When the less religious among us think of Lent, we typically think of ‘giving something up’. But by reminding ourselves of the Christian tradition, it possibly allows us to think more widely than the go to choice of giving up chocolate!
Lent is a period of about six weeks right before Easter when Christians are expected to make thoughtful preparations for Easter. This includes praying, giving money to charity, and abstaining from one or more things that provide pleasure. The forty days and forty nights of Lent are supposed to align to the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his death and resurrection.
Regardless of whether you are coming at this from a religious perspective or not, Lent offers a perfect opportunity to cleanse the mind, body and soul of one or more of those vices that you may have. However we are here to suggest you shake things up a bit this year and think beyond chocolate or alcohol! Have a think about these 4 alternative ideas.
Many consider meat to be an essential part of their diets, but for many vegetarianism, or even veganism are offering healthy alternatives. Most of us are aware that eating too much red meat is reportedly bad for us – raising cholesterol, increasing your risk of bowel cancer and even an increased risk of mortality.
Furthermore, from an environmental perspective many argue that the carbon footprint will be reduced if we cut down on consumption of beef. For some of you hardened meat eaters, going vegetarian for 40 days might be difficult. So the alternative suggestion is to give up all red meat but still have white meat such as chicken.
When meat eaters think about vegetarians they often imagine tofu and Quorn heavy diets. The key is to pack a punch from a flavour perspective, so think about herbs, spices, and more filling veg such as aubergine. A common complaint I hear is that vegetarian food is not filling. Just a couple of ideas that are nutritious, vegetarian, and filling: falafels with hummus and salad in pitta, cheesy/tomato pasta bake loaded with veggies, veggie fajitas with heaps of chilli and a selection of Mexican dips. Sound tasty? Give it a go.
You are probably wondering how you can give up stress. Perhaps you are not stressed anyway – in which case move onto the next idea. Stress is prevalent in the UK, with 45% of all working days lost to ill health being attributed to stress. That is a concerning statistic. Stress is not something that you give up in the same way you give up chocolate or meat. However, there are proactive things you can do to minimise or eradicate stress.
First up is mindfulness. This has been a popular buzz word for a few years now, and there are some great free apps out there and literature that you can use to put it into practice. In essence it is exercising your mind and letting troubling and anxious thoughts that enter your mind pass through. The analogy is that you watch the passing traffic of your mind from the side of the road, but do not get into any of the cars.
The second suggestion is to take some ‘me time’. The common ones are walking, having a massage, reading, knitting, or whatever suits you!
It will come as no secret that smoking is not only bad for the person doing it, but also for those inhaling second hand smoke. It is also very expensive and can be somewhat inconvenient having to leave the warmth of bars and restaurants to go outside when it is cold to smoke.
Smoking is addictive – so giving up is almost certainly going to be difficult to do. However it is far more impossible with the aid of nicotine patches or converting first onto a e-cigarettes. You have probably seen a lot of people using e-cigarettes, and they are a brilliant stepping stone to stopping smoking completely. They contain nicotine but not the rest of the nasty chemicals found in cigarettes. You can also buy different strengths of nicotine which allows the user to reduce their intake over time, to slowly wean themselves off it altogether.
Reduce Screen Time
When looking to reducing screen time this typically refers to tablets and phones, but also TV and laptops/PCs. There has been some recent research saying that many of us look at our phones last thing at night and the light can have a negative effect on our sleep.
Screens are used for a variety of reasons – working, communicating, relaxing. and so on. Therefore this is not about abstaining completely. Think of a time recently when you were having a conversation with someone in person, your phone beeped, and you checked the device whilst attempting to continue the conversation. Or getting into bed with your partner in the evening and instead of giving them attention, reading a blog or messages on your phone. Now take a moment and consider a time when someone did either of these two things to you – when you felt secondary to the device in that persons hand. It does not feel great does it?
Make a conscious effort to reduce screen time, and at a minimum do not read messages when having a conversation with someone – either face to face or on the phone. Not only can it be seen as rude, but it also prevents you from engaging in the moment and really communicating properly with that person!
So, now that you have some ideas, it’s entirely up to you which one you choose to opt for. One thing’s for sure – you will have a great challenge to get your teeth into this Lent, and you are certain to have a great sense of achievement by the end of it.