Giving up something for Lent can be a wonderful way to demonstrate self-discipline and sacrifice in the spirit of this solemn season. Be sure to choose something that will be difficult for you to do without for 40 days, as the whole point of giving up something for Lent is to make a sacrifice.
Bad Habits to Give Up for Lent
Do you have some bad habits that you need to break? If you can stop doing them for 40 days, you just might find that you never go back to them again. The sacrifice you commit to for Lent might be just what it takes for you to finally break a bad habit that you've struggled with for years.
- Hitting the snooze button - If you're in the habit of hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock in the morning, give that up for Lent and start getting up when the alarm first goes off and face the day. For a spiritual boost, spend your former snooze time reading a devotional.
- Wasting time - Spend some time reflecting on your time management habits so you can identify the time wasters that keep you from being as productive as possible. Giving up time wasters will help you reduce stress and improve your time management skills.
- Over-scheduling yourself - Doing too much is just as much of a problem as doing too little. If you're in the habit of booking your schedule so full that you don't have time to relax, give this up for Lent. Do what you need to do, but don't say yes to every freelance project, committee, or event that crosses your path.
- Procrastinating - Is there a long list of things you're going to do someday, but that day just never seems to come? Procrastination might be the perfect thing for you to give up for Lent. When you catch yourself thinking that you'll get to something later, make a concrete plan to take care of it, then follow through.
- Letting clutter build up - Do you tend to let clutter pile up rather than immediately putting things in their proper place? If so, Lent is a great time to help yourself break the bad habit of allowing clutter to build up. Rather than dumping clean laundry into a chair to put away later, stop and deal with it right away.
- Gossiping - If you have a habit of engaging in gossip, whether starting it or spreading it, that's a great thing to give up for Lent (and hopefully beyond). If you find yourself wanting to share sensationalized information about someone else or if another person is trying to rope you into such chit-chat, don't do it. Say something positive or helpful instead, or just say nothing.
- Using profanity - Do you have a tendency to use profane language? Lent is a great time to banish such words and phrases from your vocabulary. This will help you get in the habit of choosing your words wisely and describing your feelings rather than just exclaiming expletives.
- Gambling - If you're in the habit of betting on sports or gambling at casinos or tracks, Lent is a great time to give that up. Use the time and energy for other pursuits, including reflecting on whether your gambling is truly recreational, and if you can really afford it, or if there is more to it than that.
- Wasting food - If you're in the habit of taking more food than you will eat at meals or leaving leftovers in the refrigerator to spoil, consider putting a stop to that during Lent. Get in the habit of taking smaller servings (you can always get more) or saving (and being sure to eat!) leftovers from your meals.
Meaningful Things to Give Up for Lent
Before deciding what to give up for Lent, consider what you can do that will be particularly meaningful and beneficial to you or other people. Consider relinquishing a behavior or thought process that negatively impacts your well-being or that of others. This could be a first step toward making a lasting change (for the better!) in your life.
- Bottling up your emotions - When you don't share how you feel with others in a constructive way, that can interfere with your well-being and keep you from being able to build strong relationships. By giving up a habit of keeping your emotions bottled up for Lent, you'll be committing to proactively sharing how you feel, which can positively impact you and others.
- Engaging in negative self-talk - If you habitually put yourself down, either out loud or inside your head, you'll become a much stronger person if you break that habit. Commit to avoiding negative self-talk for 40 days and you may find that's long enough to break a lifelong habit.
- Being negative toward others - Being habitually negative toward others can be just as damaging as negative self-talk. When you find yourself thinking negative or critical thoughts about someone else, or about ideas that have been proposed, stop yourself and turn it around. Instead of finding fault with ideas, focus on how they could succeed.
- Comparing yourself to others - If you're in the habit of comparing yourself to other people in a way that leads you to feel jealous or inferior because they have things that you don't, Lent is an ideal time to stop that destructive thought process. Instead, be happy for others while also being grateful for what you have.
- Being judgmental - If you have a tendency to make negative assumptions about other people and what they do, give up being judgmental of others for Lent. When you catch yourself starting to judge someone, remind yourself that you don't know their circumstances. The person you are judging may be sick or struggling.
