Today marks the beginning of Lent. I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I always like making a resolution during Lent toward self-improvement. In the past, I have given things up, but I feel like a commitment to breaking a bad habit or making myself a better person is more meaningful to me. It seems easy to deprive myself of things–it tends to be part of a bad pattern. For me, Lent shouldn’t be punitive.
About 9 years ago, I decided to join the Catholic church. My parents chose not to baptize me as a child, and while I was raised as a Christian, they wanted me to be able to choose my own religious path when I was old enough to explore and understand religion. While I don’t want to get into my reasons for choosing Catholicism, my feelings about Lent are very closely tied to my first real experience of it when I went through my initiation into the church.
My first real experience of Lent led up to my baptism. During this time, I came to understand Lent as a time of conversion–a time to turn your life toward Christ. Naturally, this requires giving up “sins” of some form, although I’m not all that into the accusatory nature of sins in general. At any rate, I look at it as not just giving up a sin for the 40 days, but as trying to live a more Christ-like life permanently. The Catholic church describes this as, “leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life.”
For me, this requires some serious scrutiny of the things in my life that need changing–things I want to leave behind and improve upon to have a more fulfilling life. I look at Lent as a time to ”reset”–a sort of Ctrl+Alt+Delete for myself–when I get to start fresh. Not only do I get to abstain from that bad habit, I (hopefully) get to leave it behind for good.
I can’t ignore the fact that I have undergone a pretty serious “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” in the last 6 weeks or so. I don’t discount the work I’m doing towards becoming a happier me, but I decided that I can do more. And that I want to do more.
This year, I have chosen to focus my energy on eating mindfully. I have gotten into the bad habit of snacking my way through most evenings, eating cookie dough nearly every night, and going to bed feeling overly full and uncomfortable most nights. It’s that last part that bothers me most. Why do I do that to myself? I need to break this habit–not just during Lent, but forever. I know that I’ve been using food as a reward for myself for working so hard at happiness, but the happiness needs to be its own reward!
I am really looking forward to working on this part of myself, but I know it won’t be easy. To help myself along the way, there are a few things I want to keep in mind:
- Think about how I am feeling before I eat. Am I actually biologically hungry? Or am I lonely? Or bored? Or sad?
- Wait 20 minutes to eat anything else after dinner. I seem to get on a roll with eating and proceed to eat everything in sight after dinner. I think taking a few minutes after I eat to allow my body to realize that I’m full will be a huge help with this.
- If I want dessert, and I am hungry, I am going to have it. No punishments, no guilt, just enjoyment. End of story.
I know this will be a process and that it will be difficult, but I am committed to making it work for me, not just for Lent, but for life.
And with that, I’m off to get my Ashes and begin my Lenten journey. If you celebrate Lent, I hope it is whatever you need it to be in your life.
Are you giving anything up for Lent? Or do you prefer to work toward some kind of self-improvement goal?