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Lent - is it just for quitters?

15th March 2011

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Fantastic, it’s that time of year again. Pancake day has regrettably been and gone, and we are once again left with the aftermath – Lent, the forty days of the year dreaded by chocoholics, shopaholics and alcoholics alike.

This year I’ve chosen to give up online shopping. It makes sense – being a student I’m obviously not rolling in money, and the internet provides a dangerous outlet where money can be spent at the click of a mouse, creating the wonderful illusion that you’re not really spending it at all. In previous years I’ve attempted to give up all the typical vices – chocolate, crisps, Facebook, the usual suspects.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never managed to last the entire forty days and nights, and as much as I’d love to say that I am confident that this year will be ‘the one’,  I’m not holding my breath.

 I can’t be the only one who finds that actively cutting something out of your life makes it twice as appealing as it was before – a classic case of ‘wanting what you can’t have’ syndrome. The minute I settled on internet shopping as my banished activity, I could feel my fingers twitching with the urge to type in the address of various hideously overpriced clothing stores, and wanting nothing more than a cheeky browse of eBay to see what worthless second-hand tat I could find for under a fiver.

So why do we all put ourselves through this year on year? How many of us can honestly say that we are doing it for religious reasons? For me, attempting to give something up for Lent is just something that has to be done, no questions asked – it’s part of my culture, and I simply accept it and get on with it (at least for the first week or so).  Although at times it may not be enjoyable, it is undeniably a very good method of testing your willpower, whilst hopefully cutting out a bad habit at the same time.

If you can manage to summon the strength to successfully give something up for lent, then what’s stopping you from actually being able to sit down and write that essay in one go, rather than having a quick browse of Facebook after you write each line? Or saying no to cheesy chips on the way home from a night out? Giving something up for lent will ultimately provide more benefits than going forty days without your favourite bad habit, whether it be junk food, trashy magazines or alcohol.

So this year, I’m really going to push myself. Cutting out one thing for just over a month should not be this difficult. I’m confident that if you are able to put your exiled habit out of your mind completely, the desperation to hit McDonalds or have one sneaky glass of wine will soon evaporate. Perhaps the trick is to replace what you have given up with a more responsible alternative – nuts or dried fruit instead of chocolate, or fresh fruit smoothies instead of alcohol. And for me? I suppose I have absolutely no choice but to hit the shops, and spend my money in person.

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