It’s needless to say that technology has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. For better or for worse, questions are met with trips to Google and road trips are led by Satnav. We rely on technological advancements to better the world we live in, and for the most part, technology has been hailed a hero. Dangerously, however, it also dominates our downtime. Are we spending too much time on our gadgets and not enough on ourselves?
A lot of the time, you might not even realise that you’re doing it. You might not necessarily notice yourself reaching for your phone as you move into the next room, your favourite YouTuber’s face grinning at you from the screen. Countless days pass in a blur, and when you look back on them, you realise that you’ve spent most of them in front of the telly, Netflix’s latest show binged in a worryingly short span of time.
With summer now in full swing, sunny days miraculously gracing Scotland, it’s time that we separate ourselves from our time guzzling devices. When university comes back around, or even your next shift, you should feel rejuvenated and ready for the challenges ahead. A lot of us spend our first few days thinking that the holidays have passed too quickly, wondering where the time went and complaining that we didn’t have enough of it. So while we have the time ahead of us, we should be learning how to use it effectively to unwind.
The truth of the matter is, the reward of watching an episode of your favourite show, doesn’t seem so rewarding when it’s followed by ten others. You are not treating yourself if that’s something you do constantly. A daily ritual of the latest season of Suits sounds more like a mind numbing addiction rather than a well-deserved end to a long day.
Don’t get me wrong, the occasional binge day is definitely warranted every now and then, but when it’s stopping us from getting out and enjoying a sunny day, or a meal with friends, it’s not the most conducive use of time physically or mentally.
So what are some ways to be spending your downtime without breaking the bank?
A walk. As simple as that, really. A walk can do wonders. It’s entirely free and requires little to no planning. Need to clear your head? Take a walk around the loch, up the Wallace Monument, wherever you are. It’s a great way to get a better understanding of your surroundings, visit familiar places and exercise without much effort. And whether you choose to go with a friend and chat, or pretend you’re in a movie with your personalised soundtrack blasting through your headphones, you’re getting the time to think through things, meaning you feel less stressed later. Getting off the couch and doing something with your day also means you stand a better chance of sleeping well that night. A study from Cambridge University, revealed that a 30-minute walk could reduce your chances of premature death by as much as a third. And a Canadian study almost went as far as to show that walking cut the likelihood of breast cancer sufferers dying by almost a half with as little as three hours walking a week. Surely it’s worth getting yourself into gear for just a fraction of your day?
Pamper yourself. Sometimes you just have to spend a bit of time on yourself and looking after your needs. It may seem inconsequential to some, but feeling good on the outside, can do wonders for how you feel inside. Even if it’s just ten minutes of your day, paint your nails and have a bath.
Treat your tummy. Make a little bit more of an effort with your dinner tonight. Fresh ingredients and a little more prep time can make all the difference when the end result is Michelin star worthy. The sense of achievement and that good food can only work wonders for your mood, and focusing your energy on such a practical task gives your mind time to wander.
Be creative. Nurturing the side of you that doesn’t get to take the reins most of time can feel like play. It’s a good way to release bottled emotions. Whether it’s a call back to early years and colouring books, or a month’s long endeavour to recreate Da Vinci, there’s so many ways to go about this one. Get musical and pick up that instrument you haven’t played in years, learn a new dance and get friends involved. It’s good to let go and just have fun.
Meditation. Before you groan in dismay, because yet again, someone has dared to utter the dreaded cliché of meditation as a means of relaxing, hear me out. Studies have shown that it can help with insomnia, memory, pain tolerance and stress. Maybe it’s time to set aside your preconceptions and give this one a go. And with apps such as Headspace and Calm, maybe it’s feasible to use our phones for good!
Write down what is going on in your life. It might seem very high school diary, but even if you’re throwing out the sheet, storing it to look back on or tossing it into the heart of a ten-foot bonfire, it can help to get your thoughts out and onto a page. This exercise helps you rationalise your anxieties, solidify to dos and sort through your thoughts. All in all, it’s a therapeutic activity that doesn’t require much but can have a great impact on your thinking.
There’s a reason you hear the same suggestions over and over again, it’s because they work. I probably haven’t endowed you with any knowledge that you didn’t have before, but how many of you are actually putting these suggestions into action? We are so quick to shout defeat when actually we have so many options.
Try making it a goal for this summer, test out at least three of the techniques and see what works for you. At the very least, you get a bit of exercise or a little giggle out of trying something new. You might discover a new love of cooking or rediscover your love of running, whatever it is, find out what works for you.