so that you can gain a better understanding of this habit. Instead of snacking, try to pray instead such as saying the Serenity Prayer or the Rosary to calm you.
13. Feel like you complain a lot? Give up complaining. Try to phrase your problems in ways that are more constructive such as what you can to do to address them.
14. Going along with complaining, give up using the phrase “I can’t." You are capable, so turn those “can’t”s into “can”s. (It’s not that I can’t lift 20 lbs, but rather that I can currently only lift 10 lbs...)
15. Like to gossip with the girls? Focus instead of tearing people down on building them up. Consider writing 40 affirmation notes. To take this further, maybe write a note for every time you slip up and gossip that you can give to the subject of your gossip.
16. Live your life only in leggings? Give up the comfort of leggings and instead only wear pants like jeans whenever you leave the house.
17. If you don’t want to go dark on social media completely, consider just giving up Facebook and Snapchat until your homework is done. Another is to try to be more present to your family and friends by not using your phone when spending time with them.
18. If you are not sure what sins or habits you struggle with, consider doing an examination of conscience every night to help guide you.
While this is not a comprehensive list, i hope that these will help inspire your personal Lenten sacrifices and encourage you to step outside the box!