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15 Unconventional Lent Ideas

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
If you haven’t yet decided how to participate in the Lenten season, but still want to be a part of this period of introspection and self-improvement, you’ve got plenty of time. During the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday, many people choose to give up something—typically a vice or an unhealthy habit—in a symbolic gesture of sacrifice, or they may take on an enriching project or activity in an effort to improve themselves or others.
Although Lent is typically a Christian observance, people of all religions (or none at all) can also participate. After all, the name comes from the Old English word len(c)ten, which translates to "spring"—and there's no better time than spring to purge the negative and usher in the positive.  
Not sure how to get started? Below are some unconventional Lent ideas.
  1. Purge an item every day. This can be anything from an uncomfortable sweater to a piece of art that no longer inspires you. Choose a different room, dresser or closet for your purge item each day. At the end of Lent, you'll have 40 items to donate—and less clutter throughout the house.
  2. Give up texting. Okay, maybe not entirely—but try replacing at least one text a day with a real live phone conversation (or, better yet, a face-to-face chat). It might take a little longer, but the relationship-boosting rewards are worth it. To take it a step further, substitute a phone call for a good old-fashioned letter.
  3. Cut out nighttime eating. According to a study published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nighttime eating was shown to trigger increased weight gain. Midnight snackers are also more likely to make poor food choices than those who eat earlier. If you must nosh at night, choose healthy, high-protein snacks that will fill you up without an excess of fat and calories.
  4. Give everyone in your family a compliment. When immersed in the daily grind, it's easy to take your family for granted. Make it a point to say something nice to your significant other and children every day. It can be as simple as "You did a great job on your book report," or "I appreciate you picking up the dry cleaning."
  5. Give up elevators. Studies have shown that taking the stairs can have a big impact on your health—and could even help you live longer.
  6. Every day, pass on a purchase. Maybe it's the coffee you usually buy on the way to work, or the pair of earrings that are calling your name. Whatever it is, make a conscious decision to not buy it, and stick the money into savings or a donation jar instead.
  7. Eat out less. You don't have to trade takeout for hours in the kitchen. Check out these 14 healthy and delicious slow cooker recipes for easy, one-pot dinner ideas that will save money and calories.
  8. Decide on dinner before lunch. The key to sticking to a healthy diet is having a meal plan. When you know ahead of time what you're going to make for dinner, you'll be less likely to grab take-out or eat something unhealthy.
  9. Don't watch TV while sitting. According to a Nielsen report, the average U.S. adult spends more than five hours per day watching TV. That's a lot of sedentary time. Even if you're only watching a fraction of that, sneak in some exercise while catching up on your favorite shows.
  10. Never check your phone while you're with other people. By looking at your phone in the presence of others, you're not only implying that other communications are more important, but you're also cheating yourself out of a potentially enriching social experience.
  11. Don't drive. If your destination is a manageable distance away and the weather is good, leave your car at home in favor of biking or walking. You'll burn some extra calories, get some rejuvenating fresh air and save on fuel costs. If you must drive, take the farthest possible parking spot and enjoy the extra few minutes of exercise.
  12. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier and get up 30 minutes earlier. Having an extra half-hour of quiet, well-rested time every morning—whether you use it to exercise, prepare a healthy breakfast or meditate—will get your day started on a positive note. For bonus points, stop using the snooze button.
  13. Give up gossip. It might seem fun and harmless in the moment, but talking negatively about others ultimately makes everyone feel bad, even the ones doing the gossiping. If you hear others bad-mouthing someone, point out something positive about the person. If they don't follow suit, leave the conversation.  
  14. Give up paper plates. It may seem trivial, but when you use only "real" dishes, you may put more thought into the food you're preparing and approach meals more mindfully. As a bonus, you'll cut down on waste and promote eco-friendly habits for your family.
  15. Stop comparing. It's great to draw inspiration from others, but resist the urge to use their accomplishments as a benchmark for yours. Every time you're tempted to measure yourself against someone else—whether it's that super-fit woman at the gym, a culinary whiz in your cooking class or another mom who appears to have it all together—remind yourself that you are progressing at the perfect pace for you. 
Are you and your family observing Lent? How have you chosen to take part?

