Life offers many opportunities for change. New Year’s Eve and birthdays provide opportunities to make external changes. Lent, on the other hand, encourages intentional self-reflection for internal growth. “Four areas to consider for intentional growth during Lent include intelligence, independence, health, and holiness,” explained Dr. Beth Plachetka, LCSW, EdD and owner of Safe Harbor Counseling. “Each of the areas, when neglected, can cause stress and tension and interfere with all aspects of mental health.”

Intelligence, the precursor to wisdom, is more than memorization of basic facts and information. Intelligence compares new information to personal experience and demands evaluation from the presenter’s perspective, experience, and motive.

“Independence is the foundation of responsibility,” added Dr. Plachetka. “The consequences of action or inaction, whether good or bad, can be claimed only when decisions are made independently, when outside influences are ignored, and no claims can be made on our loyalty, duty, or obligation.”

According to Dr. Plachetka, both physical health and relationship health require discipline. The health of a body requires disciplined patterns of exercise, sleep, and eating nutritious food. The health of relationships requires disciplined attention to the needs of the relationship.

“Holiness acknowledges the sacred,” she said. “It recognizes that some objects, thoughts, behaviors, actions, interactions, and relationships are set apart. These sacred things should be regarded with respect and reverence.”

For the next 40 days of Lent, Dr. Plachetka advises us to choose to develop intelligence with intentional questioning of information and the motives of the presenter, and postponing action until questions have been answered. We can strengthen our independence by not owing anybody anything. We can improve our health with disciplined decisions, deciding in advance what is needed, ignoring passing whims. Lastly, she advises recognizing holiness and experiencing the sense of awe that surrounds events and relationships that are special. Focusing on intelligence, independence, health, and holiness builds wisdom, responsibility, discipline, respect, and reverence.