Tired of whiny status updates and thinly veiled bragging? Forget Facebook – do these 20 things instead.
Be honest: How many times do you check Facebook throughout the day? Whenever you’re bored, you log in, scrolling through the news feed to see your friend complaining about work for the thousandth time this week, your cousin bragging about her glorious Caribbean vacation and a high school classmate’s cheerful, disgustingly detailed potty training updates. You leave an inane comment on a photo, roll your eyes at your uncle’s misguided Tea Party political posts and log out feeling irritable and annoyed. Why do we do this to ourselves? Facebook can be great for keeping up with friends and family, but there are so many ways that we could use that time that would actually be beneficial to our well-being.
Think Facebook isn’t a big time-sink in your life? Try adding it up. The average U.S. Facebook user logged a rather horrifying seven hours and 46 minutes per month as of August 2011, and that figure has probably risen since then. Imagine if you spent all of that time on something that makes you feel genuinely happy, grounded and relaxed. Here are 20 suggestions, from letter-writing to exploring your neighborhood.
Read a Book
Preferably something that doesn’t involve politics or potty training. There are few things better than getting lost in a good book, and the drama in the storyline will be infinitely more satisfying than the drama of your Facebook friends.
Write a Letter
The internet and ever-increasing postage rates have made letter-writing a lost art. Even those of us who consider ourselves writers are relying far too much on the computer, when writing a personal note in our own hand and sending it by mail would feel so much more authentic.
Take a Walk
Perhaps the fetid air and dim fluorescent lighting of your office have dulled your senses, or you’ve been sitting in front of that computer so long you’ve forgotten, but there’s a whole world out there, and it’s awfully beautiful. Stretch your legs and get some sunlight on your skin and you’ll return feeling energetic and inspired.
Talk to a Stranger
On Facebook we tend to be stuck in our limited social circles, and it’s true that it’s really not a great idea to “friend” any random stranger that sends you a request. But in the real world, there are dozens of opportunities every day for you to meet someone new and interesting. Compliment someone on their outfit, laugh about the long line at the coffee shop or stop that woman who smiles at you every morning when you cross each other on the street.
Cook a Good Meal
“But I don’t have time to cook anything other than microwave soup,” you protest, as you sit down in front of your laptop with that nasty mug of MSG mess. Liar. Not every meal takes a lot of time to prepare. You can whip yourself up a simple meal made of whole, fresh ingredients in the amount of time that you’d normally be staring listlessly at your computer screen.
Pet An Animal
There’s a reason why animals are often used for therapeutic purposes. Just petting an animal can lower your blood pressure and make you feel less stressed. Call your cat over for a cuddle, spend a few minutes playing with your dog or make a visit to the animal shelter just to brighten a homeless pet’s day.
Call Someone You Love
Oh, look at that, your cousin Sarah just announced her pregnancy on Facebook. Instead of just “liking” her post, why not give her a call? Sure, Facebook makes it easy and convenient to keep up with everyone, and can actually save time and foster more interaction with your friends and family. But it’s not a total replacement for phone calls and face time (whether we’re talking in person or FaceTime, copyright Apple Inc.)
Read Something Smart
The internet is chock full of gossip sites, bad news and trolls who would just love to ruin your day. But there are plenty of blogs and websites that offer inspiring, intelligent and thought-provoking articles. Take fifteen minutes to read something that will make you say “wow” in a good way. A few notable ideas include The Atlantic, This is Colossal, GOOD, and, of course, EcoSalon. (You knew that was coming, right?)
Make Yourself Laugh
Then again, if reading celebrity gossip makes you smile, go for it. Indulge in some low-brow humor. Laugh at other people’s horrifying AutoCorrects, snarky takes on bad fashion or semi-literate cat photo captions. And if you end up at The Onion, Funny or Die or Cracked, make sure your boss isn’t around, because you aren’t going to be able to control yourself.
Write Down Your Thoughts
When’s the last time you took a moment to write in a journal, or even just scrawl a few thoughts on a paper napkin? It doesn’t have to be something that you dedicate yourself to every day; just writing out what’s on your mind can sometimes provide clarity and perspective that can help you solve problems and move forward.
Catch Some Culture
We’re all more interesting and well-rounded when we’re exposed to arts and culture on a regular basis. Get out and see a play, go to an art opening, join a book club, enjoy an improv group or sample your region’s local specialties. Isn’t that more fun than staring at a computer screen?
Even if you’re at work. Just a few minutes a day can make you feel more limber and relaxed. Yoga Journal has six stretches you can do at your desk, and none of them are the sort of thing that will have your co-workers raising their eyebrows. If you’re at home, get yourself a beginner’s yoga DVD and give yourself some quiet time to focus on your own well-being.
Organize Your Desk
If you instinctively avoid the right side of your top desk drawer because you know you left an orange in there about six months ago and never retrieved it, it’s about time to tackle that. It’ll make you feel so much better. Even if you’re not quite at the five-year-old candy bar and moldy fruit level, simply organizing your papers and making everything look nice and tidy can be a relief.
Take a Class
If you’re like the average person and really spend eight hours a month on Facebook, you could easily take that time to learn something new for two hours a week. Check out the continuing education courses at your local community college or other learning opportunities in your area. You could be learning how to knit, play an instrument, salsa dance or write poetry.
That same eight hours would be a huge boon to any number of organizations in your community that are hurting for help. Wildlife rehabilitation centers, animal shelters, litter clean-up groups, homeless shelters and activists for causes of all kinds would love to have you dedicate four hours of your time, every other week.
Have a Picnic
Even if you aren’t going any farther than the little park down the street, getting out for a picnic feels like a mini vacation. Make yourself something fun, like a bento box or a romantic meal for one. Hey. You deserve it.
Catch Up on Email
Chances are, your inbox is practically overflowing with unread or unanswered messages, whether they’re from friends and family members, or just junk. Take a few minutes to go through it and respond to those that deserve attention, drop all of those newsletters you want to save into a separate folder and unsubscribe from the unwanted junk mail. You’ll feel less stressed within minutes.
Do Something Creative
Don’t say you aren’t the creative type – you have it in you, whether you let yourself believe it or not. Even if you’re just doodling, scrapbooking or adding some pretty garnishes to a meal, it’s good for the brain and the soul.
Explore Your Neighborhood
You drive through it every day, and you think you know it, but unless you’ve taken a nice, slow walk through it with your eyes wide open, you haven’t really discovered it yet. There could be a nature trail you don’t know about, a perfect bench for reading or some berry bushes just begging to be harvested (and urban foraging is fun!)
Put on some noise-canceling headphones, play relaxing, repetitive music, close your eyes and relax your body. Focus on your breath until the chatter in your mind fades away. If it helps, visualize a calming place, like a mountaintop, a secret garden or the sea. Once you learn to clear your mind, meditation can be your best defense against the irritations of everyday life.