After growing up in a Catholic family and attending Catholic elementary, middle, and high school, it's safe to say that I was raised with a strong faith and the tradition of abiding by the laws of Lent for those 40 days. Every year I was prompted with the dreadful question of "what are you giving up for Lent?" When I was young I always thought I had to give up a food, so I would always try to pick something random like gum (yes, I actually did this one once) in order to still be able to have my favorite candy or dessert on my birthday, which is always in Lent. However, it wasn't until I was much older that I began to understand that sacrificing during this time was not about abstaining from chocolate, or meat on Friday's or even gum, but about what you can gain by taking away something material or nonessential to your faith and wellbeing. If it doesn't feed your soul, it is not necessary in your life (at least for this time period). So, if you're looking to do a little more than diet during this time of self-reflection, then you've come to the right place. Take away one aspect of your life and watch others grow.
This is my personal sacrifice this Lenten season, as I am quite the notorious procrastinator. I definitely spend days that I should be productive instead watching an addictive TV show (my most recent vices have been Criminal Minds and Game of Thrones) or some other mindless task that should be saved for a more appropriate time. While personal days and time to chill are definitely needed every once in a while, I also end up having sleepless nights because I struggle to get my homework and work for my extracurriculars done because of these habits. This not only deprives me and almost every other college student of sleep and tears down the immune system, but also makes us sluggish, anti-social and even depressed. This Lent, let's be more present. More awake. More aware of the amazing world the Lord has put us in. And let's get our homework done by 10 pm.
THIS ONE sounds daunting. How can I go without my Twitter group chat where we send the weird memes we find? How can I not like my best friend's picture after she posted (and told me to leave a comment)? This sounds like the end of the world, and that is epitome of a first-world issue. We are attached to our phones like it's an extra limb. A social media cleanse may be exactly what you need if the late-night snaps give you FOMO and you find yourself wishing you were somewhere else instead of living in the now. After a while, you may even begin to enjoy your phone-addiction free life (I tried this for a retreat twice and honestly - it's one of the nicest things in the world). It's strange how disconnecting truly connects us.
The SAD syndrome (seasonal affective disorder) can really get the best of us this time of year, especially in this never-ending winter vortex. It's easy to get bogged down by the homework loads around this time of year, especially with midterms coming up, and the cold isn't helping. A way to channel spirituality into this challenge is to recognize when your thoughts turn sour and instead think about the positives of a scenario, or the hopeful "what if's." There's no harm in hope and faith, as that is what we should be reflecting on in this time of waiting. This one may be harder than it sounds, but it will definitely put you on a better path to becoming a happier person.
Don't get me wrong, everyone needs a little free time. You should never be booked up every second of your life. But maybe giving up a part of your day or week to volunteer for an organization you care about, helping a friend by tutoring or helping them run errands or even just spending some time in prayer (or reflection) can be therapeutical to the soul. Giving some of your own time away and dedicating it to others can be one of the most effective changes you can make during this Lenten season.
Not to infer anything specific, but everyone has their vice. It's personal and unique to each person. We all know when something is bad for us, but we just can't stop. Whether it be a substance, an indulgence or even a person, we all have aspects of our lives that we know we'd be better off without. Now is as good a time as ever to cleanse your life of whatever toxins may be infiltrating it. You'll not only remove a parasite in your life, but also discover more about yourself and the resiliency you possess.
While giving up a food or habit may be important in the eyes of the Church, it is more important that you gain new perspectives during this time of sacrifice. Taking away something you may have once saw as a necessity may become an occasional indulgence, or maybe even a habit kicked to the curb. No matter what your Lenten promise is, make sure that its absence is one that will ultimately benefit you and bring you closer to your best self, and most importantly, God.