Pursue High-quality Leisure
If I stop mindlessly surfing the internet, what am I going to do all day?
A friend of mine recently told me that he was scared of stopping playing video games and surfing the Internet, because he didn’t know what else to do.
Maybe you’ve been “online” for so long that you have no idea what to do when you’re not online.
As we’ve argued here, pursuing high-quality leisure is not only relaxing but helps you build up your life by creating a more resilient identity for yourself.
This is a checklist of things to do when you want to relax instead of mindlessly consuming entertainment like social media, Netflix, video games.
For some people, it might seem totally banal but this is exactly the state of where I was.
When I tried to replace the cheap-dopamine activities, I realized my life was empty and without anything except work.
At that time, I was unable to stay with my thoughts. I used the cheap dopamine to numb myself so I wouldn’t have to think about the difficult decisions ahead of me.
So I often tried to work more but that’s not ideal. Not giving yourself enough time to relax can lead to burnout. A state where one would engage in cheap dopamine activities for days on end and avoid anything related to work.
Distracted? Can’t focus? Go on a walk - explore your neighborhood or nature nearby.
Tired? Take a nap or if it’s evening go to bed early (if you’re avoiding going to bed early, read this)
Feeling lonely or sad? Call a friend.
Overwhelmed? Take a piece of paper and a pen and start writing things down. It might be all the tasks you have to do or just your feelings about a certain topic. Often if you worry about something and start writing it down, the problem becomes much clearer and often is resolved easily.
Not only does moving in any way make your body healthier, but it also helps you clear your mind and makes you more resilient. Remember, even once a week is better than zero.
Which activity you pick depends on what interests you.
Even simple walking counts. If you have ready access to nature, go there. Go hiking. Or ride a bike.
If you’re not a professional athlete - movement should be mainly fun. If it’s fun for you, you do it more often. If you do it more often, you get into better shape and start feeling better. You don’t have to go to the gym if you don’t like it. Try doing different kinds of sports, yoga, swimming, dancing, or martial arts.
Here's a list of Olympic sports for more inspiration.
Learning can be the ultimate time-filler especially when there’s no work to do.
There are 3 main areas you can focus on:
- Improve yourself
Seek out new experiences, go to interesting places, meet interesting people for coffee, or start a journal and reflect on the big questions in life.
There are books on just about everything. Some are entertaining, some are instructional, some are philosophical. Pick whichever genre one you’re most likely to stick to. Reading is an activity that can broaden your horizons in many different ways.
- Learn a marketable skill (design, programming, copywriting, foreign language, or a trade skill).
See if you can find an interesting online course on any given topic.
- Pick up a new hobby
If you want to pick up a new hobby (like DIY repairs, sewing, guitar, writing), but are looking for inspiration, be sure to check out this list.
We eat every day, so it’s quite handy to learn more about the subject.
Improve your cooking skills or learn to cook. You can for example:
Learn to do meal prep ahead of time. It’ll save you money and help you eat healthier.
Understand cooking principles - this book is a great place to start.
Get into fermenting food - make your own kimchi, pickles... (Sidenote: fermented foods are great for us).
Start baking. Cookies, brownies, pies, or if you want to eat healthy then learn to make sourdough bread. There are 1000s of possibilities.
Invite friends over to cook with them / for them - if you have the space.
You may have noticed that almost everything above is about action, creating something, or learning to create something. We don’t want to necessarily say that consuming entertainment automatically means it’s bad.
Some of it is actually high-quality leisure. The problem is when things go wrong and we binge on something, can’t moderate our behavior and shirk all the other responsibilities. We call it the risk of compulsivity. The things that have lower risk of compulsivity are following:
Playing board games with other people in person
Reading books or listen to audiobooks
- Listening to a good podcast
Hardcore History is pretty amazing.
- Going to a theatre or cinema
If you go to a movie theater, it’s an occasion with a predefined beginning (+15 minutes for commercials) and end. One has to dress up and go out - so the probability of binging movies in the cinema is low.
- Visiting museum, art gallery, zoo,...
All of the above are high-quality options, but what if they are too expensive or boring?
In that case, do the regular cheap dopamine activities with one rule - it has to be with someone else in person. This rule usually ensures that you don’t over-consume, and additionally that you will socialize with the person:
- Watch a show or a movie
- Play a video game with a friend
- Watch a sports game
Having another person there creates a sense of real social connection that many of us lack these days.
Find a better way to fill the vacuum
So there you have it, these are some actionable and accessible ways to fill your leisure time. Yes, they might take a bit more effort than passive scrolling on your phone, but they will also be infinitely more gratifying.
We can’t be productive 24/7. We need to relax. But it matters how we do it. Choose your leisure activities well.