This month at Postconsumers, we’re really helping you to distance yourself from the consumer machine by giving you a hundred things that you can do instead of watch television. Aside from the consumer media messaging that you’re exposed to every day via television, our parents would quickly also remind you that “TV turns your brain to mush.” That’s why today’s list of things that you can do to get out from behind the television makes your brain stronger. And a stronger brain will give you more ammunition for fighting the power of the consumer machine!
66. Read a Book – Of Course!
We know that this one is obvious which is why we went with it first! When you absorb from the television, your mind gets lazy. But when you engage with the written word, your mind vibrates with activity. From your imagination constructing the worlds that you’re experiencing reading about to your logical side of your brain organizing facts and chronology in non-fiction. The more you read, the more active and stronger your brain is. And the more knowledgeable you become about a wide array of topics. Reading is always good, and reading > television. Turn it off, read a book. You’ll feel the difference in no time at all.
67. Do Puzzles. All Kinds of Puzzles.
Sudoku. Crosswords. Mazes. Go buy yourself a puzzle book of your choosing and start to have fun with it. Or buy an actual puzzle with actual puzzle pieces! Most research indicates that one of the most important things that you can do to keep your brain engaged and firing as you age is to do puzzle training. These days, there are also a number of online options for doing puzzles specifically linked to increasing brain activity. We like the idea that no television also means no screen time at all, so we favor the idea of your doing your puzzles hard copy. That said, any puzzle activity is better than passive television watching.
Pro Tip: Puzzles don’t have to be a solitary activity. Do a real puzzle with friends or family or play a game of strategy like chess for the same effect plus social time.
68. Take a Course – Real Time or Virtual.
You’re never too old to go back to school! In fact, when we were in college some of our favorite classmates were adults who were taking the class just to learn something new. These days, you don’t even need to be at a physical location to take a course in something you’re interested in. Almost every university has an online learning option as well. Again, we’d like to get you away from the screens and into an actual classroom, but you should pick what you’re comfortable with. And any class that you’re taking is still better than watching television. You also may want to look at class offerings from local community centers as well as established educational institutions.
69. Learn a Foreign Language. Bon Jour!
Foreign languages aren’t a good fit for everybody, but if you can embrace them and learn them then you’ll vastly improve both your brain and your ability to sound worldly at cocktail parties! Learning foreign languages is similar to learning puzzles or decoding things, both of which are great for your brain. And once you learn one foreign language you’ll have developed the base work in your brain to continue on and learn other languages.
70. Learn to Code.
Yes, we actually do mean “learn to code computer languages.” Much like learning a foreign language, learning the language and syntax of code activates parts of your brain that you don’t use very often and engages them. Not only is the ability to code one of the most valuable skillsets that you can have if you want to find a job in the new economy, but it’s important for understanding how our internet-enabled present and future operates. You can’t control what you can’t understand, so this activity is not only great for improving your brain, it’s great for empowering your existence. Our favorite resource is Code Academy, an entirely free online code-education site.
71. Memorize Things. Random Things.
Memorizing works your brain and makes you the font of knowledge at social get togethers. What would you like to memorize today? All of the U.S. presidents in order? The Constitution? The periodic table of elements? Nobel prize winners? Famous poems? Get at it! Set a goal (we love goals) and then start memorizing the facts that go with it. Better brain – and it’s fun to be the reference point for things at parties and the perpetual Trivial Pursuit winner.
72. Visit the Library.
Just being in the library makes you smarter! Okay, so that may not actually be true. However, there are few places that have such a breadth of knowledge to explore at your fingertips. Just take a walk through, smell the books, and when a topic moves you pick it up and read about it. These days, though, it’s not just about books in libraries. You’ll be exposed to art, media and news resources as well. Give yourself half an hour in the library, we promise you’ll learn more than in three hours of television.
73. Learn to Read Music (And Perhaps to Play It!)
There’s a reason that so many studies link musical training as a child with success in school and even IQ points. Learning to read music is an exercise in math and structure combined with the essential understanding of sounds. It’s an incredibly complex process that, because it’s related to music, often feels less complex than it is. If you already play an instrument by ear, it can improve your brain and your understanding to learn music. If you’ve never played an instrument before, buy a small keyboard and start! (Most experts would recommend a piano or keyboard to learn music on because it’s the best visual representation of the scales). You may even find you have a hidden passion that you didn’t know about.
74. Hire a Tutor on a Unique Subject.
If you have the resources to hire a personal tutor on a subject – any subject – then we think that that’s a great idea. It doesn’t have to be a language, though you’ll find those tutors to be the most common and easy to find. Pick a topic that you’re interested in and put up some flyers in your local coffee shop seeking an expert to teach you. There’s no learning that’s more effective than one-to-one learning, so take advantage of people willing to teach you.
75. Expand Your Vocabulary. Sound and Be Smarter!
We suspect that, much like us, you may have whined and complained about the ridiculous vocabulary training that you needed to do when you were in high school preparing for your SATs or ACTs. While it seemed silly and like a bunch of information that you were simply going to forget later, the truth is that vocabulary building strengthens your brain. There’s a structure behind how words are crafted and created that gets put together by your brain. You also get all of the benefits of memorization. And, of course, you sound smarter when you speak! You don’t need to over-do it. Just learn one new word per day. Even if it only takes you fifteen minutes, that’s fifteen minutes that you’re not watching television!
76. Do Some Writing.
The process of taking thoughts from your head and delivering them to a written format is great for your brain and for your own positive mental health. It doesn’t matter what you write. Your memoir, your novel, your manifesto or even a blog for the Postconsumers website!
77. Teach Others Something.
Volunteer to teach a class in something you’re an expert in at your local community center (or even in your home!). The practice of structuring knowledge that you know into a format that conveys it to others is great brain activity. Plus, studies show that teaching actually makes you smarter in the topic that you teach because it forces you to understand it in a very hands-on way.
78. Meditate – It Can Improve Your Attention Span.
We know, we know! The idea of turning off the television and having actual silence is terrifying! But all of the media in our lives is contributing to having incredibly short attention spans, and short attention spans aren’t good for optimizing your brain. Training yourself to meditate and embrace the long-term patience and silence helps to extend your attention span. It also helps to declutter your mind, which is important for positive mental health and reduced stress.
79. Pick One Topic: Become an Expert.
Do it! Become that person who knows everything about a topic. Interested in the cosmos? Find every book, every article and every video ever made about it and dive into it. You’ll find that knowledge, much like Alice’s rabbit hole, will bring you deeper and deeper in. Don’t have a topic that you’re passionate about? Pick five or six, put them in a hat and become an expert on the one that you pull out.
80. Research and Set Up a Brain Diet and Exercise Regimen.
Again, we didn’t want to give these their own line items since we’ve discussed diet and exercise in other articles. However, there are unmistakable links between what you eat, how physically active you are and how your brain functions. Take time away from the television to not only plan an appropriate brain diet and exercise regimen but also to implement it!
Those are our sixth set of ideas for staying away from the television. Need or want more? Continue on to part seven, where we focus on ideas to help you fight the consumer machine.
Did we miss a nerdy way to avoid the television that you’d like to share? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.
Photo Credit: Nikita Kashner via Flickr