Free time should free up your mind from dull routines

Jill Morton, Opinion Columnist

Imagine you just had a long week at school. Your physics test didn’t go as well as you hoped, you submitted your assignment at the last minute and are now mentally and physically exhausted. On Saturday afternoon, you just want to unwind at home. A couple of activities come to mind, but what do you think the chances are that they all involve a screen? In 2018, it’s high. 

I think there are a lot of better options for hobbies than Netflix and Twitter. Slightly older people have other hobbies that they enjoy that don’t include scrolling down their social media feed or staring at the TV for hours at a time. Sometimes, they even use their brains for these activities.  

I noticed this especially when I was home with my parents over break. During our downtime, we each had our own little hobbies. I, as a lot of millennials might do, sat there mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feed. Whereas my parents chose something a little more engaging. My mom played Sudoku while my dad did the New York Times crossword.  

Throughout my week at home, I realized that their ideas of fun were a lot better than mine. Social media gets boring after a while. So boring, in fact, that I began doing crosswords to challenge my mind and keep it sharp. 

Another example of this is my grandparents, who are even one step further removed from all the screen technology that we immerse ourselves in. For instance, a lot of grandparent-aged people spend more time reading novels. 

I don’t think I’ve heard of many people in my generation that read a book for fun rather than plopping on the couch to binge watch their favorite show. I know what you might be thinking, “I don’t have time for that!” But tell me, how many hours a week do you spend watching your favorite show? For once, try spicing it up a bit and watch only one episode of The Office and then read a chapter of a new book.   

By writing that previous sentence, I noticed how much of an issue this really is. I could think of a handful of TV shows, like The Office, that most people have watched during binge-watching marathons. But I couldn’t think of a single classic novel that more than one or two people I know have read for entertainment. I realize that there’s a bigger variety of books than TV shows and movies, but still I think there’s a correlation here. 

One of the main problems is that college students don’t want to use their brain any more than they have to. As students, we have to do a lot of thinking and using our brains throughout the week for our classes and homework. It’s never ending, so when we get a chance to rest, we want to shut our brains down. That’s probably why so many of us sit around and watch Netflix when we have the opportunity.  

A student, Kayla Johnk, said, “I like doing things that don’t take brain power.” I think a lot of us feel this way. After a long day, there’s nothing I want to do more but curl up in bed with my laptop and phone.  

But this isn’t necessarily what’s best for our minds. There are a lot of issues with too much TV watching or too much time spent on social media but there are other things that can be just as enjoyable that are much better for our brains. For example, reading can be very good for people. “Reading strengthens the neural pathways like any muscle in your body,” according to Medical Daily.  

Other hobbies that we should start up could be activities such as knitting, playing cards, or reading the newspaper. These activities are a lot better for you than staring at your phone for ten hours a day.  

A lot of what we do on our phones is go on social media and that is not good to engage in too much. Studies show that social media can cause a lot of issues for people. A  study  published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior found that people who go on social media often have a lot more anxiety than people who use social media less.  

Next time, no matter how exhausting your school week went, try engaging in a new hobby that doesn’t include mindlessly scrolling through social media apps or seeing how fast you can get through an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy. This Easter break, learn a thing or two from your parents by picking up things like reading for pleasure or completing some crosswords; activities that engage our brains even on our downtime. 

Jill Morton is a columnist for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]