- Making excuses - Lent is the perfect time to stop making excuses that keep you from living your best life. Commit to reflecting on what you really want and consider why you aren't actively pursuing that goal. If what you come up with is more than an excuse than an actual reason, let go of it and start making progress.
- Blaming other people - If you have a tendency to blame other people for things that aren't going the way you want, let go of these thoughts for lent. Instead of blaming others, focus instead on what you can do to change your circumstances for the better.
- Holding grudges - If there are people you hold grudges against, Lent is the perfect time to let go. The energy you put into holding a grudge hurts you way more than it is impacting the person the grudge is against to start with. They probably don't know or care. Letting go of anger over things that occurred in the past will help you move forward.
- Spending money on small luxuries - If you're in the habit of spending money on small luxuries that you don't really need, Lent is a great time to give that up for a while. For example, avoid purchasing expensive coffee or having professional manicures for the duration of Lent. For even more of a sacrifice, set aside what you save and donate that money to charity.
Things to Give Up for Lent to Achieve Better Health
While the purpose of giving up something for Lent is not to kickstart weight loss goals, people do often vow to give up certain types of food (like chocolate!) or habits that cause them to be sedentary. As long as you're approaching your Lenten decision with the idea of making a sacrifice in honor of the season, this is perfectly fine.
- Eating fast food - Do you tend to snag fast food far too often? It's super-easy to run through a drive-through, but it's expensive and (mostly) unhealthy. By giving up fast food for Lent, you'll start to be more mindful about your food choices. You'll probably prepare more meals to eat at home, even to eat on the go. As a result of your sacrifice, you'll spend less money and likely consume fewer calories, carbs, and fat.
- Cooking with convenience foods - Lent is a great time to give up convenience items like cake mixes and just add meat pasta dinners. Opt instead to prepare and eat meals featuring scratch-made dishes that you make from fresh ingredients. Switching to all homemade whole foods if you're accustomed to using mixes can help improve your health.
- Consuming sugar - A lot of people give up chocolate for Lent, but the truth is that most people don't really eat that much chocolate. Take your sacrifice several steps further by eliminating all sugar from your diet, or at least all processed or added sugar. You'll need to give up more than just candy, but you'll eliminate quite a few empty calories and carbs from your diet.
- Eating inflammatory foods - For an even more powerful dietary sacrifice, consider eliminating foods that are considered inflammatory from your diet. These include sugar, corn, flour, and nightshade vegetables. If you have joint aches and pains, 40 days of eating an anti-inflammatory diet might change the way you feel so much that you never go back.
- Eating dessert - Giving up dessert isn't as extreme as following an anti-inflammatory way of eating or giving up all sugar, but it's a good Lenten sacrifice for people who are in the habit of eating dessert after each meal. Saying no to dessert is a good way to practice self-control in the spirit of sacrifice.
- Consuming alcohol - If you're a frequent social drinker, Lent may be a good time for you to take a break from alcohol. Being able to stop temporarily can help you verify that your approach to drinking really is social (as opposed to a dependency). Plus, giving up alcohol is a great way to improve your overall health.
- Drinking soda - If you're in the habit of drinking a lot of soda, consider giving that up for Lent and drinking more water instead. Many sodas are full of sugar, harmful additives and empty calories.
- Snacking between meals - Foregoing eating between meals is another option for a food-related Lenten sacrifice. It's a good choice for people who tend to snack between meals for reasons other than actual hunger. This will lead to more mindful eating, and may even help you figure out why you reach for food when you're not hungry.
- Sleeping in - During Lent, move your wake-up time to be half an hour earlier so you can get up and exercise before you start your day. You don't actually have to give up sleep, you just need to give up sleeping so late. You can always go to bed half an hour earlier so that the amount of time you spend asleep doesn't change at all.
Really Hard Things to Give Up for Lent
If you're really feeling the spirit of Lent and are ready to commit to a sacrifice that you'll truly feel, this may be the year for you to choose something that will be really hard for you to give up for more than a month.
