Cassie Gibbs

The Lenten season will soon be upon us.

Lent, as you well know, is that 40-day period where you constantly hear about what people have given up. It starts on Ash Wednesday and ends before Easter Sunday.

The purpose of Lent is to prepare for Easter through prayer, repentance, fasting and more. For many, the act of fasting is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifices during his 40 days in the desert.

The website, openbible.info, runs a Twitter Lent Tracker that tracks what people tweet they will give up for Lent. This tracker has been running since 2009.

According to the Tracker, the top 10 items that users said they would give up for Lent in 2018 were social networking, Twitter, alcohol, chocolate, swearing, meat, sweets, soda, coffee and fast food.

This list was compiled from over 29,000 tweets during the week of Feb. 11, 2018. There is no guarantee that these items were actually given up or that the fasting lasted the whole of the Lenten season.

Now, fasting is, of course, a Christian practice, but the practice of fasting from any bad habits or food or whatever you choose is good for you physically and mentally.

For example, taking a break from a crazy workload can do wonders for your mental health and happiness. Funny enough, I read the most about this in an article for nature.com that was written by microbiology editors.

The article stated that those in academia can easily get burnout for the crazy hours, the workload and the pressures associated with their jobs, much like those in healthcare and other high-energy professions.

“Indeed, for all of us there will be times during which demands are such that a heavy workload is unavoidable, and such periods can actually bring about a high level of performance as the challenge is risen to,” the article states. “However, if left unchecked by periods in which rest, relaxation and personal life are prioritized, performance will surely deteriorate and over the long-term the likelihood of burnout will increase.

“Whether for a full vacation or simply over a weekend, taking a break from the bench or desk and unplugging completely from work and from work-related e-mail and social media will have a measurable positive impact on well-being and productivity upon returning to work.”

Though this is about those who work in academia, I fully believe that these practices could benefit anyone.

Another thing you might think about giving up is time in front of the TV or computer screen.

I never knew this, but there is apparently a set time to “unplug” called Screen-Free Week.

This year, Screen-Free Week is held on April 29-May 5, which is after the Lenten season, but why not move it up a few weeks?

In 2018, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley published an article about the benefits of unplugging from screens.

The article stated that those who give up screen time, from TVs to phones, experienced more present-moment awareness, slept better, made deeper connections with others and had better performance at work or school.

Who wouldn’t want those things?

There may be other practices, foods or material items you wish to give up over 40 days or longer. Because of this, I found an article on realbuzz.com that briefly mentions how giving up certain items could be good for you.

For instance, you can think more clearly and reduce wrinkles slightly if you give up excess sugar, or you can have an improved memory if you quit smoking.

You can save money by giving up alcohol, and you may find yourself happier if you ditch the junk food.

Now, of course, I’m talking about this because of the Lenten season, but fasting is good at any time of the year, I think.

In fact, some people don’t wait until the Lenten season to give up something for a period of time. I’ve already seen people in my social media newsfeeds that have been talking about giving up things like social media, a certain food and more.

So, while fasting is primarily a practice done by those with evangelical beliefs, it wouldn’t hurt anybody to give up something for a little while. You never know what you might learn from the experience.

Cassie Gibbs is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at cgibbs@southeastsun.com.

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