When’s the last time you truly unplugged? It might seem like you’re relaxing by plopping down in front of the TV while scrolling through social media, but all of that input may prevent you from being present with your current situation or fully recharging your energy.
Connecting with people and nature without the distraction of devices can be incredibly healing. In fact, the Japanese practice called shinrin yoku is all about “bathing” in the forest as a form of therapy.
The thought of a whole day without tech may be daunting, but dig deep, and you may reconnect with your younger self who found a way to be entertained and joyful with simpler occupations. Needs some ideas? Here are a few of our favorites that you can do solo as a meditative exercise or with a group to build long-lasting memories—no camera needed.
Take a hike or bike ride. Breathing in fresh air, getting your heart pumping and taking in the beauty of nature is a surefire way to feel you’ve made the most of a day. Standing atop a conquered hill or soaking in the rush of a nearby waterfall, cool breeze on your sweaty skin, is a handsome reward for your effort.
Solo? Forget the music or podcast and intentionally listen to your surroundings. Loudly chirping birds will soon give way to more tiny noises—think rustling leaves, skittering bugs, jumping fish—that paint a surprising picture of “quiet” nature.
With a group? Look for an opportunity to take a break centered around an easy group activity. Stacking stones, skipping rocks or artfully arranging leaves by color around the base of a tree are easy ways to make your mark without damaging the ecosystem.
Read a book. While it has added exceptional convenience to our lives, technology can also remove a layer of experiential richness. Many book lovers feel this way about e-readers and prefer the more tangible experience of turning pages, smelling paper and the unique shifting of weight and focus that only an actual book can provide.
Solo? This is the time to indulge your guilty reading pleasures. Trashy romance novel, appliance manual, video game encyclopedia, young adult fiction—who are we to judge? Find something that interests you and dive in, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the author’s world or geek out on that nerdy subject you’ve always been curious about.
With a group? Unless there are kids around or you’re part of the literati, story time may sound ridiculous. But a story or passage read aloud among friends after dinner or during cocktails can create an unforgettable moment. You may learn who among your group has a hidden talent for interpretation or speaking and find out more about their interests.
Make a picnic. Eating al fresco has recently become a mainstay for obvious reasons, but there’s nothing quite like a picnic in a pretty setting. (In our view, a casual meal on a blanket in a park is way more appealing than pancakes in a tented parking lot.)
Solo? Don’t short yourself just because you’re alone. Pack up your favorite nosh, and make the meal memorable with special touches like fresh flowers, real flatware or a tent that keeps it comfy. Bring along a book and bask in the solitude.
With a group? Have the easiest potluck ever by asking everyone to contribute a surprise menu item, and don’t overwork it by coordinating who brings what. You may end up with all desserts, all bread or all wine—and that’s okay. Pack a compact game like Bananagrams or Cards Against Humanity for a low-key (or raucous) way to pass the time.
Learn a new game. Whether it’s done on a tabletop or an organized sport, fully understanding a game’s rules and intricacies can take some time. Looking into the principles is one thing, but playing out scenarios (by practicing them or scribbling the ideas out on scratch paper) can strengthen your understanding so you can be a more skilled player or active spectator.
Solo? Spend some time looking into classic chess or checker plays to become a better player, or pick up a variety puzzles magazine to work your brain in a new way. If you prefer team sports, read a book on how to manually keep score at a baseball game or bowling match and use a blank score card to practice.
With a group? Break out a board game that’s new to everyone and let the madness begin. If you want to be active, take it outside and have an athlete among you teach everyone the details of the game then run some drills. Or, start up a game of flag football or kickball with a few odd rules to keep it interesting.
Get cooking. You can produce a lot of things during a whole day behind the stove. It’s also enough time to make big strides on complicated techniques. Whether you prefer to use it as an exercise in productivity or a practice session for a tricky recipe, a day in the kitchen is especially satisfying if you like tangible (um, edible) proof of your work.
Solo? For many people, nothing says love like a homemade treat. If you need a reason to put on the apron, bake up a batch of muffins or cookies and make some porch drops to your favorite people. Or, keep it lighter with a bulk batch of hummus and deliver packages of it alongside fresh veggies and scratch pita.
With a group? Pick some time-intensive recipes and assign an owner for each. When everyone’s done, set a beautiful table and take a break to freshen up before feasting together and appreciating your tasty work.