Room to Improve

by Michelle Martin

We are almost at that time of the year again. The time where many of us begin to taste the bitter, sugarless, childhood memory that is five weeks without sweets.

I will admit, like so many of us who grew up in Ireland, I to have grown accustomed to associating Lent with negativity; forced religion and a non-understanding of why we had to change our beloved habits for forty whole days, and forty whole nights.

When really, religion aside, lent serves as nothing more than a healthy reminder that we can always be a bit better. Here are just a few things you could do throughout the month of March that could only bring positive change to your life.

At the very core of the concept, give up something. If you’ have been dying to cut down the smokes, great. If you want to swap your nightly 3-in-1’s for the cash equivalent, here’s your motivation. If you are a ‘perfect on paper’ non-smoker, who exercises daily and eats nothing but greens, give up something anyways.

Whatever your reasons are, it’s not important. Self-control acts the same way a muscle does, if you do not use it, you will lose it. Studies have shown that those with good self-control have a larger decision making capacity, as well as better focus and impulse control (not that that is anything new).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, take up something. We can all think of a hobby or skill that we have wanted to hone in on for a while, but the daily grind of college-work-home (sesh) gets in the way, or at least that is what we tell ourselves. For the coming month, I encourage you to, nay, I challenge you to pick up that guitar, or jump on that uni-cycle, for just one evening a week and see where it takes you.

Not only do hobbies expand your thinking in a new area and possibly connect you with a new community, but studies show that external focus on something you enjoy are associated with lower blood pressure, body mass index, as well as lower levels of depression. Mind, body and soul, is that not what they say.

Having said all that, hobbies are something we can take pleasure from all year round. The idea of a Lent-like challenge presents an opportunity to take it one step further and do something we would not be pushed to do otherwise. As college students one month into second semester, one thing we could push ourselves to do it extra-curricular reading twice a week.

It always seems unnecessary now but we are constantly kicking ourselves when we realise the workload in January and May. Apparently it takes just twenty-one days to make something a habit so that is just half of the whole forty days-forty nights thing.

In keeping with the idea of self-improvement, I also recommend giving meditation a go. Throw your image of a crossed legged hippie and the chant ‘ooohhm’ out the window and look at the information for a second. Our ancestors cracked onto the benefits of meditation early, I’m talking ‘BC’ time periods.

But scientists have only recently found that the practice deactivates the part of the brain that is thought to be responsible for brain ‘noise’, unnecessary and distracting trains of thought, as well as reducing intrusive thoughts that come into our heads when we are trying to concentrate.

Nowadays there are so many free apps to teach you to take a just five minutes for yourself each day, so no excuses.

Lent is a concept that is foreign to many of us at this age, but the idea of challenging ourselves and improving ourselves is something that should not be shunned.

Michelle Martin

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