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See more: easter lent


SUNSET09 2/16/2021
Thank you, SparkFriends for enlightening me Report
RD03875 3/9/2020
Goods luck to everyone observing lent. My religion doesn't do the lent thing. Report
Part of Lent is to keep your sacrifice to yourself. I don't announce what I'm giving up. Using Lent as a starting point for self-improvement, while an interesting idea, isn't its purpose. Report
MUVFASTA 3/6/2020
I don't observe Lent, but I love, love, LOVE these ideas! Thanks Melissa! Report
CAROLJEAN64 3/5/2020
Each day I am sending a letter of gratitude to someone in my life. Report
JULIA1154 3/4/2020
Among my other Lenten practices, I fast from Facebook. I do this during Advent as well. Depending on the day, I allocate that time to conversation with a family member, writing a note or card to someone and more time for meditative prayer. Report
I love the last one. Report
GETULLY 3/4/2020
How about give up plastic? Report
Good suggestions that will probably carry on after Easter. Thanks. Report
What some wonderful suggestions. Report
MAREE1953 3/4/2020
I expected to read some mention of fasting. Report
Thanks for some interesting ideas to give up for Lent Report
Great ideas for year round! Thank you! Report
Thank You Report
Some great ideas Report
Good article and good need-to-know information to use year - round! Report
I really appreciate the inclusiveness of this article. I just peeked in because I was curious about how people observe this holiday. How lovely that the author invited everyone to try it! I had no idea that the word relates to "spring" - great to know! Report
All of these ideas are good ones for any time of year, for anyone regardless of spiritual tradition (or no tradition). For me, Lenten disciplines need to have a spiritual purpose - I give away unused items because they are getting in the way of my relationship with G-d; I avoid single-use plastics because of my sense of stewardship of the Earth. TBH identifying and remembering the spiritual purpose(s) helps keep me on track with the changes. Without them, I'd never make it all the way through Lent. Forty days is a long time :) Report
Good ideas. Report
I don't observe Lent even though I grew up Catholic. Some good ideas to try though~ Report
For Lent I challenge myself to conquer negative thoughts. If I say or think something like " I'm so stupid!" I have to correct the thought and give myself a compliment. I do this every Lent for the last 3 years and it has helped me so much! I have fewer negative thoughts during the year and I find myself challenging these thoughts automatically (sometimes) .

Lent just makes me focus more on combatting the negative thoughts and changing my mindset when I get frustrated. Report
I love this article. It popped up on the page a week before Advent. Hope I see it again a week before Lent! Report
Great suggestions here. We are collecting or buying 40 things to donate to a homeless shelter. Report
Why am I not able to access recipes? Report
These are some great ideas! I will try to use some of them during Lent. Report
Great ideas. I'm going to do the late night snacking. Really bad about that and go to the gym every. Bad about that too. Report
I'm going to purge an item every day. That is a fabulous idea! But I also intend to give up garbage sweets. If it has to be, a piece of dark chocolate. But none of the overprocessed, full of sugar junk candy. I'd like to make that a lifetime change. Report
Many good suggestions here. Report
Not 100% sure what actions I plan to do during lent. I will attend Ash Wednesday service and discern my plan. I don't usually give up something but find an action to make my part of the world a better place or make a plan for steps to make me a healthier servant to our world. Report
I'm an Orthodox Christian, during greater Lent, (before Pascha) we basically fast from all meat, fish eggs, milk and dairy of all kinds for 40 plus days (the 40 days of Lent and the days surrounding it) also fasting from olive oil. There are a few scant days where fish is allowed (fish without scales, like shell fish.) So, basically it is a vegan diet. We also do the same for 40 days before lesser Lent (the 40 day before nativity) and the Apostles fast (varies in length) and every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. It's discipline has really helped me so much in learning the difference between true hunger and emotional eating.

