February 01 2017
Health & Wellbeing/Sanity

36 Things to do Instead of Reading the Internet

The NY Times has always been my online go-to for distraction when I don’t feel like working.  It’s been a fairly innocuous habit up to now.  But in current news climate, my relatively healthy online habits have taken a serious nosedive, with waaaaay too frequent checking of the (deeply unsettling) news, as well as far too many trips to Facebook where I am disturbed by the comments of some of my closest family members.

My worst online twitch, by far, is Twitter, where the incoming data is like a machine gun firing in my face from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep.

None of this is good for a person.

Obviously we need to be informed citizens and kept abreast of information that will help us take action, if we are so inclined. And I am so inclined. But constant updates and dances with trolls will do a soul grave harm.  It’s difficult to look away when you believe passionately in certain ideals, but we must.  Because as quickly as things seem to be happening, many are illusory and inconsequential.  The really important things that are unfolding are still happening at a pace that a once daily read of the newspaper could probably keep you up to speed on.  Even the print version!  (Which has the old-timey benefit of fact-checking before the rush to print.)

Yes, connect with friends, sign up for events you want to attend, sign legitimate petitions and find tips for making your voice heard. Organize.  Donate.  Take action. But consuming toxic amounts of media is not the solution.  I, like some, find it hard to resist the urge to know everything, to bounce from one link to the next, willing the news to get better and just stewing over every outrageous twist.  It doesn’t help that I live in the media capital of the world, I work in communications and I have a blog. The deck is stacked against me.

My husband and I actually sat and watched cable news for like an hour the other night.

This is something we have not done together since people were standing on rooftops after Katrina. Yes I may tune into the news briefly, especially if something very grave is happening.  But when the kids are in bed and my husband and I are both done with the day’s affairs and ready to sit down and watch something together for an hour, it is never the news.  Unprecedented events have infiltrated our own living room!

At the end of the day, I know this mainlining of news will not help me be more effective in my response.  All it has accomplished is to put me into an awful, teetering frame of mind.  So I’m working on stepping back from the abyss. And I am pulling out every trick I can think of.  Not since the days of quitting smoking have I worked so hard to re-direct my brain.

Here are a few ideas I’ve had for things to do other than read the internet:

  1. Listen to music.
  2. Play music.  Piano is saving my soul right now.
  3. Color with your kids.
  4. Color on your own if you don’t have any kids. This.
  5. Log all those missed transactions into your YNAB.
  6. Play with your dog.  Or cat, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  7. Lose yourself in a great book.
  8. Work on a to do list.
  9. Then work on a “today” list.
  10. Merchandise your kids’ toys so that they are inspired to play with them again.
  11. Do a ten minute high intensity workout.
  12. Write some things on your calendar that too easily fall through the cracks, like game night.
  13. Look at school calendars.
  14. Look through your recipe book for meal inspiration.
  15. Work on a meal plan for the week.
  16. Make a list of people with upcoming birthdays who would be delighted and surprised by getting a birthday card in the mail.
  17. Do your non-perishable grocery shopping online — it’s cheaper.
  18. Go through your kids’ artwork and throw away anything you don’t intend to hand to them when they walk into their new home when they are married.
  19. Send a postcard to your Senator, Congressperson, or local representative, telling them why you agree or disagree with them on an issue you care about.
  20. Make a dentist appointment – you’ve put it off too long.
  21. Take a walk.  If it’s cold, bundle up.
  22. Plan a weekend trip, really far in advance.  No pressure, no stress.
  23. Delete all the saved items in your Amazon cart.
  24. Deal with all those items you keep meaning to return.
  25. Set up automatic transfers into your savings account.
  26. Unsubscribe to annoying emails.
  27. Research ways to volunteer.
  28. Plan a visit to whatever cultural institution is nearest to your home.
  29. Organize some socializing with neighbors.
  30. Throw a ball back and forth with your kid.
  31. Cancel something.  Anything.
  32. Mix up a simple pumpkin bread batter and throw it in the freezer. Pop it in the oven as soon as you wake up on a cold Saturday morning. This is the best thing ever.
  33. Look at the books on your shelf, pick up an old favorite and leaf through it.
  34. Delete crappy photos on your phone.
  35. Brush up on whatever language you studied at school, or at any point in life, and dream about traveling to that country one day.
  36. Try to sit quietly for even one minute and focus on your breath.

