In this special guest blog for Lent, Anna Stuttard who is Curate at Hornsey Parish Church in North London, explains how nurturing and engaging every part of her life, including her spirit, is key to making her #lentchallenge more successful. Whether you are religious or not, and whether you are giving up alcohol just for Lent or for the longer term, finding a way to engage your mind as well as your body can help you succeed in your personal goals too.
I’m not very good at giving things up. I’ve quit more diets and exercise programmes than I can count and my new year’s resolutions don’t last much past the first week. But here’s the thing – despite my evident lack of self-control and my general unwillingness to deprive myself of anything at all, it turns out I’m very good at giving things up for Lent.
This was a big surprise to me the first time I tried it – like I say, I’m not known for my abstinence and restraint, and I was, in all truth, expecting to return to my back-sliding ways and avoid the subject for a few weeks. But no – that first year I gave up sweets and chocolate and not so much as a Penguin biscuit passed my lips until Easter morning. Every year since then I’ve given things up, things I like, things that felt difficult to quit, and every year I’ve lasted until Easter.
I’ve given a lot of thought to why this might be. Some of the reasons I identified will be familiar to any Club Soda regular: it’s a fixed period of time, so it feels manageable; it’s something you do in a group, so you have the encouragement of other people; it’s a reason that people understand and will respect. But for me, there is one big difference, one key reason that I can stick to this particular resolution and fail at so many others – Lent, for me, is a religious observation.
I get that not everyone is religious, but stick with me for a moment, because there might be some truth here for you even so. The key moment for me was realising that making a change in my life meant engaging every part of my life, mind, body and – crucially – spirit. Thinking and doing weren’t enough for me to break the bad habits of a lifetime – being logical about wanting to improve my physical health for some reason didn’t provide sufficient motivation. What helped me to stick at abstinence was making it spiritual.
For me, as a Christian, this meant recognising that by turning away from drink I was turning towards God. It meant that when I said no to alcohol, I was committing myself to living a life more like the one that God wants me to live. It meant each request for a glass of elderflower instead of a G&T became a prayer, a moment of contact with the divine in my life.
Spiritual may look different to you. For me, prayer is a big part of giving up drink for Lent – for you it might be meditation or mindfulness. I dedicate my Lenten abstinence to God – you may want to offer up yours in a different expression of spirituality. But if there is space in your life for the non-logical, the mysterious, the divine, then maybe this Lent will be a good time for you to explore the sacred by giving up something very secular. Perhaps you will also find that the best way to be successful at abstinence is to recognise your need to flourish in mind, body and soul.
You may also be interested in the ten discoveries people have made from giving up alcohol for Lent. And if you think you may struggle taking a break from drinking, whether for Lent for any other reason, the Club Soda Sober Sprint online programme can really help. You can start it at any time, and the 30 days of emails, videos, articles and other content will take you through the process of planning for a month off booze, getting through it, and deciding where to go after.