From the time I began losing weight (before even starting Spark People, till today, I've now lost 74 lbs and more than 10 54 years old, I am now the weight I was in high school, and I feel SO good, all that emotional baggage gone for good.

What I like to "give up" during the year, is one day a week, I will fast from two meals and only eat an evening meal. Report
I've never observed Lent before, I think I might this year, and give up hitting the snooze button every morning. :) Which would be me getting up 30 minutes earlier as suggested above. I also like the no paper plates, spend less, and a daily purge ideas. Perhaps I'll give those a go too.

I agree that checking your phone when with others is impolite, but I have 4 kids and a hubby that may need to contact me. So that one is out for me. Report
This isn't really for Lent, but I'm going to try to drink 9 cups of water a day now. Except I can have a cup of vegetable juice in the morning, instead of one of water, if there's any in the house. And yes, that counts as water! Report
I like #1 and #10. Perfect timing. THANKS Report
Some great tips more water less soda no mindless snacks are on my list . Report
I give up Lent and being told what I'm doing is wrong and needs to be changed just because it's Spring! Report
I like the suggestion to give up peanut butter. It wouldn't be that hard--just don't have it in the house. I also like getting rid of one piece of clutter a day. It's good to do something positive every day instead of just giving something up. Report
Interesting suggestions. The elevator one won't work for me... one of my biggest challenges every week is managing the stairs at my daughter's home. I walk with a cane, and if I go anywhere that has an elevator, I am going to utilize it.

I line the first idea, and will see how it works for me.

Giving up texting is a no-go for us. My daughter is a supervisor in a call center; my grandson has long-term health issues following brain surgery in late October 2016 and my granddaughter has special needs, so texting is the ONLY way my daughter and I can communicate much of the time to coordinate care and emergencies. We are grateful for the technology that makes it possible to coordinate without landlines or jangling phones.

Last year, I gave up soda for lent. This year, since my goal is to simplify my life, I think it will be to give up some clutter each day. I'm not sure. I might try drinking water each day. This article (and the comments) gave me some good ideas. The no-meat Friday thing was never really a sacrifice for me. Report
Great ideas. #2 is my fav Report
Gave me THREE ideas that will work for me! Report
Even though Lent is over, I'd like to try the idea of purging one item a day - and not just for 40 days, but continue throughout the year. We are in our mid-sixties and have come to realize that it is time to start paring back our "stuff". I try to make a practice of giving away items to family and friends whenever I become aware that they really like or could use them. If I could give away 365 items per year, just think how streamlined life could become! Report
I gave up the Elevator for lent! And Sweets and Cursing but the elevator has been the one I've done the best job sticking to. Report
I'm a Quaker, and I do Lent anyway as a spiritual practice. Last year I gave up baked goods. This year I chose to eat pescatarian or vegetarian 5 nights out of seven. Lent helps me focus on healthy habits. Report
My mom is Catholic and she makes the whole family participate in Lent. I already do some of the things on the list, so I decided to learn a new hobby (crocheting) for Lent. I'm a big believer in constantly improving yourself. Report
As a bred and born Catholic I SHOULD be BETTER at this than I am. I TRY to give up things but then forget what IT was partway through .I DO try to focus on Christ and what he did for us on the cross. Report
I am a little late in giving up something for Lent. I just couldn't think. I like your idea of to purge an item every day to donate after 40 days. Then, I also like your crockpot idea. I use a crockpot atleast 2 to 3 times each week. So, I think I will do both! Thank you!!!!! Report
These are great idea! I gave up carbs for Lent. It's not as bad as you think....It takes some time getting used to all the vegetables but it's worth it.
Especially love #15 - stop comparing. These are very good suggestions. I give up sweets and watching TV by myself. Plan to exercise 10 minutes everday (missed yesterday) Report
My husband and I tried to give up coffee for Lent one year, and it was NOT a pretty picture. LOL!!!! But we find it easier to limit ourselves to a meat dish only one time a day and no meat on Fridays. My guys are carnivores so this is a REAL sacrifice for them. A good spiritual read before bed and Lent is even a time we cherish and look forward to. Report