If all else fails, limit yourself to pretty pictures on Pinterest.  And for the love of God, never EVER read comments on trending Twitter posts.

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  • I get sucked into Twitter and Facebook more during the week for some reason. During the weekends I tend to listen to music or podcast more often. If I do surf I try and use it as a reward after I’ve completed by “to-do” list.

    • Me too for sure, because I am somewhat tethered to my computer all week long for work and my internet-fried brain craves constant distraction from the boredom of work. So many things to do around the house on the weekends, or fun things to do, I am less in that frame of mind and spend less time online. But all bets have kind of been off these past 2 weeks.

  • Great list!

    I haven’t been much of a Twitter user, so I’ve been letting it sit there inactive.

    Don’t forget to exercise and keep yourself fit! It’s also something else to do when not using the internet.

  • I love that listening to and playing music are at the top, definitely my #1 and #2 as well. I can’t relate as well to the mixing of pumpkin bread batter, however, your list has broad appeal! 🙂

    • Music is the easiest healthy distraction. I have to say, I really didn’t think I would be able to play the piano after not having played in so many years, and also having never been great at it. But it has been a tremendous revelation. I am playing every day and enjoying practicing. And miraculously getting better, even with my 41 year old brain. I intend to walk over for a minute, and end up sitting down for 20 and feeling great afterward. Most of the good things on my list that I “should” be doing instead of wasting time online are not as easy to be motivated to do. Even deleting photos on my phone is like a whole to do! But music is a daily life-saving habit that I don’t have to convince myself of. It is the easiest path to sanity, I feel…

    • Yes definitely! The recipe I have makes two loaves. So I always freeze at least one. I usually let it defrost overnight in the fridge before popping it in the oven in the morning. But yes, most certainly, I have done it many times. Served warm with butter, and tea or coffee… so good!

  • Haha this list is awesome!! So many great ideas as well as things I really need to do! I love your intro to the list and completely agree with you. We, too, have decided to limit our intake of media for those same reasons. It’s too toxic for words and seeps not only into your brain, but your body and your life. It’s hard to see the negative effects when you’re so close, but if we take a minute to be introspective, like you have done, we can definitely see just how harmful it is. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind but it’s so much more liberating and fulfilling tuning it out. Amazing post!!

    • Thank you, Aleks. It’s funny, I am seeing stories everywhere right now about “how to deal with your newsfeed” or “how not to get despondent over the news.” Including the NY Times today. People are just traumatized by blow after blow, without a break. There is no easy answer. Can’t tune it all out. We just have to find a way to know what is happening without drowning ourselves in it. -Linda

      • You always have such kind words, Aleks – thank you. I will always love Brooklyn. No matter ho many generic millionaires keep popping up, my family will still be here to keep it a little real!

  • I sometimes find myself asking, “What would I be doing right now if the internet didn’t exist?”

    Sometimes I can’t come up with an answer! Which is really scary.

    The internet is the best/worst thing ever invented.

    I did recently delete FB and Twitter from my phone. That has helped a TON.

    One more thing that helps…
    I try to plan my day and work first and then ONLY jump on my computer or the internet when a task requires it. (Which is often, but it’s still better than just jumping on the internet for NO reason and mindlessly reading crap for hours.)

    The internet is just a tool to help me accomplish tasks in the “real world”.

    • I feel like about 20% of the time I spend online is quality, meaning I am accomplishing something that I need to, or that I am keeping up with a proper amount of news. Everything else is too much or not very useful and it is really an intractable problem. It’s not easy to fix and requires ongoing effort and vigilance to reign in it. Sometimes I succeed, often I fail. Kind of a work in progress! Thanks so much for commenting, Derek… -Linda

    1. derek 01:09pm 27 February - 2017 - Reply

      I sometimes find myself asking, “What would I be doing right now if the internet didn’t exist?”

      Sometimes I can’t come up with an answer! Which is really scary.

      The internet is the best/worst thing ever invented.

      I did recently delete FB and Twitter from my phone. That has helped a TON.

      One more thing that helps…
      I try to plan my day and work first and then ONLY jump on my computer or the internet when a task requires it. (Which is often, but it’s still better than just jumping on the internet for NO reason and mindlessly reading crap for hours.)

      The internet is just a tool to help me accomplish tasks in the “real world”.

