Ash Wednesday signifies the first day of the Christian holy season of Lent.
What is Lent? A period of 40 days traditionally marked by forms of atonement and self-denial in preparation for Easter.
During Lent, Christians around the globe deny themselves pleasures they would otherwise enjoy regularly.
And whether you’re Christian or not, Lent can serve as the perfect time to improve your health.
Jump Start Healthy Habits with Lent
Like many others, you’re probably wondering what to give up for Lent 2017.
For the next six weeks, I urge you to abandon one—or some—of the unhealthy habits you might have formed that could contribute to heart disease, high stress, or other health risks. Avoidance can actually be one of the healthiest approaches to improving well-being and limiting the risk of disease, and the next six weeks could be instrumental in adopting habits that could last the rest of your life. Here are three unhealthy habits I think you should give up this season.
1. Screen Time
Cutting back on time in front of televisions, smartphones, tablets, and computers is a great way to limit stress and neck pain and improve sleep. The information you consume on 24-hour news stations, social media, and the devices that deliver it can lead to increased stress, which can manifest itself in headaches, high blood pressure, a runny nose, or fatigue, among many other symptoms.
Additionally, looking at your smartphone or watching television before bed can make it much more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Start by shutting down devices an hour before bedtime and scheduling blocks of limited usage during the day.
It may seem crazy to think that sitting is one of the biggest health risks out there, but it is. When you spend extended periods of time sitting, your body virtually shuts down, slowing your metabolism, weakening your muscles, and increasing the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic illnesses.
Over Lent, try to spend less time sitting down and more time being active. Break up extended periods of sitting by standing once per hour for about five to 10 minutes, while finding ways to get out for walks or other forms of exercise every day.
3. Junk Food
This is another thing worth giving up for Lent. In fact, giving this up might provide the biggest benefit. Refined sugars and other processed foods are linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and an increased chance of mortality. In fact, what you eat plays more of a role in your health than most other factors, so attempting to simplify your diet over Lent is recommended.
Try planning meals and selecting healthy, unprocessed items like fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and legumes that promote good health.