Agora Wellness Series: Alternative Lent

We gave Advent the Agora treatment, now it’s Lent’s turn. If we’re honest, for many of us, Lent has become a way of temporarily giving up something we love – usually food or drink – in the name of ‘health’ or ‘self-discipline’ – a few weeks where we can try to lose a few lbs, or ‘clean up’ our diet. But is giving up your morning coffee fix or evening Cadbury’s bar really adding anything to your life? Abstaining from your favourite treat for 40 days might be noble, but are you really getting anything out of it? I’ve certainly never noticed any lasting, meaningful self-improvement from giving up chocolate. Which is why this year, Agora is shifting the focus from what you could ‘give up’ to what you could GAIN – what could we do this Lent that would make us better, healthier, happier, more productive versions of ourselves? We’ve come up with some (hopefully less dreary) alternatives to the usual Lenten choices:

  1. Sign up to something new. Start a class – life-drawing, aerial yoga, Wing Chung (the only martial art founded by a woman, btw!). It’s easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same old things, but there might be something out there that you’ve never tried before that could be bringing a whole lot of enjoyment and satisfaction to your life.


You gain: A new social group. New experiences. New skills. Improved fitness.


  1. Take your lunch break!! Tapping away on your keyboard between mindless bites of a sandwich, sound familiar? You might think that having lunch at your desk is helping you get more done, but it’s actually more likely to increase stress and reduce productivity by not allowing your mind the break it needs. Plus, the monotony of sitting at your desk for hours on end is not conducive to creativity. So stretch your legs, get some fresh air and take a proper break. You could read. Nap. Run errands. Stroll around the park. Fit in a workout. Anything other than work. Trust us, it will leave you feeling refreshed, less stressed and ready to take on the afternoon.


You gain: Mental clarity. Renewed focus. New ideas.  


  1. ‘Lent’ your time to loved ones. Commit to spending quality time with your family or friends at least once a week throughout Lent. It could be a meal, a movie, a trip to a museum. Whatever it is, the memories you make will surely last way beyond Lent. Or you could try volunteering. Lending your time to others has been shown to improve overall happiness and wellbeing.


You gain: An enriched sense of purpose. Strengthened personal relationships. Personal satisfaction. Memories.


  1. Give up the snooze button. Ok, so this one is about giving something up, but you’ll gain a lot in the process! Avoid the frantic morning rush and just GET UP! Put your alarm clock out of reach, if you need to. Go to bed a bit earlier and make it all about the mornings instead. You could try a sober morning rave with Morning Gloryville, or enjoy a nice, leisurely breakfast. Also, hitting the snooze button can actually leave you feeling more tired, as it wrecks your sleep quality – so you’ll be less groggy too!


You gain: Time! Pre-9am achievement. A greater sense of calm and control. Better-quality sleep.


  1. Swap your phone for a book. Instead of staring at another screen before you go to bed, bury your nose in the pages of a good book. Reading is known to reduce stress, boost brain power and improve memory. Plus, powering down your devices before bed is good sleep hygiene!


You gain: A chance to immerse yourself in another world. Knowledge. Calm.


  1. Take a different route to work once a week. You might discover something new – a beautiful building, a cool shop, a nice café.


You gain: A fresh perspective. Potentially some good coffee.


I am Emma Watkins, the Founder of Agora. My career began at systematic Investment Manager, Winton Capital Management, where I developed and ran the Charity, Sponsorship, Brand and Events Department. After 5 years, I moved on to become Operations Director at Fifty Media, a technology company focused on large scale analysis of social media data to redefine how brands fundamentally understand and engage their customers.