What should I give up for Lent?

Every year, Lent seems to sneak up on me…one week we’re wishing each other “Happy Chinese New Year!” and all of a sudden Ash Wednesday rolls around and I find myself in an internal frenzy trying to decide exactly what to do for Lent. This season of penance is a great opportunity to make more room for God in our lives, as we prepare to remember and celebrate the greatest mysteries of our faith: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

There’s no one “right” way to do Lent, and it’s going to look different for everyone. This is your chance to take a reflect on the areas where you personally struggle, and turn away from sin and towards Jesus through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Here are some basic ideas for each of the pillars of Lent; try choosing one thing from each pillar! Choose Lenten practices that would ultimately draw you closer to our Lord and prepare your heart for Holy Week.


  • Follow along with a Lenten devotional like the one from Blessed Is She

  • Follow along with Lent reflections via email

  • Reflect on the daily Gospel reading

  • Go to daily Mass an extra day or two outside of Sunday

  • Pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet

  • Pray the Examen at the end of your day

  • Go to Holy Hour or Stations of the Cross

  • Do 10 minutes of spiritual reading each day

  • Lectio Divina

  • Add dedicated quiet time to your schedule each day

  • Start journaling

  • Pray specifically for a different person in your life each day


  • Fast from social media like Facebook/Instagram, or set a time limit on those apps

  • Fast from Netflix

  • Fast from all media including TV, music, and podcasts

  • Fast from your snooze button

  • Abstain from alcohol

  • Abstain from soda/sweet drinks

  • Abstain from meat on an additional day like Wednesday

  • Limit your shower time

  • Limit your phone use at night

  • Fast from filling in silence with music

  • Fast from music with inappropriate/suggestive lyrics

  • Fast from unnecessary purchases

  • Fast from overstuffing your calendar

  • Give up flaking and follow through on your commitments

  • Give up overworking and abstain from checking your work email after hours

  • Give up speeding

  • Give up online shopping


  • Donate to a charity each week

  • Serve at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen

  • Greet the homeless when you see them

  • Spend time with those who are lonely or forgotten

  • Set aside money saved from not buying unnecessary things and donate it at the end to Catholic Charities or another charity

  • Write an affirmation note for someone each day of Lent

  • Write down 3 things you’re thankful for at the end of each day

  • Show an act of kindness to your family or roommates each day

  • Participate in the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and give up your stuff

  • Give your time and participate in 40 Days for Life

Still need ideas for what to give up and take up?

One word of advice: Make it doable. Often, we can be overly ambitious and commit to way too much. We start with the best of intentions, aiming to become the ultimate spiritual ninja…but when we inevitably can’t keep up, we grow discouraged. When we set unrealistic goals, we may be tempted to give up completely. Keep your commitments modest and practical, and your Lent will be better for it!

Again, Lent is not about getting it perfectly right. Just do your best, and when you fail in your commitments, let your failure be a lesson in humility and just get up and try again the next day. Ask the Holy Spirit how He wants to make you more like Jesus, and then follow that prompting in your Lenten practices.