i am sometimes asked why, as a non-catholic, i take part in lent. the oxford dictionary defines lent as "the period preceding easter that, in the christian church, is devoted to fasting, abstinence and penitence in commemoration of christ's fasting in the wilderness." in western christianity, it runs from ash wednesday to holy saturday, inclusive. that's 40 week days, or 46 days total, of sacrifice. i have found that, for the last few years, that 46 day period of sacrifice is ideal for self-discovery and personal growth.
two years ago, i was regularly overindulging in foods that were unhealthy, so i gave up candy, potato chips and soda. that sparked a whole-life change that continues on today - i eat better foods, indulge in appropriate amounts (and portions), am generally more active, pay attention to ingredients in food and bodycare products, and am overall more aware of how i care for my body. one year ago, i was regularly overindulging in bread, so i gave up gluten. it complicated life for my mother, and for myself a bit as well, but it was worth it for the renewed awareness of my habits and choices.
this year, i gave up candy on january 1, with the intention to carry that through lent to easter. and yes, with easter being in mid-april, that means i gave up candy for nearly a quarter of 2014. but i struggle enough with candy - the ability to stop after only one piece especially - that it was the right choice for me. i have definitely been opting for dessert more often lately, but it works out alright because true desserts don't have quite the same just-one-more quality.
when lent began, i added a bit more to my plate. this year, however, i sought to grow through both sacrifice and through the addition of beneficial habits:
(1) i gave up the snooze button. i am the furthest thing from a morning person, and while it was workable in college and law school, it is becoming detrimental to my every day now that i not only report to an office m-f but work at a job that tracks billable hours (ohhh billable hours. how i loathe thee).
(2) i added daily flossing. you may be the special person who has listened to your dentist since you were small and flossed each and every day, but i was not. i decided perhaps it was time, and nothing sets a habit in like a 46 day run, so lenten flossing it is.
(3) i added a daily gratitude practice. each night, i write down three things that i am grateful for that day, whether they be small or large. it is a small sacrifice in that it lengthens my bedtime routine, but it is worth every second for the constant reminder to choose to find the positive, to choose grateful.