We are a few weeks into Lent, and if you are anything like me, Lent starts off strong but then I start putting in less and less effort as life and habits catch up with me. This year, I decided to challenge myself in my least favorite Lenten exercise: fasting. There are a few new ways I decided to try because I felt my Lenten exercises needed a boost, because it is never too late to make this Lent the best yet!
When I was a kid I always dreaded the season of Lent, because that meant no sugar until that glorious Sunday, when I could blissfully dive into my Easter basket full of sugary delights. As I grew older, I continued to give up sugar for Lent through the force of habit, using it as an opportunity to lose weight. I totally neglected and missed the point of fasting in the Lenten spirit.
Here are three ways to fast, besides the Lenten requirements of fasting from meat (and denying myself confectionary pleasures), that challenge my self-discipline and accountability, fortify my concentration and enforce positivity. They also force me to be mindful of the habits and the mentalities that make up my life and create new opportunities to foster the Christian spirit. These alternative methods may help you take some time to exercise self-control, reflect and be generous.
1. Fast From Screen Time: My phone is always in my hand and my computer is often directed to Facebook, or YouTube, and though it’s diverting to indulge in constant screen time, it’s also very harmful to productivity. I decided to restrict recreational phone and computer usage to one hour and fast the rest of the day, dedicating my time to reading, writing, cleaning, or any other productive behavior.
Deciding to fast from screen time showed me how mindlessly addicted I was. While sitting in the car waiting for my husband, I restlessly and automatically picked up my phone, unlocked it, stared at the home screen for a couple of seconds, remembered I was fasting, and then put it aside. Grimly, I realized that I automatically go to my phone looking for inane and constant distraction every down moment I have or when I pause during my work. Now that I have a controlled time to browse through the internet, and stash my phone under a pillow, my workflow is no longer easily broken up and tasks get done in a more prompt fashion. In addition, I pay more attention to the world around me and free up brain space for actually thinking or praying about my day, instead of endlessly distracting myself during odd moments.
2. Fast From Negative Thoughts: Sadly, I have to admit I’m a negative Nancy. Everyday I struggle with negative thoughts, particularly about myself. I look in the mirror and hate the way I look. I get down on myself for everyday failures. I think that I’m not strong enough, or not good enough, to accomplish anything worthwhile and that other people don’t think I’m capable. Now, although I can’t completely banish these thoughts from my mind, I refrain from validating them. I tell myself that life is a work in progress, that I have a healthy, strong body. That I’m doing my best to help my family and I’ve been able and will continue to be able to accomplish things in my life
3. Fast From Clutter: This is a great way to tie in with the Lenten requirement of almsgiving. This season, I’m going to resist buying anything that is not absolutely necessary; instead that money will go to a worthwhile cause, like a crisis pregnancy center. Also, I’m going to go through my items of clothing and donate items I no longer use. Going through my clothes, accessories and things makes me realize how unnecessarily attached I am to items that are not even part of everyday life or are necessary. It’s also revealed to me that it’s easy to impulsively buy something-or look to acquire something-when I’m feeling down or bored, instead of turning to God. Getting rid of clutter and abstaining from purchases is a great way to introduce self-control and evaluate what is really needed in life, particularly in regards to spiritual needs.
Building a habit actually takes about 66 days and the 40 days of Lent is a great way to begin new habits that will bring God to the forefront of my mind. It’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of Lent and slip up because I never really challenged myself. I pray that these types of fasting help me grow in ways that I have never previously explored and give me the boost I need to finish this Lent off in a strong and prayerful way.