Once again, it's that time of year when the standard small-talk question becomes, "What have you given up for Lent?", and this year, my answer is going to be a bit different.
Lent (which started a few days ago) is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It's traditionally a period of time each year when Christians remember the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, with no food, so they adapt their own lives to be more modest - they give something up.
Nowadays, just as with other Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter, it has become a more universal event. Every single year, people of all faiths observe Lent, giving up things like chocolate, sweets, junk food, social networking websites, swearing ... The idea is to challenge yourself , by avoiding something you like but know should cut down on, for 40 days.
Let me tell you - 40 days is a long time! Over the years I've given up various things, but have never lasted the whole of Lent (chocolate is my most common and worst failure). In fact, very few people I know have done the whole 40 days.
Giving something up is hard to do, especially if (like me) you don't have great self-control. The human mind is also working against you: when you're not allowed something, your automatic reaction is to want it. It can also be a very negative feeling, not to allow yourself something, especially when you are the only one who's given up that thing. If someone offers me a chocolate, I just can't say no!
So this year I'm taking a different approach. I am taking up a new habit, rather than getting rid of an old one. I'm challenging myself to do exercise 5 days a week for the whole of Lent. I'm not a lazy person - I cycle and walk everywhere -but to stay at my optimum fitness level, I need to push myself a bit more, and I've been neglecting it recently. Let's face it - watching TV for half an hour when you get home from school or work is much easier than going for a 30 minute run!
I'm feeling good about it though. Starting something new is much easier than stopping something. There's a saying - "Old habit die hard". This means, that the longer you've been doing something, the harder it is to give up. I've been eating chocolate my whole life, so of course it would be hard to stop. On the other hand, making time for something new (if you start organised) isn't too hard. It also feels like a more positive change - I feel like I'm adding something to my life, rather than missing out on something.
I'm also aiming to take this beyond Lent. If I can manage to do this until Easter, what's to stop me doing it for the rest of the year? Who knows - I might be able to improve my fitness on a long-term basis!
Wish me luck, and I hope you succeed in your own Lent challenge!
Are you giving something up, or starting something new for Lent? What is it?