- Making impulse purchases - If you're lucky enough to be able to buy whatever you want whenever you want, Lent is a perfect time to take a step back from that luxury. Don't let yourself buy any nonessential items until you have thoughtfully and carefully considered whether you truly need them. If you don't, avoid purchasing altogether.
- Surfing social media - If you're a heavy social media user, try logging out and staying dark for the 40 days of Lent. Giving up social media for Lent can free up a lot of time for you to self-reflect, focus on your spiritual growth, and connect more in real life with the people who matter to you the most.
- Playing video games - If you spend a lot of time playing video games rather than connecting with people in real life, Lent may be a good time to take a break for a few weeks. Depending on how focal video games are in your life, you may want to consider giving up playing certain games or during certain timeframes, or you may want to forego them entirely.
- Having lengthy text conversations - Text communication is convenient, but for important conversations with a lot of back and forth, texting can lead to avoidable miscommunication. Consider giving up texting conversations that require more than two or three back and forth responses or lengthy explanations. Instead, reach out by phone when a text chat starts to get lengthy.
- Watching too much news - If you find yourself obsessively checking online for news updates or constantly watching or listening to broadcast news, consider giving that up for Lent. Limit yourself to an hour or so per day when you can tune in to find out what's going on in the world, but otherwise disengage from the 24/7 news cycle.
- Binge-watching TV shows - When you find a full season of a program you like, it's all too easy to stay glued to the screen until every episode is gone. That can be fun sometimes, but it also means that there are huge chunks of time that you're not engaging with your family or friends or getting anything else done. Lent is a great time to let go of binge-watching and be fully present in your life.
- Watching reality TV - If you love getting absorbed in the drama of other people's lives via the escape of reality TV, Lent is a good time to take a break from these shows to reflect on your own life. Use the time you'd spend absorbed in these shows meditating or engaging in devotion.
- Watching sports on TV - If your weekends are consumed with constantly watching sports programming for hours on end, take a step back from that during Lent and use the time to do other things. Consider playing sports or otherwise engaging in a physical activity instead of watching others do so, or use the time for self-reflection.
Lent Ideas for Families to Give Up Together
If you're looking for a way to bring your loved ones together, a shared Lenten observance is a great tool to accomplish just that. The family that sacrifices together during Lent just might do a better job of bonding than they've ever done before.
- Avoiding chores - Everyone in the family is inconvenienced when anyone doesn't do their chores in a timely manner. For Lent, have everyone in the family agree to give up shirking their responsibility with chores, so no one has to remind or nag any individual to handle their duties.
- Paying fees for family outings- Lent is a good time for families to give up fee-based outings such as going to the movies or amusement parks. Instead, spend quality time doing fun things for families that don't cost a dime. Consider setting aside what you would ordinarily spend to do something special for a needy family.
- Being too sedentary - Does your family spend too much time sitting and not enough time being active? Giving up excessive sedentary behavior is a great Lenten commitment for families to make together. Consider committing to spend at least an hour each day doing something active together.
- Using mobile devices in the car - If the non-driving members of your family are in the habit of focusing on their phones during family outings, consider giving up screen time in the car. Doing so affords an ideal time to get family members talking to one another or listening to music together while in the car.
- Using mobile devices during dinner - If your family is in the habit of sitting around and scrolling social media during the evening meal, that's a great thing to give up. Have each family member place their phone in a basket outside of the dining room so everyone (teenagers and all!) can be fully present for family meals.
- Watching TV until bedtime - It may not be realistic for an entire family to fully give up television for 40 days, but you can give it up after a certain time in the evening. Try to choose a time at least two hours before the family's ordinary bedtime, so there's time for family bonding before everyone goes to sleep.
Observe Lent With a Personal Sacrifice
Whether you're an adult, a teenager, or even younger, giving up something for Lent can be a meaningful experience that teaches you a valuable lesson about what it means to make a sacrifice. Some of these ideas are only meant to be temporary changes that can end once Easter arrives, though many would be good to consider keeping up with as permanent changes. After all, if you have bad habits or negative behavioral or emotional patterns, letting them go for 40 days is a good start to making lasting changes that can have a positive impact on your life.