Resolution Reset: Inspiration from Lent to Get Back on Track
Whether or not you celebrate the Christian season of Lent, the spirit of this time of year can kick-start stalled New Year’s resolutions and even help expand yours. There are a few more weeks of Lent, which culminates on Easter Sunday. Here are five aspects of the Lenten season—and how they can help anyone make the rest of 2023 the best nine months possible.
A key part of the Lenten period is reading scripture and praying. In a similar vein, meditation and journaling can improve mental health and help one stick to resolutions by reinforcing them in black and white. Research shows meditation can be as effective in medication for treating anxiety—and stress is one of the key barriers to keeping resolutions.
During Lent, the devout are urged to give alms (donations or acts of service). Studies have shown that giving back can lower the risk of depression, lower stress and even improve blood pressure. So take a moment to donate a great cause, sign up to volunteer or simply do something kind for a friend. In the Christian faith alms are meant to be giving privately, so follow along and do good for the sake of it—not for the recognition. If you have any mental or physical health-related resolutions, charity work can help you achieve those.
Take Stock of Your Diet
While giving up meat for Lent isn’t the same as a diet, it’s a great way to take a moment to think about your eating habits and what is benefiting you—and holding you back from a healthier lifestyle. Follow three quick tips for revamping your eating, starting today:
- Go for a premade fruit bowl and vegetable platter. When you open the refrigerator, you will see them and grab for crunchy, satisfying and low calorie snacks instead of mindlessly eating a bag of chips. Your kids will nibble them, too, if you set the bowl out on your kitchen table or breakfast bar.
- Drink more water. It’s often not hunger, but thirst that makes the bag of chips look good.
- Start small with exercise. If you can’t get inspired to take that first step, it’s time to take baby ones. Instead of going for a 5 mile run, set a timer for 15 minutes and see how far you go. Can’t find time to go to an exercise class? Find a quick home workout you can do online. Or simply take the dog for a short walk—you’ll both love it.
Practice Saying No
For Lent, Christians are asked to fast–aka say no to certain foods, like meat. Learning to skip stuff—aka say no—can help you with your resolutions in myriad ways. Clearly, food that isn’t serving your health goals is one example. But there are many other ways saying no can benefit you. It’s tempting as everyone emerges from the winter blahs to start saying yes to everything. Chair the preschool fundraiser? Sure. Host a dinner party? No problem. Plan the kids’ summer schedule? In a second. Be the coach’s assistant? Right away.
Wait a minute…let the next few weeks be a trial period of practicing the word “No.”
If no is too hard in general and you find yourself slipping into yes-woman mode, try “No…but.” “No, I’m not available to chair the fundraiser, but I can help with the decorations for you.” “No, I don’t want to go to that (same old, same old) restaurant for dinner, but how about trying this new one.” “No, I don’t want to watch that show, but I’ve heard this one is great.” Start simple – saying no to TV is an easy way to begin.
And for those of us who had a great dry January that turned into a soaking wet February? Saying no (occasionally or all the time) also works for cocktails.
Take It a Few Steps at a Time
Habits are built by creating a routine. So, you don’t have to finish your resolution in one day. In fact, you can overwhelm yourself with an all or nothing attitude. Instead, do one thing a day. For example: go through one toy bin, organize your underwear drawer, clean out the area under the kitchen sink. The key to success? Having a list of one item to-dos and making sure you have enough time to complete the task you choose for that day. In a few weeks—maybe by Easter—you’ll have checked off a handful of tasks, and you’ll be motivated to continue for the rest of the year.