Every year, Christians of various denominations observe Lent, a six-week period of time ahead of Easter where participants “give something up” while pursuing a closer relationship with God. For those who observe Lent annually, it can be challenging to think of new ideas of what they will give up each winter. Fortunately, we have plenty of ideas to share with 30 things to give up for Lent!
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, and ends on Thursday, March 28, 2024 (or Saturday, March 30, 2024, depending on your denomination). Usually, when someone decides what they will be giving up, they will pick a habit, food or hobby that they enjoy enough that it will be significantly missed throughout the period of Lent. That way, its absence is extremely noticeable (and even a little uncomfortable) as they make such a substantial shift in their typical day-to-day. Then, the yearning for what has been given up works as a reminder to turn to God and recognize how He truly meets all needs.
The goal of Lent is not just to stop doing something you love for bragging rights, and it is not a required practice across all Christian denominations. After all, simply saying the “right words” and doing the “right things” does not make someone a Christian. However, Lent should naturally draw participants closer to God as they experience how their sacrifice of something that seems so significant (but minor in the grand scheme of things) compares to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross—sacrificing His own life for the sake of all who believe (1 Peter 2:24).
While participating in Lent, the decision to give up one notable thing goes hand in hand with picking up a variety of spiritual disciplines in its place. Craving that snack you gave up? That’s a great reminder to pray! Battling boredom without using social media? Open up your Bible! And as you wait patiently for the end of Lent, you might find yourself anticipating the celebration of Easter Sunday in a whole new way thanks to a change of perspective and having an extended, intentional time period to really contemplate Jesus’ life, teachings and selfless death.
Trying to figure out what you’ll be giving up for Lent this year? Look no further!
Related: ‘Instead of Giving Something Up for Lent, Here’s What I’m Adding to My Plate’
30 Things To Give Up for Lent
Philippians 2:14 says it clearly: “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” And yet, for many of us, complaining is something we view as a basic right, rather than something to avoid. But Lent is the perfect opportunity to intentionally choose gratitude over grumbling!
Related: 10 Ways To Become Someone Who Avoids Negativity, According to Psychologists
2. Sweet Treats
One of the most common things to give up for Lent is sugar! Not only will removing sweet treats from your diet help your health, but the sugar withdrawal will also be a good reminder that only God truly sustains us.
While cozying up in front of a new episode can be a great way to unwind, hanging out in front of the TV regularly can take up a lot more time than we might realize. Whether you quickly go through shows by watching multiple episodes throughout your week, or devour a season of TV all in one sitting, giving up the content you usually crave from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, Max, Apple TV+, cable and more, will allow you to stop the small screen binge and start really anticipating growth in your spiritual life instead.
4. Screen Time
It may seem like we get through most of our days staring at our phones. While some screen time can’t be helped, like answering work emails or hopping on a Zoom conference call, other apps (like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat) are typically less productive and can even provide some negative feelings from their addictive nature. Social media itself is directed at cultivating a type of community, and yet the most important relationship for Christians is with God. So, if you feel like you’re spending more time checking friends’ updates than checking in with Christ, giving up screen time for Lent might be the perfect plan.
It’s incredibly easy to talk about someone else and pick apart their life choices. Whether the subject is someone you know really well, an acquaintance, or a public figure, vocalizing doubts about their intentions, disagreements with a decision they’ve made, or simply insulting something they’ve done can roll off the tongue effortlessly. Meanwhile, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” These 40 days have the potential to help tame and transform your tongue in a beautifully biblical way!
Related: 10 Phrases To Shut Down Workplace Gossip, According to Therapists
6. Video Games
Virtually experiencing different worlds or adventures can be a thrilling escape, but the energy that would normally go toward creating a character, teaming up with others, and making strategic moves to beat other players can be put into a different kind of discipline throughout Lent, by strategically focusing on your spiritual life.
Related: 5 Meatless Meals To Get You Through Lent
“Treat yourself” is a widely accepted mindset, but it’s easy to get carried away with consumerism. If you’re feeling like you could use a refresh by storing up treasures in Heaven (instead of in your closet), you may feel drawn to giving up shopping (besides getting actual essentials!) for Lent.
Related: ‘What Happened When I Did a No-Spend Challenge in January After Spending Over $7k on Amazon Last Year’
If one of your goals during Lent is to rely on God more, going through the days without a cup of joe (or five) is an example of how you might choose faith over any other thing we tend to depend on—like flavored lattes!
For those of us who reach for a fizzy soft drink before we even realize we’re doing it, cutting out soda cans (or bottles) might be in our best interest. Every time you think about cracking one open, it will be a great reminder to pray instead!
While we wish it was possible to stop fears and concerns completely, choosing to go to God with our smaller day-to-day worries instead of spending time thinking through all of the “what ifs” is one Lenten idea that could help you live out your faith (which also relates to 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”). Struggling with deeper anxiety? This could be the right timing for pursuing therapy and trusting Jesus, our “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6), with taking the first steps to positively address your mental health.
11. Excuses to Not Work Out
Speaking of positively impacting your mental health, working out helps change your body and your mindset! Give up all of the excuses you’ve been using for pushing off exercising regularly, and clear your head with some push-ups instead. Implementing a new physical habit can go hand in hand with working on beneficial spiritual habits as well!
12. Saying No
Sometimes we turn down opportunities out of fear or a lack of energy. During the 40 days of Lent, some of us might find it transformative to look for ways to say yes, or at least pause to consider the opportunity, when we would normally choose not to try something new, or not to join in with something that does not immediately interest us. Being aware of the possibility that God may be opening the door is a great way to be more open-minded with our decisions and seeking God’s will.
