Take a “Wellness Journey” During Lent

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By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 

And so begins Lent. Lent is a time to prepare; a time to be willing to change; to become aware of the things in our lives that come between us and God. As a child, my Catholic neighbors always “gave something up” for Lent. I seemed to think that this was a good idea, even though I didn’t know why I was doing it. Usually it was something like candy or ice cream. Over the years I came to understand that the purpose of giving something up for Lent was really a form of fasting–depriving ourselves of something special or an indulgence as a sacrifice to God. I continued “giving something up”…until a few years ago. I still make a change at the time of Lent, but don’t really believe in just giving something up. Instead I consider making a change as a way of bringing myself closer to God. Sure, it may include not doing something I did before, but I consider it making a positive change in my life. I frequently think about the Bible verse above. Is what I am doing, treating my body as the temple that God considers it to be?
This year, I invite you to take a wellness journey during Lent. Below you will find 40 things that you can do to make a positive change in your health and wellness. They are divided into different categories: Movement, nutrition, emotional/well-being, faith and other. Here’s how you can do it: 1) Pick one different thing every day to put into practice in your life (we can all make a change for one day, right?) or 2) Pick one thing and do that thing for one week and then pick a different thing the next week, or 3) Pick one thing and do that during the entire season of Lent (and hopefully beyond). Don’t see anything you like on this list? Pick your own thing(s) to change. Why stop with Lent? Continue your new habit indefinitely or continue to try something new every day or every week or every month. Let’s use this Lenten season to make yourself the best you for the glory of the Lord.
Movement:
• Walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while watching TV.
• Go for a walk with a friend.
• Stretch for 5 minutes in the morning.
• Use the stairs—walk three flights today.
• Park in the spot farthest away from where you are going.
• Attend an exercise class.
• Get up from your desk every hour and walk down the hall.
• Try yoga.
Nutrition:

• Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. 
• Drink at least 64 ounces of water.
• Eat slowly. Put down your fork between bites.
• Avoid eating foods with added sugar.
• Reduce your sodium intake by taking the salt shaker off the table.
• Take home half of your restaurant meal to eat the next day.
• Read labels on items at the grocery store.
• Avoid sweetened beverages and diet pop.
• Learn healthy portion sizes of the foods you eat and practice portion control.
• Avoid fried food, fast food, and commercially baked goods—eliminate trans fats and reduce saturated fats.
Emotional/Well-being:
• Get 8 hours of sleep.
• Write in a journal.
• Practice positive self-talk. For example, say, “I can do this” instead of “I will never be able to finish this”.
• Avoid “screen time” for at least two hours before bedtime.
• Set a specific bedtime and stick with it during Lent.
• Call a friend you haven’t spoken with recently and arrange a time to meet.
• Forgive someone.
• Give back—volunteer your time or energy or donate to something you care about.
• Start a gratitude journal—each day write down one thing you are grateful for.
• Perform a random act of kindness.
• Laugh!
Faith:
• Wake up 15 minutes early to pray.
• Turn off the radio/television/ computer and sit in silent reflection for at least five minutes.
• Read a devotion every day during Lent.
• Read the Gospel of Mark.
• Attend church services on Sundays and Wednesdays.
• As a family place all of your spare change in a jar during Lent and use it for the Easter offering.
• Invite someone to attend church with you.
Other:
• Eliminate toxic chemicals in and around your home by using greener cleaning solutions.
• Clean out the expired medications in your home.
• Check to see if you are due for health screenings and contact your primary care provider to schedule.
• Protect your skin from the sun—wear sunscreen.
Content for this “Wellness Journey” adapted from My Lenten Wellness Journey, O’Hara Catholic School, Eugene, Oregon and 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal (2012).