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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

This week, Annie tackles the Christian tradition of Lent, highlighting some criticisms of this period, and also some more inclusionary ways to join in, if maybe you don’t share the same beliefs.

Whether you observe lent for religious reasons or not, Lent is still a significant socio-cultural event at this time of year. Yet sometimes, it is not quite the clear-cut positive force for good it may at first appear…

When viewing Lent as a religious practice, it appears as a sacred season, in which to honour the sacrifice and suffering of another. However, when you view Lent as a more social tradition, this viewpoint is highly removed.

Lent is “meant” to be about facing personal demons and gaining a greater strength and respect as a result, but lent has been fed to the hawks of diet culture and has become a socially accepted form of coercion.

This is something that with never sit well with me. What’s more, disguised as it is within its fancy do-good packaging Lent can even become a highly unconstructive and potentially dangerous notion. 

From a contemporary, “intuitive” lifestyle, perspective, the sentencing of certain habits as “bad” feels a little too condemning for a lot of things, especially when those things are sometimes our greatest comforts. Preaching to abstain from something for 46 days when none of us know what the next 46 days will bring is a big commitment. I must confess, due to this fact, I have never really completed Lent before. When I have attempted, it has never been the greatest loss to me in the first place, so I don’t think this really counts…

So, for those interested in jumping on the bandwagon and challenging themselves just a little a day, I’m going to suggest some unconventional, inclusionary, alternatives to partake:  

  • Rather than avoiding eating something, consciously add something to your day-to-day food habits. This might just be about getting more vitamins through your five a day.
  • Stay away from food altogether and do something instead. This might be setting a steps target or finding a new hobby. Maybe designating 10 minutes of your day to practice yoga or mindfulness!
  • (Easier said than done), but take a social media break. I know of so many people who have watched their productivity killed by TikTok. Use lent as an opportunity to take a break, even if that’s just by setting yourself a screen time limit, especially if you have reading week coming up. 
  • Set yourself the goal of only buying the things you need. This has great flexibility as it is dependent on what you feel you need and you don’t on a day to day basis. Plus, you might save a lot of money in the process. 
  • Another approach that your bank account might similarly love is to stop ordering takeaways. Maybe even try and make your favourites at home instead with friends. 
  • Try decluttering one item per day of lent. This might just be that leaflet from the welcome fair you still have in the ever-growing pile at the back of your desk or it could be letting go of clothes or other items and donating them to your local charity shops. 
  • Or move away from yourself altogether. Agree with your partner to give one comment or compliment a day that’s a bit more out of the box that the normal recycled lot. Consciously choose to check in with a friend every day, or a few of them on rotation? You can tell them of course! Perhaps they’ve been wanting to do something for lent as well but were struggling for an idea. 

Ultimately lent is merely a big chunk of time for which there has long been a tradition of self-improvement. Its fixed parameters, and knowing there are other people heading in the same direction at the same time (even if they’re in adjacent boats with different goals), makes keeping to it is easier.

And by the end of it maybe a positive habit will be sticking around long term. But even if there’s not at least Easter is just round the bend and with it comes spring and a great season to celebrate – with chocolate no less!