OPINION: The benefits of Lenten season

Giving up a long-time habit is extremely difficult. Whether you want a fresh, new start or simply need a small change, finding the motivation to start can be hard. Research shows that breaking a habit can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. If you are serious about ending one, why not use an already established 40-day religious holiday to take a break from the habit? 

The end of February usually marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is a widely-observed Christian practice where practitioners give up a certain luxury or habit as a personal sacrifice. Oftentimes, this act of giving up something is seen as a sacrifice for God. Personally, I was raised Catholic and did not observe Lent when I was younger. Now that I have grown up, I can see how Lent can benefit certain people. This does not mean that all people should practice Lent. I am simply saying that in some ways Lent has helped me and others around me.

When the Lenten season comes around, I take giving something up seriously. For me, bad habits don’t break easily. Lent motivates me to give up habits I know aren’t good for me. People may give up things that are either harming them or harming others. Some examples could include junk food, soda or alcohol. During the Lent season, I try to give up anything that negatively affects my mental health. Now, I cannot give up school for 40 days, even though it is a bit stressful at times. Instead, I give up things that I can control. 

CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD/TNS Joshua Trahan, right, receives ashes to his forehead from Deacon Stephen Bentley with St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church at an Ashes to Go event in Stockton, California on Feb. 24.

For this year’s Lenten season, I decided to stop making negative comments about myself. This habit has been tricky to give up because I often unintentionally make self-deprecating jokes. But now that we are well into Lent, I am slowly getting used to catching myself when I am about to say something negative. In the short amount of time that I have been practicing this, my mood has changed. Lately, I have been feeling more content about things around me. I find it easier to be me. 

Even before the Lenten season began, I knew that I had to stop this habit. I recognized how much harm it was causing me, but I could not find the motivation to give it up. I can’t exactly explain why Lent has helped me to stop this habit, but it really has. As I said previously, I paid little attention to this season growing up. I went to church and followed the practices, but never gave up anything. As I’ve aged, I’ve realized other ways this season could be helpful for practically anyone. 

Lenten season isn’t just about giving something up. Anyone observing Lent or interested in doing so in the future can commit to doing a good deed for the 40 days instead. Perhaps you have been wanting to volunteer more—do it during the Lenten season. Even something as simple as complimenting others more often will work. 

Observing Lent is something anyone can do, including those who do not identify with a particular religion. It can give you the power to stop a bad habit you’ve been meaning to break or encourage you to do kind things for others. Ultimately, Lent is about what you want to do to become a better person. During a pandemic, we can easily lose the motivation to do things that once made us happy. But what if we did those things now? Even if you can’t practice every single day, start somewhere. The Lenten season can give you a small push toward taking care of yourself and others. 

Recommended for You