Your smartphone may seem like the portal to entertainment (where else are you going to play Angry Birds and scroll through Instagram?), but new research is suggesting otherwise. A Kent State University study released last week revealed that excessive phone use is sucking the fun right out of our downtime.
Researchers monitored a group of nearly 500 undergraduates and measured the individuals' daily smartphone use, as well as assessed their personalities and ideas of what they consider quality leisure time. The team then separated participants into three categories: Low-use introverts, low-use extroverts and a general high-use group.
Those who were considered in the "high-use" category experienced more stress and anxiety during their leisure time than the other groups.
Even if you don't identify with those categories, think you're immune to the high consumption of the digital screen? Think again: A recent digital analysis found that we're spending almost three hours a day checking our devices on average. This is unwelcome news, considering our busy schedules rarely seem to allow for time luxuries in the first place.
So what can we do in order to really take advantage of our downtime? We've rounded up several activities below that also take a few hours to complete (but best part of all, you'll improve your health in the process). Check them out and reclaim your right to relaxation during your time off -- you deserve it.
Karma is real when it comes to this activity. Not only are you helping others, you're boosting your emotional wellness too. Studies show that people who volunteer may live longer and stress less.
Go to a museum.
Research shows art can benefit your physical and mental health -- but try not to snap a picture in the process. One 2013 study examined undergraduate participants as they observed a piece of artwork. Those who took photos of the work recalled less than the ones who simply enjoyed it.
Explore new territory.
There are serious perks to going outside and just being -- whether you're at home or on vacation. It's important to disconnect from the WiFi and connect with your surroundings every once in a while. Walking in nature can reduce depression symptoms and elevate your mood. As professional traveler and Travel Channel personality Samantha Brown put it in a recent HuffPost piece, "I put the map in my back pocket, put down the phones, close the apps and take a good, long walk. Just wander."
Go to bed earlier.
Here's a riddle: What can help curb your appetite, boost your mood and stave off stress? Extra Zzz's, naturally. Getting the right amount of shuteye is crucial to our health -- and data shows we don't get enough of it. Instead of wishing you just had one. more. hour. of rest, get a head start with the extra time you have now.
Spend some quality time with your loved ones.
Or at the very least, call your mom. A 2011 study found that spending time with loved ones reduces cortisol (AKA the stress hormone) in the body. Want even more added benefits? Make your hang out time part of a shared meal. Research suggests eating together increases feel-good oxytocin levels in the body.
Take a yoga class.
If you haven't tried this recharging and relaxing activity yet, it might be time to add it to your fitness routine. In addition to added flexibility and a calm mind, research suggests yoga can also mitigate a migraine and even boost your immune system. Not sure which type of class you should do? Take a look at this chart.
Putting pen to paper is a cathartic exercise -- and there's science to back it up. Instead of typing out a Facebook status detailing every frustration you're feeling (only to regret posting it later), try scribbling down your thoughts. Writing has a host of emotional health benefits, from increasing your sense of gratitude to helping with the healing process. Plus, if you're super frustrated, physically throwing out your thoughts you wrote down may even help clear your mind.
Try your hand at crafting.
Whether it's stitching a scarf or coloring a picture, crafting can put your mind at ease. Some research suggests that knitting can put you in the same state of mental flow as meditation, so if you're not totally into the practice, at least there's a way to nab some of the benefits.
Read a book.
Swap videos on your tiny screen for a paperback instead and let yourself get lost in a good story. Research shows that reading can reduce stress, keeps your brain sharp and can even help you sleep better.
What leisure activities do you enjoy doing without your phone? Tell us in the comments below!
This GPS Guide is part of a series of posts designed to bring you back to balance when you're feeling off course.
GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others' stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing "secret weapons" that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.