11 Healthy Ways to Spend Your Free Time

Earlier I wrote about the daily routine that I have created in order to be productive.  If you had a chance to check that out, you noticed that my entire day was NOT scheduled start to finish.  I believe that over scheduling can be just as negative on you as not creating a schedule at all.  Random events are going to come up and you need to have flexibility built in.  I intentionally leave time for the random events.

However, what happens if you don't fill that open time?

Brian Tracy explained "the primary difference between the 5 percent of people who are wealthy and those who are not, is that the 95 percent focus their attention and extra time on entertainment, while the wealthy 5 percent invest their extra time in education."

The average American watches  2.8 hours of TV a day. The New York Times reported that those between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours a day on media devices.

Most people feel that they are giving their minds a rest after a long day when they watch TV.  However, psychologists consider TV to be junk food for the mind.  TV is NOT a neutral state of mind that allows your brain to recover.  It is actually having a negative effect on brain function.

After learning this, I wanted to create a list of healthy ways I could spend my free time.  Here is what I came up with:

1) Reading - Fiction or non-fiction.  Be sure you to mix up your topics.  I tend to read primarily non-fiction, business related books and it's hard for me to mix that up.  I want to be open minded and informed, but in order to do that, I must expose myself to different ways of thinking.  I try to mix in books on spirituality, philosophy and psychology, as well as biographies of people I admire.  I could use some more fiction though.

I also know people that don't consider themselves "readers," but I think reading takes practice.  At least the ability to concentrate on a book for long periods of time takes practice.  You can't sit down and read for hours when you don't read often.  You develop this ability over time, the same way that you develop strength by lifting weights.

Here is a great article in Forbes by Ryan Holiday about the importance of stretching yourself with what you read.

2) Exercise - Exercise can take many different forms.  I have a regular weight lifting routine that I do three times a week at my house. Each session only takes 45 minutes.  I also play basketball multiple times a week.   I lose track of time when I am playing basketball and end up exercising a lot longer than I would if it were part of a set program.  Choose an activity that you love and make sure to do it three times a week for 45-60 min. each session.  A healthy amount of exercise doesn't need to be any more complicated than that. (Note: I do recommend that you do one to two days of strength training per week for long term health.)

Examples: Yoga, Running, Golf, Basketball, Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Lifting Weights, Walking, Swimming, Dancing, Biking, Volleyball, Tennis, Frisbee Golf, and many more

3) Writing - I am working to become a better writer and communicator.  The best way I know to do that, is to write often.  I decided that I might as well share information that is useful to others while improving this skill for myself.  Writing is challenging  for me.  For others it is natural.  Wherever you lie on that spectrum, it is worth practicing on a regular basis, even if it is only a journal that no one else sees.

No matter what profession you are in, you will never move up without the ability to communicate your ideas and results to others.  It is important to write and speak effectively.

4) Walking - What if you took a 30 minute walk every night?  It would improve your health by adding exercise, which will lead to more efficient brain function.  It would improve your relationships by providing you time to share your day with someone you care about, in person or over the phone.  It will also provide you an opportunity to clear your mind if you choose to walk alone.  However, most people choose to spend that same half-hour watching a re-run of whatever show happens to be on (Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory, How I met your Mother, Friends, etc.).  All good shows, but it is important to be aware of what you are giving up by CHOOSING to watch that one episode that you have probably already seen.

5) Talking with friends - There are few better ways to spend your free time than talking with a good group of friends.  However, I would caution you that this is not a time to gossip about people who aren't there. "Poor minds talk about people. Average minds talk about events. Great minds talk about ideas." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Researchers have found that people are happier when they are with other people than when they are alone (for both introverts and extroverts)

6) Meditate - Sit quietly for at least ten minutes a day.  This is not a time to plan or organize, it is time to sit and do absolutely nothing.  Here is an article by Michael Hyatt about the importance of meditation.

7) Brain Games - Keep your brain sharp by playing games that challenge you.  TV causes your brain to atrophy.  Why not try the opposite?

Ex: Lumosity (9.95/month), Games for the Brain (Free), Sporcle (Free - My favorite)

8) Drinking tea and sitting quietly - Some people use drinking tea as a form of meditation.  Most of our days are filled with self imposed expectations of what needs to be accomplished; however; it is important to give yourself time to do nothing without any guilt.  Even if that is only the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of tea....slowly.

Here is a post by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits about his tea ritual.

9) Ted Talks - As I mentioned before, I want to expose myself to new and different ways of thinking even if it makes me uncomfortable.  It is when you are uncomfortable that you grow.  Ted talks expose you to the brightest minds on the planet discussing the most important issues that we face.

Here are the Ted Talks

10) Music - Listen to different styles.  Use Pandora to expose yourself to different genres. Try out Steromood to listen to songs that match your current mood.

11) Learning a new hobby - Try to learn one new thing every 6 months.  Leading scientists in the field of neuroplasticity have found that learning new skills that require a certain level of intensity can actually help your brain grow.

Here is a list of hobbies to choose from.

I have a few shows (The Newsroom) that I like to watch each week without guilt.  I also like to eat junk food, occasionally. It is when I don't keep a balance that I start to notice the effects.  Be aware of how you spend your time and find the right balance for you.  Be intentional with your time.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Photo by Holly Mandarich

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