Lent starts today, and I’m pumped. This week I am applying brain science strategies to help us to get organized and to overcome the most common reasons Lenten plans typically fall apart.
First, rather than just focusing on stressful religious practices (i.e., “I’m going to fast and go to church on Fridays), ensure that our goal for Lent is to grow a harvest of loving relationships. Let’s focus on “pruning” away things that dull or suffocate our spiritual hearts, and “planting” things that grow and produce love. (Remember, if Lent is making us more irritable or hard to be around, then we are doing it wrong!)
Second, rather than making general commitments (i.e., I’m going to try to be more patient’”), make our Lenten commitments clear and measurable. Remember, you can only manage what you measure! To help us to get and stay organized I created this basic Lenten Journey Scorecard. You can download it for free.
Third, rather than ignoring the underlying feelings that fuel our numbing behaviors, plant new behaviors to deal with the underlying drivers of things you are pruning. For example…
- Coffee stimulates our nervous system, but also can make our minds overactive and unable to meditate comfortably. (This is why many veteran meditators quit stimulants altogether.) So, if you plan to “prune” away coffee, consider replacing it by “planting” green or Yerba mate (my favorite) teas, which have less than half the caffeine of coffee, and/or do moderate exercise, which stimulates our brain better than coffee, anyway.
- Alcohol helps us to relax and “wind down” at the end of the day but it also numbs our awareness of our feelings about the day, including what was happening on a deeper, more spiritual level. So, consider “pruning” alcohol and “planting” another de-stressing technique, such as a brief guided meditation, Jesus-focused yoga or a walk around the block while you pray through your day.
As you can see from my Lenten Journey Scorecard, I suggest that we focus the first week on simply pruning one or two behaviors, then planting a positive behavior that will support us. In the subsequent weeks I’ll offer suggestions about how to simplify and deepen our connections with ourselves, with close family and with our community. You can also follow me on Twitter (@DrTimHogan) for regular positive tips and encouragement.