Practice self-improvement through Lent

By Skylar Bouchard, Columnist

This Wednesday marks the beginning of the Catholic holiday Lent. It’s a 40-day period of time in which members give something up to commemorate Jesus’ time in the desert. You may be participating in Lent or you could have a similar holiday that you participate in later in the year, but regardless of the religious reasoning, an argument could be made that there should be a time of year where you practice self-restraint.

Nearly everyone has something they would like to change about themselves, and holidays like Lent can be beneficial to those seeking to break a bad habit. It gives people a set day to start working on the problem and an end date, which encourages people stick to their goals by tricking themselves into thinking this is a temporary change. The event is also social, which can help people stick to their goals by having people hold them accountable. By having a group call you out, it becomes easier to break a habit knowing failure means letting others down. This can also lessen the feeling of deprivation and missing out on what is being given up by watching others do the same.

Even if you are not focused on breaking a habit at this point, the act of giving up something you enjoy can lead to self-improvement. Self-restraint is an important skill that can often go overlooked. Having self-control is what allows people make better decisions and can even lead to a sense of pride knowing the decisions you make will benefit you in the long run. Lent and similar holidays are essentially just the ritualistic practice of self-restraint.

By being forced to abstain from something you enjoy for a period of time, you can learn to appreciate things so much more in absence of it. It is extremely easy to forget the importance of something you experience every day. It is only when you go without it when you truly understand the impact something has on you. So when you can once again partake in eating meat or using Twitter, it is so much better than it was before. This is similar to the feeling of a warm shower after a week of camping — it helps people realize how great the things they have in their life really are, rather than constantly focusing on what they don’t have.

Holidays can be more than just an excuse to celebrate, but can also be used for the purposes of self-improvement. This idea doesn’t just apply to Lent. There are many other cultures and religions that have holidays focused on a similar aspect of self-restraint other than Catholicism. Try and pick out any one of them, whether that be Ramadan, New Year’s resolutions or any other similar holiday.

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Skylar is a freshman in ACES.

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