When was the last time you spent significant time away from a screen? Do you have any screen-free hobbies? Most of us need to look at screens for work or school, but many of us also unwind by looking at our phones or tablets in our free time. This is true year-round for lots of folks, but it can be especially tempting in the winter months. In the winter, it can feel like you do nothing but stare into the digital abyss because it’s too miserable outside to do much of anything else.

Instead, it can actually be an act of self-care to cultivate some screen-free hobbies to give yourself a break. 

Not to sound like a cliche, but remember the good old days before we all had a phone to stare at all day long? Obviously, technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, and we’ve had to keep up the best that we can. One place that many folks find themselves lost is trying to find hobbies that make them feel fulfilled, without resorting to even more time in front of a screen. The default for many (including us, sometimes!) is to just flip through apps mindlessly until we move onto something else, but that doesn’t tend to leave people feeling rejuvenated or relaxed. In fact, constant screen time can lead to headaches, eye strain, sleep issues, neck and shoulder pain, and even tendonitis. 

Remember, screen time is pretty much unavoidable for most of us at this point, so it’s not a bad thing if you find yourself in front of a screen regularly.

However, in order to minimize the negative effects of screentime and to expand your interests, developing some screen-free hobbies can be helpful. 

One way to rediscover screen-free hobbies is to think back on what you liked when you were a child. What kind of activities did you enjoy? Were you always working on an art project? Did you play sports outside with your friends? Did you spend all day curled up with a book? Use your memories of what made you happy as a child to guide you now. You might find that you have similar interests as an adult as you did when you were a child! This can also be a great way to tend to your inner child. 

Take stock of what your current lifestyle is like. What hobbies do you make space for in your life? How many of these did you consciously decide on? Or are you just following your routine, even though you don’t really like any of the things you do to keep busy? 

Here are some ideas for scree-free hobbies that you can try:

Print your photos

You can do tons of things with physical prints of your photos. You can make a gallery wall in your home, hang some snapshots on the fridge, fill up some frames, or make a scrapbook of your memories, just to name a few. There’s something so satisfying about holding a physical photo in your hands, and it can make your camera roll feel a little more meaningful when you 

Explore nature

Do you like to hike? See if your city has any cool trails that you haven’t explored yet. This is a great activity to do solo or with other folks. If you’re not big on the woods or hiking, see if you can find a local park or walking path that works for you. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with exploring nature by sitting outside with a good book and nothing else to do. 

Join Meetup

Okay this seems like cheating, because Meetup is a website/app. However, Meetup is a social networking service where folks with similar interests can form groups and do activities together, so the end result is still less screentime! There are probably lots of other places to find local events (Facebook, the local chamber of commerce, and community centers come to mind) so do some exploring and find one that works for you. 

Catch up with a friend

In person or on the phone. If you’re having a phone conversation with someone, you don’t need to stare at the screen the whole time. Catching up with a friend might not seem like much of a hobby, but cultivating and maintaining your relationships can be fulfilling and keep them strong at the same time. 

Try a new craft

Even if you’re not a big crafter, spend an evening exploring a creative activity that you’ve never tried before. You might find something you’re good at or interested in, and worst case scenario, you will learn what doesn’t work for you. Some crafts to try: embroidery, crochet, knitting, calligraphy, drawing, watercolors, origami, macrame, painting, and collage art. 

Learn to take care of plants

Whether you have the space for a garden or not, a new plant to take care of can be a great break from screen time. If you like working with your hands, gardening might be a nice way to do something productive and satisfying, and plus you’ll have tons of pretty plants to look at! 

Volunteer

Sure, some volunteer gigs are data entry or screen-focused, but there are also a lot of charitable activities that don’t require any screen time. Try serving food at a shelter, helping collect food for a food bank, walk dogs at a humane society, spend some time with elderly folks who could use a friend. It’s a cliche for a reason – volunteering really does feel rewarding! 

Journaling

Keeping a journal is a nice way to intentionally reflect on your life. Journals can be as fancy or as simple as you want. You can use it like a bullet journal, and keep lots of lists, or you can free write page after page (or somewhere in the middle). Developing a journaling practice gives you a built in opportunity to check in with yourself and it can give you space to process your thoughts and feelings. 

Remember, it’s not realistic to expect yourself to eliminate screen time cold turkey. And that’s probably not necessary, anyway! Life is about finding balance, and consciously developing some screen-free hobbies can be a nice way to balance out any screen time you do get. If you need guidance in developing some screen-free hobbies, our therapists at Urban Wellness can assist you! Reach out today.