      • Brooklyn Bread 08:28pm 27 February - 2017 - Reply

        I feel like about 20% of the time I spend online is quality, meaning I am accomplishing something that I need to, or that I am keeping up with a proper amount of news. Everything else is too much or not very useful and it is really an intractable problem. It’s not easy to fix and requires ongoing effort and vigilance to reign in it. Sometimes I succeed, often I fail. Kind of a work in progress! Thanks so much for commenting, Derek… -Linda

    2. Aleks F. 11:16am 02 February - 2017 - Reply

      Haha this list is awesome!! So many great ideas as well as things I really need to do! I love your intro to the list and completely agree with you. We, too, have decided to limit our intake of media for those same reasons. It’s too toxic for words and seeps not only into your brain, but your body and your life. It’s hard to see the negative effects when you’re so close, but if we take a minute to be introspective, like you have done, we can definitely see just how harmful it is. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind but it’s so much more liberating and fulfilling tuning it out. Amazing post!!

      • Brooklyn Bread 11:54am 02 February - 2017 - Reply

        Thank you, Aleks. It’s funny, I am seeing stories everywhere right now about “how to deal with your newsfeed” or “how not to get despondent over the news.” Including the NY Times today. People are just traumatized by blow after blow, without a break. There is no easy answer. Can’t tune it all out. We just have to find a way to know what is happening without drowning ourselves in it. -Linda

        • Brooklyn Bread 11:26am 06 February - 2017 - Reply

          You always have such kind words, Aleks – thank you. I will always love Brooklyn. No matter ho many generic millionaires keep popping up, my family will still be here to keep it a little real!

    3. Amanda @ centsiblyrich 09:24pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

      I LOVE your list, Linda! Tell me, can you really freeze the pumpkin bread batter? Why am I just now learning this trick now?!

      • Brooklyn Bread 09:27pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

        Yes definitely! The recipe I have makes two loaves. So I always freeze at least one. I usually let it defrost overnight in the fridge before popping it in the oven in the morning. But yes, most certainly, I have done it many times. Served warm with butter, and tea or coffee… so good!

    4. Mystery Money Man 09:06pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

      I love that listening to and playing music are at the top, definitely my #1 and #2 as well. I can’t relate as well to the mixing of pumpkin bread batter, however, your list has broad appeal! 🙂

      • Brooklyn Bread 09:24pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

        Music is the easiest healthy distraction. I have to say, I really didn’t think I would be able to play the piano after not having played in so many years, and also having never been great at it. But it has been a tremendous revelation. I am playing every day and enjoying practicing. And miraculously getting better, even with my 41 year old brain. I intend to walk over for a minute, and end up sitting down for 20 and feeling great afterward. Most of the good things on my list that I “should” be doing instead of wasting time online are not as easy to be motivated to do. Even deleting photos on my phone is like a whole to do! But music is a daily life-saving habit that I don’t have to convince myself of. It is the easiest path to sanity, I feel…

    5. Mrs. Groovy 07:44pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

      This is great Linda. Thanks for the idea about the pumpkin bread! Why didn’t I think of that?

      • Brooklyn Bread 08:58pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

        Oh my gosh, the smell of pumpkin bread baking on a cold morning, before coffee is even done – one of life’s great pleasures!

    6. Sarah @tortoisehappy.com 04:57pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

      I’ve pinned this to my live well board on pinterest. Collecting things like this is inspiring me to be more productive and, amazingly, do more exercise. 🙂

    7. Smart Provisions 01:34pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

      Great list!

      I haven’t been much of a Twitter user, so I’ve been letting it sit there inactive.

      Don’t forget to exercise and keep yourself fit! It’s also something else to do when not using the internet.

    8. Brian @ Debt Discipline 01:34pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

      I get sucked into Twitter and Facebook more during the week for some reason. During the weekends I tend to listen to music or podcast more often. If I do surf I try and use it as a reward after I’ve completed by “to-do” list.

      • Brooklyn Bread 01:47pm 01 February - 2017 - Reply

        Me too for sure, because I am somewhat tethered to my computer all week long for work and my internet-fried brain craves constant distraction from the boredom of work. So many things to do around the house on the weekends, or fun things to do, I am less in that frame of mind and spend less time online. But all bets have kind of been off these past 2 weeks.

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