THE QUARANTINE EDITION!
As a mental health clinician, I am a huge proponent of living a screen-limited life. Too much screen time has been linked to anxiety and depression in teens, and I can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who readily admits that they are addicted to their phones. Screens are not inherently bad, but our relationship to them can become compulsive and unhealthy.
Unfortunately, being stuck inside all day makes it all too easy to spend our entire lives staring at a screen. Stop for a moment and think about how much of today day you spent in front of a screen, whether it was the computer, TV, phone, tablet or something else.
If we want to live a screen-limited life, we need to be intentional about cutting screen time, otherwise, we’ll find ourselves right back at square one. Having a go-to list of alternative behaviors can help interrupt learned behavior and break the screen-addiction cycle.
Here are seventeen quarantine-compliant things to do instead of staring at a screen:
Beading: Make some necklaces or bracelets or door beads or any kind of jewelry or decorations you want. Don’t have a bead store in your town? My my local bead store does free shipping over $35!
Play board games: Dig up your old faves like Candyland, Crossfire or Tales of the Crystals . Thrift stores sell used board games for a few dollars each. Or make up your own original board game and bring it to life using cardboard, markers and other items around the house.
Make a birdhouse out of a milk carton: Or any other kind of material you want. Fill it with birdseed and set it outside. Watch for birds. They’re everywhere.
Practice a musical instrument: If you don’t play yet, noodle around with a fun and easy instrument like the harmonica, ukelele or a Casio keyboard. Make noises. Make up songs.
Create a collage: Dig up some old magazines (or newspapers or flyers or books), go through the pages and rip out whatever you instantly connect with. (Don’t think, just rip.) Cut out the parts you want and make a picture, or decorate an object like a box or a piece of furniture.
Take a walk: Gawk at the splendor of the natural world. Explore a street you’ve never been on before. People-watch.
Move Your Furniture: Rearrange your living space. Put the sofa on the opposite side of the room. Make the bed face the window instead of the door. Switch up the energy in your home.
Revamp Your Workspace: Clear your workspace, wipe off all the dust and cat/dog/Yeti fur. Return only half of the items that were there before to the desk (or fewer). Bring in one new object that makes you smile.
Write longhand: Writing doesn’t have to be typed to be sacred or important. Remember writing by hand in school? Get a pen and journal about your day or your crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. Write an old fashioned letter to a friend. They’ll be psyched to receive something real in a digital world.
Get a jump start on your most epic Halloween costume yet: Create an original costume with nothing but the materials you have at home and your innate costume-making skills. You may surprise yourself with the results.
Coloring books: Ha! I bet you thought I’d recommend adult coloring books, just like everyone else and their mom! (If you like adult coloring books, please continue to enjoy them.) My special twist on this is: make your own coloring books. Draw some pictures by hand on a blank piece of paper. Make it as simple or intricate as you want. Then color it. (Or have someone else color it. Or not.)
Read: A (literal) book. Many libraries have curbside pickup during Covid-19, so all you have to do is put a hold on your items and pick them up once they’ve been collected. If you don’t want to use the internet to reserve your books, you can always call and talk to a real person.
Call a friend and catch up: Forget Zoom, Facetime and Skype. Hearing another person’s voice on the other end of a phone is sacred in its own way.
Organize your closet: By color, season, practicality, you name it. Set up some outfits for your fall wardrobe. The autumn equinox was just yesterday (September 22), so hop to it!
Meditate: It’s 2020, you knew I’d suggest this. You don’t need an app, a video or a livestreamed sermon to meditate. Sit with both feet on the floor. Close or open your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath, going in and out. When your mind wanders to other things, bring your attention back to your breath. Congratulations, you’ve meditated.
Play with hair wax: You’re not living your best quarantine life until you’ve got the hair to prove it.
Learn a new dish: Use an actual cookbook. Maybe one you picked up at your local library?
Mess around with makeup: Practice a look you haven’t tried out in real life. Paint your face any way you want. Go crazy. Make up your own rules. Just for fun.
In creating this list, I realized that almost all of the items could involve the use of screens if desired: YouTube tutorials, online instructions, digital books, meditation apps, Zoom, Pinterest, and so on. This is part of why being intentional about performing these activities in a screen-limited (or even screen-absent) manner before jumping in is so important. For many of us, it has simply become a reflex to reach for Google or our phones to complete our daily activities. But remember that not so long ago we lived in an age where we didn’t have any of these things…and we were just fine.
Now it’s time for you to share your suggestions with me. What are your favorite, non-screen-related activities? How do you feel when you spend a little less of your day staring at a screen?