Okay, okay—giving up texting entirely might not be feasible for everyone. But if you’re able to replace texting with a phone call or video call whenever possible, the more personal nature of the communication is sure to help remind you of God’s desire to communicate often (and in personal ways) with us as well.
14. Low Self-Esteem
Toss those negative thoughts out the window and don’t let them come back even after Lent is over! Low self-esteem is somewhat normalized in our culture with things like self-deprecating jokes and turning to social media to see how other people appear to be thriving. But you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and can spend Lent building healthy self-esteem through positive affirmations, praying, and gaining confidence in the Lord through scripture.
15. Being “Too Busy” to Read
We may think it’s impossible to find time to read books, but there are so many incredible works on Christian Living that can help with specific struggles you’re facing (like experiencing grief, feeling confused about purity culture, being impacted by divorce, etc.) goals that you have (biblical literacy, learning more about the Trinity, understanding prayer, etc.), and more. Sound helpful? Finding the time is totally possible, especially utilizing audiobooks and e-books!
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Lent
16. Staying Inside
Winter is cold, and the cold can be pretty miserable. But one of the goals of Lent is to draw nearer to God, and this season that God created is filled with a lot of beauty (icicles glistening, flakes falling that look like pillow feathers, sunlight shining through the trees) that can be admired as we set foot out of our doorways and into the snow as much as possible.
17. Checking the News
There is always so much going on in our local communities, country and around the world. While it is generally a good thing to be informed, constantly receiving so much information, having to research additional topics, and trying to process through it all, can take its toll. If you feel burned out and increasingly bitter, give yourself a break from the 24-hour news cycle and tune into the “Good News” (gospel) instead! Not only will you be reminded that God has been and will always be in control, you might feel less distracted in your prayers as well.
Related: Constantly Scrolling Your News Feeds? This Research Might Make You Think Twice
18. Certain Meals
Giving up certain meals throughout Lent is also known as fasting. If you choose to skip lunch every Monday and Tuesday, for example, feeling hungry during that time can remind you of your goal to draw closer to God and think about all of the ways that He provides for you. Fasting is one of the most common ways of Lenten participation, and it is a practice that some Christians try to incorporate into their weekly or monthly routines year-round.
19. Putting Yourself First
One way to deepen your relationship with Christ during Lent is to put others before yourself. After all, Jesus explained that the two greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Philippians 2:3 also tells us, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
So, during Lent this year, you can try certain things like praying for other people more than you pray about your own life, asking others questions and listening to their responses instead of talking so much about yourself in conversations, etc.
20. Believing the Bible Is Too Intimidating
It can feel daunting to see your Bible on the shelf and know that you should probably be reading it, but you’re not sure how much time you’re really going to have, you don’t know where you should start, and maybe you’re not even sure if you’ll really understand what it’s saying. But as Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” It’s important to incorporate Bible study into your routine, and what better time to kick off this spiritual habit than during Lent?
21. Music on the Radio
This Lent, give up whatever is playing on the radio for some curated collections instead! Put together a playlist (or a few) that has songs specifically chosen to inspire you, pump you up, worship God and bring a smile to your face during this time period.
22. Putting off Paying It Forward
Random acts of kindness are inspiring and usually make us all feel good when we hear about them. But sometimes the “random” part of these moments is misleading from the standpoint that you have to be looking for ways to make a difference (either observing who’s around you and what they might need or making a plan ahead of time). Instead of waiting for an obvious sign that you should do something impactful, you can spend Lent praying for frequent opportunities to spread kindness and hope to others, shining God’s light into the world.
Related: Lent Quotes
23. Salty Snacks
Sometimes, you just want to munch. But when you start salivating for all things savory, redirect the craving to turn to God instead of through prayer, Bible study or praise!
Bleep! It can be so tough to break a habit, but if you have been feeling the nudge to quit cursing, the transformative nature of Lent is the perfect time to pass on profanity and try to replace some of those go-to responses while giving yourself a lot of grace in the process.
If you’ve ever tried a “Dry January,” you might be familiar with the benefits of abstaining from alcohol for a substantial amount of time, like clearer skin and better sleep. Cutting out cocktails, wine, beer, and other spirits is a way to limit something you typically enjoy so that you can refocus on the Holy Spirit throughout the period of Lent!
26. Hot Showers
If you’re looking for a serious way to cultivate more gratitude in your life, giving up hot showers for Lent is a great option. Throughout the six weeks, every time you take a cold shower will be a reminder that not everyone has access to showers (not to mention heated), and that you have so many blessings in your days that you tend to take for granted.
Depending on if you’re still mostly working from home, you may have “given up” makeup long ago. However, committing to no makeup for the entirety of Lent (even during Zoom calls) may give you a different perspective on vulnerability and vanity, recognizing that just like 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
28. Using the Scale
Once you begin to stand on the scale regularly, it can be a difficult ritual to step back from (literally). Taking a break from the numbers can help you reconnect with the foundation of your faith by looking up to Jesus and acknowledging how He loves you and sees you, instead of looking down at the insufficient measurement below.
29. Fast Food
If you find yourself frequently in the drive-thru, it might be a good thing to give up for Lent! During the six weeks of steering clear, there will be plenty of times to meditate on and act on the fact that while quick is convenient, some things (like growing in a relationship, discipleship, sanctification and more) take time.
We wish we could snap our fingers and make clutter disappear, but the next best thing is…to just stay on top of it ourselves! By refusing to let our knick-knacks and laundry pile up, we’re being intentional about keeping an organized space, and that will hopefully create a clean headspace as well. When we don’t feel so bogged down by little jumbled messes, we can better focus on what really matters in life.
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