Lent 2017 doesn’t start for a couple of weeks, but now is the perfect time to start thinking about what it’s going to mean for you this year. For a lot of us here at Loras College, that may mean a few things. Going to Mass more, abstaining from meat on Fridays, fasting, etc. However, even if you’re not Catholic you can use these forty days as extra motivation to improve yourself, and more specifically, your health, whether that be mental or physical. Many Catholics use Lent as a time to give something up, or do something extra, so that they can devote more time and energy to God and their faith. Non-Catholics can also use these forty days as a period of abstaining or fasting, and devote more time and energy to whatever they want to improve themselves. There are countless different options that you can use to better yourself during this period.
One thing that you can do is try to abstain from meat, as much as you can. Even if it’s not Friday, or even if you’re not Catholic, research has shown that incorporating “vegetarian days” or even vegetarian meals into your diet periodically can be a healthy choice. Admittedly I’m a vegetarian, and so it’s pretty easy for me to make this suggestion. But believe me, I’m not trying to advocate a personal agenda. Numerous studies have shown that vegetarians less often suffer from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more. Incorporating vegetarian days into your routine can help to lower your risks. Catholics already are supposed to abstain from meat during Fridays of Lent, so taking on this practice should not be that hard as many restaurants offer additional meatless options during this time for that reason.
Another common Lenten practice is giving up sweets or desserts. This is obviously a healthy decision because it reduces sugar, sodium, fats, etc. that are harmful to us. Also, the longer you go without these things, the less appealing they will become. Sugar is almost addictive to our bodies, and once we break the cycle, it is much easier to stick to a more wholesome diet without them. The first couple days (and sometimes weeks) will be difficult, but once you start getting used to a diet without as much processed sugar, your body will adjust and start to feel healthier. Use the extra calories and room in your appetite to incorporate a healthy item, like a piece of fresh fruit to add more nutrients and vitamins to your day.
A third suggestion could be to give up Netflix or social media, or at least reduce it. Use the extra time in your day to interact with others by socializing with friends in real time, dedicate more time to your faith if you wish to do so, or to get off the couch and into the gym. Any of these options will benefit you physically and mentally, as all are great stress relievers, and also will wake you up instead of putting you into a streaming-induced coma. It can be difficult to keep yourself away since these influences are so prevalent in all of our lives today, but it is well worth it in the long run.
Lent is a Catholic season, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t participate in the spirit of self-improvement. These forty days can be used to better yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally if you take the time to set a goal and prepare yourself to stick to it. Many people look at Lent as a second chance at their New Year’s resolution. Don’t put off your ideas for a better you any longer, use these forty days as a jump start to a better tomorrow, and a better rest of your life.