For most of us, life in lockdown has resulted in a surcharge in screen time, leaving us feeling overwhelmed by endless social media scrolling and checking the news. To help combat the stay-home blues, Mikaela Loach gives a crash course in creating positive habits for spending time offline.
Let me start with a disclaimer: this isn’t going to be an article which will make you feel bad about how you’re using this time. These are unprecedented circumstances. We’re literally going through a global pandemic. There is no right way to deal with this. These are just a few tips that have helped me – in both pre-pandemic times and now – feel a lot less anxious and a lot more mindful.
I just really want to make it clear that right now you should be doing whatever is good for you personally to stay sane. No comparison to others: we’re all different. I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve stuck to all of these things. My screen time is currently through the roof, and I’ve definitely picked up some bad practices. But, sticking to a few of these tips to create some boundaries with my phone and some more space in my brain has been essential.
So, here are a few tips to help those offline habits stick.
First things first, set some boundaries with your tech
Get an alarm clock. You might have an old one you bought years ago you can dig out from somewhere. I got a second hand Lumie alarm clock for Christmas and it has really helped with my sleep. Using something which isn’t my phone as my alarm clock has really helped me break the habit of waking up and immediately starting to scroll. It leaves the morning as a sacred time to slowly wake up rather than being immediately hit by everything that’s going on in the world and messages demanding your attention as soon as you arise.
Create some sort of boundary with your phone. I’m privileged that where I live I have a living room, so I am able to enforce a no-phone-in-the-bedroom rule. If you can’t do that, even a no-phone-in-bed rule is a good one to stop early morning or late night scrolling habits. Try turning your phone off at the same time every night and leaving it to charge in a different room, the hallway or even just at the other side of your room.
Create a boundary with watching TV shows / films. For Lent, I gave up watching Netflix on my own (can still watch with others in person or via Netflix Party!) and it has really helped me spend more time away from screens. I find it’s a lot more fun to watch things with people, as sharing the experience of watching something is much more social. As someone who can easily disappear into binge watching series on Netflix, setting this boundary has freed up a lot more time to do other things.
It’s all about finding other things to do
Often friends of mine have said that they don’t think they could implement these boundaries as it would leave too much empty time to just well, think! Here are a few things I do in this extra time, which help contribute to keeping my mind in a good place.
Get back into reading. I’d really got out of the habit of reading fiction for fun. For my degree I do a lot of academic reading so at the end of the day my tired brain would reach for an easy-to-digest Netflix series rather than a book. Creating boundaries with my tech has forced me back into the arms of fiction and golly gosh I forgot how good it is to get lost in a book. You have to train yourself to get back into reading, but once you’ve got it back it’s a really wonderful way to end your day and get your brain ready for sleep (blue light free!). Audiobooks are also a great way to tap into some literature if you’re feeling tired.
One trick is to tell yourself that you have to spend a certain amount of time doing something you enjoy offline before you can turn your phone on in the morning. For me, I have to make myself a really delicious breakfast, eat it and have a boogie in the kitchen before I can start using my phone for the day. These are just small things, but they ensure the morning is started on a good note. It makes me feel much more ready to be part of the online world.
Try that hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Mend your clothes, try some cross stitch, knitting, cook, journal or paint. Do something that you’re doing just for fun. Not to tell someone you’ve done it or to feel a sense of achievement, but purely for the enjoyment it brings.
This isn’t a list of stringent instructions: they’re suggestions and examples of things that have worked for me. We’re all different so different things will work for all of us. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been perfect about sticking to all of these boundaries all of the time or even that adding them to my life has made me some wonderfully perfect, enlightened person. They’ve just each helped me deal with anxiety a little bit more, and each little bit adds up. Give yourself (and your brain) a break.
See our pick of the best creative home activities for a weekend in quarentine.
Get some more inspiration for low-carbon hobbies to do in your newfound free time.