'Instead of Giving Something Up for Lent, Here's What I'm Adding to My Plate'

Blocks that spell out 'Lent'

As Lent approaches, many people start thinking about what they will give up for the 40-day period. But this year, I've decided to do something a little different. Rather than subtracting things from my life, I plan to be more intentional about adding positive habits and experiences. That’s right—I’m flipping the script. Watch out, world!

My goal is twofold—first, to strengthen my mindfulness practice and deepen my connections with others. And second, to approach Lent from an abundance mindset instead of one of deprivation. As a naturally negative person (sorry, but the glass is half empty! These are just facts!), maybe it’ll be good for me to focus on all the wonderful things I can bring into my life. By adding to my plate rather than taking things away, I hope to cultivate gratitude, joy and openness during this reflective season. Hey, a girl can dream.

Related: 50 Positive Affirmations To Boost Your Confidence (And Change Your Life)

What I Want to Add to My Plate for Lent 2024

Here are five ideas I'm considering for what to add to my plate this Lent:

1. Say Yes to All Social Invitations

As an introvert who works from home, I often fall into the habit of turning down social plans and spending too much time by myself. But this Lent, I want to challenge my tendency towards isolation. By saying yes to every invitation that comes my way—whether it's a party, dinner with friends or volunteering event—I hope to strengthen my relationships, spark new connections and get out of my comfort zone. Who knows what positive opportunities and growth could come from embracing each social encounter that arises?

This idea was sparked in part by the book The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, where the television producer challenged herself to say yes to everything for a year with transformative results. I don't think I'll take it to quite that extreme, but taking this approach for the 40 days of Lent feels like a good place to start.

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2. Try a New Creative Hobby

Art, music, dance—getting creative has been shown time and again to have mental health benefits like reducing stress and anxiety. And yet, so many adults (myself included) fall out of the habit of making time to explore our creativity. What childhood hobbies or interests could I pick back up? What mediums or genres could I experiment with? 

This Lenten season, I want to commit to trying a new creative hobby or reviving a dusty one. Some ideas I've jotted down include painting, pottery, songwriting or starting a fiction writing practice. Even committing 30 minutes a day to explore whatever sparks my curiosity could lead to a welcomed creative outlet, sense of play, and outlet for self-expression.

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3. Learn a New Language

Speaking of new challenges, what if I took the next six weeks to finally start learning a new language? It's been on my bucket list for years to become conversational in Spanish but I've never stuck with it long enough to get past an elementary level.

This Lent I could take it step-by-step and commit to spending just 15 minutes a day practicing vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation using a language learning app. Approaching it bit by bit instead of overwhelming myself with intense immersion could make it a sustainable habit. And of course, being consistent is key—those 15 minutes every single day will add up over the long haul.

Hopefully, by Easter, I'll have made real strides in my Spanish comprehension and speaking abilities. And then maybe I can plan a trip to Mexico City to test it all out. Win/win!

4. Establish a Daily Meditation and Gratitude Practice

At the end of the day, Lent is a time of spiritual reflection and discipline. As someone trying to deepen their mindfulness practice, I think adding a daily meditation and gratitude ritual could be extremely meaningful.

Each morning I could devote just 5-10 minutes to sitting in silent meditation, focusing on my breath and letting thoughts come and go without judgment. Then I could spend a few minutes with a gratitude journal, jotting down a few things I'm grateful for. This simple one-two punch of meditation and gratitude could set the tone for my entire day by centering me in the present moment and fostering appreciation.

There's plenty of science behind the mental and physical benefits of meditation and gratitude practices. But more than that, I'm drawn to the idea of building habits that feel restorative, peaceful and re-energizing.

5. Find One Uplifting Book Per Week

Books have a way of transporting us to new places, deepening our empathy and exposing us to different viewpoints. But like many, my reading habits have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

This Lent, I'd like to commit to reading one uplifting, nourishing book per week. Whether that's an engrossing novel, an enlightening memoir, a fascinating work of narrative non-fiction, or an approachable text on topics like mindfulness and mental health—infusing my days with literary inspiration feels like a simple but rewarding idea.

I could head to my local library or bookstore and build up a stack of books that call to me. Then each week I'd get lost in a new story and visit it daily, letting it spark contemplation and discussion. Over the 40-day journey, that could amount to nearly 10 new books explored! Do they give a Pulitzer for that? They should!

Can I Do It?

In the end, Lent is a season full of potential—for introspection, renewal and transformation. But too often I think it gets bogged down in restriction and rules around what we "should" give up. I'm hopeful that by flipping the paradigm and instead adding positive habits and experiences, I can approach these 40 days with a lighter, more joyful perspective. This would be big for me—huge.

I think the key will be starting small, being consistent, and focusing on one addition at a time. These ideas require commitment, but they all feel meaningful and sustainable to me. If one or two of them become lasting lifestyle changes—like a regular meditation practice or reading more books—then this will all have been worth it. Hey, maybe my glass will always be half-empty but this journey might help me appreciate what’s still inside.

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