“Giving something up for Lent” is a common practice but it really isn’t a “must do” practice.
The three traditional pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. “Giving something up” is a form of fasting but, in my opinion, it’s better to do something in each of the categories.
Prayer can take many forms. Extra attendance at Mass, praying the Rosary, starting a new practice like the Liturgy of the Hours or Lectio Divina, going on a retreat, reading Scripture or other spiritual material.
Fasting might include avoiding food, but also giving up TV or Internet time, social media, fasting from bad habits such as gossip.
Almsgiving is charity which might mean monetary donations or some kind of charitable practice like helping an elderly neighbor or gathering food for a food pantry.
Sometimes practices combine and reinforce each other. If someone gives up television for Lent, they might use the time gained for extra prayer or charitable activities. If you fast from your daily stop at Starbucks you might donate the money you’ve saved to charity.
In all of these activities, it’s important to keep in mind WHY we are doing them. It’s not just to make ourselves miserable for six weeks. It’s to bring us closer to God. One of the readings on Ash Wednesday makes this clear::
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God (Joel 2:12-13).
Lent is a time to refashion our hearts. I think of it as a time for spiritual New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of promising to exercise our bodies, we exercise our souls and build up our spiritual strength.