Lent: a waste of time?

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By Zosia Gontar, Second Year Pyschology

With Shrove Tuesday coming up next week it's that time of the year when I am deciding what to give up for Lent, and why?

Growing up in a Catholic family, I took most religious occasions pretty seriously when I was little. Lent, however, was the one time when I just couldn’t be asked, as I really struggled with the idea of giving up something that I enjoyed for the entire forty days. A couple of times I tried giving up sweets, but I never lasted that long. This wasn’t because I was unable to give things up entirely – at aged 12 I became a vegetarian after seeing ‘cavallo’ written on a menu during a trip to Italy, which my horse-loving soul could not bear. The fact that my family was very much against my new diet was probably why I went through with it – I simply enjoyed doing these little things to drive my family slightly mad.

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Flickr / Nikki L.

Although it’s not something I think about that much, I generally like the idea of Lent and trying to abstain from certain habits, as I think it can be quite good for both mental and physical health. So this year, I am going to give up using Netflix and YouTube for entertainment and limit social media to a minimum for at least the duration of Lent – to keep it nice and traditional – and instead, I am going to read more books.

There are several reasons why I think this is a good idea. Firstly, I recently realised how much of my free time is consumed by being on the internet – time I could be using to do things that are actually meaningful. It just becomes an automatic thing to do every time I’m tired or frustrated or even just bored – I lie in bed with my laptop and watch terribly cheesy rom-coms or something equally easy to digest. It’s understandable why they become everyone’s number one choice for when you’re feeling low, but also they can just be so incredibly cringe and unrealistic that recently they haven’t given me much pleasure at all.

On the other hand, the books that I keep frantically buying in charity shops are piling up and collecting dust on the shelf – but for some reason or other, I hardly ever reach for them when I have free time and need to unwind. My addiction to screen time makes me read so much less than I used to, and I find it sad. I am trying to read, but every time I finally sit down, open a book and read a page or even just a couple of sentences, I become distracted and look at my phone, which makes me become frustrated and eventually put the book down.

Lastly, this year I have been struggling with my mental health quite a lot, so I am hoping that swapping online entertainment for books will prove beneficial and allow me to get better. Binge-watching Netflix tends to be a very isolating activity, because it’s just so addictive that you often end up not leaving your room for hours – and isolation is one of the worst things you can do when struggling mentally. With books it’s different, because on average we may read for an hour or two, but probably not eight. This is because it requires so much more thinking and imagination, and that’s tiring. Also, on a nice day you can take your book outside to read in nature and sunshine, which is an ultimate happiness booster.

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Flickr / Megan Trace

Overall, I think that Lent is a good idea for anyone, whether religious or not. Yes, it is about sacrifice, but with an ultimate goal to be kind to oneself. After all, we are only given one go at this life (unless you believe otherwise), and we only have one mind and one health, so we really should try and take better care of it. Giving up something for the whole forty days may sound very daunting at first, but once you change one habit it becomes quite easy to stick with it. And even if you feel like you absolutely won’t last so long without sweets/ meat/ alcohol/ coffee/ cigarettes/ plastic packaging or indeed Netflix, try at least for a little bit – you may find that choosing a healthier alternative to these things may be really beneficial.

And who knows – maybe your newfound love for books will make you not want to substitute them for Netflix ever again!

Featured image: Flickr / Jamie Pearson


What are you giving up for Lent this year? Let us know!

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