If you plan on loading up on pancakes this Tuesday to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, you’re likely also deciding how to kick off Lent when you wake up on Ash Wednesday. For the next 40 fasting days, you have the opportunity to improve your health on God’s watch—so what should you do?
Use Lent to Kick an Unhealthy Habit
I’ve honestly seen lives transformed during Lent—it can be a very powerful and enlightening time if you want it to be. But what you have to do is pick what you’d like to give up—or adopt—and stick to it.
Some might adopt a healthier approach to eating and give up the foods they know are harming them. Changes could be as small as giving up a sugary, calorically dense coffee in the morning for a straight black cup of Joe, or swapping the burger and fries for a grilled chicken garden salad.
Whatever changes you elect to test drive for the next 40 days, it’s important to come up with a plan. Planning your steps makes goals much easier to hit and improves your chances of success, while making the inevitable Easter feast a little more special, too.
Giving Something up for Lent? Make a Plan
The key to successful planning is setting incremental goals. So let’s say that, for the next 40 days, you plan on increasing your daily physical activity to one hour per day, so by the time Easter rolls around, you’re getting seven hours of quality activity per week.
Break Your Plan Down into Smaller Goals
So now it’s time to chop that up. Set a smaller goal: say, by day 20, your goal is to have attempted different kinds of activity. That could be exercising at a gym, participating in a spin class, or doing aquafit, for example. You can then make your goal even smaller: say that, in each successive week, you will add a little more activity.
For example, if you commit to starting on Ash Wednesday and plan on getting three rounds of exercise at 30 minutes apiece for the week, build your goal to get to five rounds the next week. Structure your goals throughout the next six weeks to incrementally work harder up to your end goal. Short-term goals as part of a long-term goal keep you focused and allow you to work with an approach that keeps you motivated.
Kick Off a Healthier Life at Lent
You’re probably asking yourself, “What should I give up for Lent?” Whatever you choose, pick something that will improve your health. Ways to limit stress, manage weight, improve your diet, get better sleep, or lower your risk for chronic illness are all worthy causes. Be specific in what you’ll be giving up, though; it will help you stick to your guns. Lent provides a great opportunity to try out some new lifestyle techniques that can last a lifetime…and help you make that lifetime longer and more fulfilling.