10 activities to pick up as a hobby (instead of staring at your phone)

Olivia Burton

In a technology-driven world, most of us spend a huge amount of the day staring at screens; typing on a laptop, messaging on phones, or watching Netflix on TV.

The sickening fact is that the average human spends four hours every day just on their phone. I’m guilty of the mindless scroll, reaching for my phone first thing in the morning to check for messages or the news. It’s just part of a routine.

It will come as no surprise then that excessive phone use (more than 6.5 hours a day) and social media use, is linked to increased anxiety. Even just a few hours a day seems like a waste – could we be cutting down phone time and doing something more useful with our time? Well, yes. 

Image via Unsplash

new hobbies

Pick up a new (or old) hobby for a month instead of spending time scrolling through Instagram, and reap the rewards of an interesting hobby and perhaps less stress.


It’s not just for your nan guys; knitting is officially cool. It’s also something that can be picked up at any time with ease, even if you want to listen to music or sit waiting somewhere. It also occupies your hands (no ability to touch your phone). The best thing about knitting is that it’s also rewarding to make something for yourself – then wear it! Wool & The Gang is a great place to start – they have eco-friendly yarn, kits, patterns, and tutorials.


Going to Spain next month or looking to pick up a new skill? Try learning a language. Ok, this one may require a screen to do – but it’s useful screen time! There are a bunch of language apps to download on your phone to listen to on the bus, or at home. One of the most popular is called Babbel. You can also go to cheap courses to learn languages in person after work, or even buy a languages book and learn on your own. Beginner Japanese is on my list, which may take some time.


Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone credits improvisation for reducing her anxieties, and I have to admit I think it’s really beneficial as a hobby (even a temporary one). Improv classes are all the rage right now, with most cities having classes on each week. I have always been really self-conscious and anxious, which is why after many years – I plucked up the courage to finally do a beginners improv workshop last year (8 weeks of 3-hour classes per week). It’s funny, builds up self-confidence, resilience, and gives you a few hours each week with supportive, amazing strangers (that become friends). Take that Facebook.


Walking (or hiking) is the easiest and cheapest hobby to pick up, anywhere in the world, especially in Australia. There are so many options, start off small by walking to work instead of sitting on the bus with everyone on their phones. Expand by taking a walk on the weekend somewhere longer – We Are Explorers can give you options of where to go. Even walking to the shops after work for 20 minutes is enough to benefit from the outdoors, get the blood flowing, and feel good. 


It might feel embarrassing to dance on your own, but it releases endorphins so who cares? Blast some music and jump around instead of sitting on your phone or even learn some moves from YouTube videos. There are also dance classes to head to all around Australia, including Groove Therapy (they also do online classes) – Each class follows the same premise – non-dance studio vibes, with dim lights, no mirrors, and a community feel.’  


I originally started blogging to write down my thoughts and to learn more. Now, I’m a better essay writer for my masters from years of practice, and also get to write as part of my job. Writing has also been shown to provide people with clarity and communicate complex ideas more effectively. Writing doesn’t have to be on a laptop; it could be in a journal every night or just doodles on paper. We have around 80,000 thoughts a day. It’s about time we wrote some of them down! 

Self-help reading 

Reading is a great hobby, especially before bed instead of looking at your phone or Netflix. I love getting grabbed into a book, but what I love even more are ‘self-help’ books. Yes, some of them are cringe-worthy and complete b*llshit (not naming names). Others are funny, heartwarming and life-changing. It’s like having a therapist with you at all times. Don’t be shy to read ‘Chicken Soup for The Soul’ on the bus, no shame. 

My picks – ‘I thought it was just me’ by Brene Brown, ‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie and ‘Cringeworthy’ by Melissa Dahl. 


No-one has to be the next Picasso to pick up a paintbrush or pencil, it’s all subjective and fun. Painting can be exceptionally therapeutic (there’s a reason there’s ‘art therapy’) and also rewarding. There are many options to try; oils, acrylics, charcoal, pencil, pastel, watercolour and more. Get a pad of paper or canvas and just paint away. If you’re really stuck follow some videos or books, but the best thing to do is just try. I tried fashion illustration for a while, it was a lot of fun. 


If you can’t put down your phone and need a stream of entertainment (no judgment, I feel you), podcasts are a good option. The podcast app gives you access to a library of free podcasts from comedy to educational. Listen to on the bus, walking somewhere or at night, it is an easy activity to do instead of mindless scrolling.

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.