15 things to give up for Lent: good ideas for Christian observance, how long it lasts and rules explained

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Lent is a Christian observance where many Christians give something up for 40 days

Lent is an annual tradition commencing on Ash Wednesday every year. In the Gregorian calendar, Lent usually falls between February to March and is 47 days before Easter.

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What is Lent? 

Lent is a solemn observance, lasting 40 days in the lead up to Easter.

This season is observed by different Christian sects such as Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches.

Lent marks the season where, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent 40 days in the Judaean desert before starting his public ministry during which he endured temptation by satan.

For some denominations of Christians, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.

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It is believed, the purpose of Lent is to prepare the believer for Easter through prayer, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, simple living, self-denial and discipline.

What can you give up for Lent? 

The overall goal of Lent is not to give something up if it bears no meaning, it is about delving deep within yourself and attempting to eliminate a vice or practise which hinders a relationship with God.

The purpose of Lent is absolution so many Christians use this time to give up something which they over-indulge in.

Some ideas to do or give up in Lent are:

1. Sweet treats

One of the most popular things many people give up for Lent are foods such as sweets or junk food. This could help you begin a healthier diet and learn how to navigate through any cravings, which will help develop a deeper sense of self-discipline.

2. Listening to music in the car

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Short journeys to work or on the school run could be the perfect time to take some self-reflection. Giving time to reflect on what you aim to do today or how your day went may lead to some uninterrupted time to grow closer to God.

3. Unnecessary online shopping 

Giving up online shopping may help develop some self-discipline and give you an insight into what you need materialistically. It’s only for 40 days, but you may see some of these habits seep into your daily life.

4. Alcohol

Putting a pause on drinking alcohol may improve your sleep, skin and mood as well as your bank balance. Use this time to find different recipes for new and exciting drinks that don’t have a drop of alcohol in them.

5. Smoking 

After one month of not smoking, your lung functions begin to improve. This may be the perfect time to learn some self-discipline and greatly improve your overall health. The first two weeks are the hardest but from there, you’ll see your health slowly get better.

6. Donating time to charities 

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Donating money to charities is as easy as dropping some loose change into a collection bucket. For some people, that’s all they can do. If you can, spend time with charities by actively participating in food runs or banks, or donating items desperately needed like socks, and amplify the almsgiving aspect of Lent.

7. Give up meat 

With all the meat-free alternatives on the market, there is an option to try a healthier lifestyle and become a vegetarian for 40 days. If that isn’t an option, try reducing the amount of meat you eat over Lent.

8. Excess social media 

Social media is a brilliant communication tool, but if you find yourself scrolling through Instagram until 2 am, you can try the next 40 days to reduce the time you spend on social media and limit its usage to socialisation and communication only.

9. Chocolate 

Chocolate is a popular item to give up during Lent but instead of giving it up completely, try first reducing the amount you eat which will help negate any cravings.

10. Begin a hobby 

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Finding time to do an active hobby will help you learn how to undertake something new and give a reason (and motivation) to begin something you’ve always wanted to try.

11. Take more time in reflection and meditation 

Taking a few minutes each morning to reflect and meditate helps negate stress levels and gives you a chance to reconnect with yourself and those around you. As Lent is a religious observance, you can use this time in prayer and seek a stronger relationship with God.

12. Coffee 

Coffee can be addictive and overpriced, so by giving it up (or reducing the amount you have) could be a great way to save money and kick a habit.

13. Swearing 

Use this time to expand your vocabulary and come up with more creative ways to express your feelings rather than the first expectation that comes to mind.

14. More gratitude 

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Gratitude helps us realise how much of what we want, we have, and by reflecting on how far we’ve come we can take a moment to appreciate it. Gratitude could be something as simple as ‘It didn’t rain today’ to ‘I got a promotion I worked hard for’. Giving gratitude to something small may help improve our mood and overall positivity.

15. Partaking more in religious studies 

Many non-religious people also observe Lent, and whilst it is a religious observance, learning more about your religion or others could help reflect your spiritual understanding. This Christian season is about repentance and developing a relationship with God, which can be attained through reading as well as doing.

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