When I was talking to my girlfriend recently, she told me that she was planning on going vegetarian for Lent. I’ve heard of Lent before, but I had no experience with it. My prior experience of Lent consisted of me going to Starbucks with one of my friends and them saying that they can’t have caffeine because they gave it up for Lent. At the time, it sounded silly; why would you give up something that’s somewhat innocuous, only to be able to have it for the rest of the year.
Lent is a Catholic practice of giving up a vice, praying, and penitence. This lasts for approximately 40 days, from mid-February to Easter Sunday. Just because Lent is a religious practice doesn’t mean that you can’t also use this time to break from one of your vices.
When I was young, I though practicing Lent was silly. As time went on, I began to understand the underlying fundamentals of how habits are formed. Depending on how you go about it, habits usually take around a month to formulate and become more subconscious, and in turn less painful.
That’s where the beauty of lent comes in: 40 days of giving up something harmful gives you plenty of time to break any bad habits you have surrounding that. If you’ve been telling your friends for 40 days that you aren’t drinking caffeine, then it’s likely that they’ve stopped asking you to go to Starbucks with them, because they know you aren’t drinking caffeine because of Lent. Instead of grabbing a cup ‘o joe during a break at work, by the time 40 days is up, you’re probably already used to bringing in some non-caffeniated beverage or drinking water.
Because Lent is a religious practice, you’re also more likely to not get persecuted for practicing something outside of the norm because people don’t want to offend you by badmouthing your beliefs. You’re not going to get as much typical badmouthing such as: “Why are you doing that? You’re crazy!” or “You’ll never make it.” or “I can’t believe that you’d ever want to put yourself through that.”
Instead, you’re going to get: “Oh, it’s for Lent? I understand.” or “Good luck!” or (most importantly) “Oh yeah? I gave up XYZ for Lent.”
As you can see, there is much more of a positive atmosphere in relation to habits relating to a religious practice than there is for someone without a religious reason to practice something outside of the norm.
The biggest benefit of practicing Lent is that you’re not alone. There are about 1 billion catholics worldwide, and although most do not practice, there are still a significant number that do. That means that many people around you are giving up vices at the same time that you are.
This year I plan on becoming vegetarian for Lent. Vegetarianism has always been something that I’ve been curious about, and Lent is a great time to explore what it has to offer.
Lent is typically about giving up a vice, as opposed to creating a new positive habit (like working out). However, if you don’t have any major vices to give up, feel free to create a positive habit during this period.