40 fun alternatives to watching TV

Bupa Health Editor Natalie Heaton
Health and Lifestyle Editor at Bupa UK
12 June 2018

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

We all have hopes, goals and dreams that we want to accomplish. But after a day at work, the lure of the TV is too much for most of us to resist. In fact the average person watches over four hours of TV a day. Just think what you could achieve if you channelled your energy into other things for just one of those hours each day. Here are 40 ways to spend an hour that your future self will thank you for.


  1. Learn an instrument – it doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Why not start off with a harmonica? It’s inexpensive, small and portable.
  2. Bring the outside in and make a little indoor garden (terrarium). We love this one in a light bulb.
  3. Learn how to do a cryptic crossword or play some brain training games like Suduko, word searches or crosswords (the normal kind).
  4. Make a podcast. If you ever recorded your own radio shows as a child, now’s your chance to do it again – but better. There are lots of how-to guides and apps for making creating a podcast more easily than you might think. For some inspiration, here are the top 10 podcasts on iTunes.
  5. Learn how to use your camera and take some photographs. Take up a photo-a-day challenge using random words or phrases as prompts.
  6. Knitting and crocheting. Keep your hands busy and out of the fridge by taking up knitting. Make a scarf, gloves, socks, a jumper – knit your way from easier pieces to more technical garments.
  7. Make your own greetings cards. For birthdays, Christmas, or just to send a note, having some handmade cards at hand means one fewer trip to the shops for you, and will make your recipient feel valued and special.

  8. Personal development

    An older woman doing pottery

  9. Learn a language. It will improve the quality of your life by keeping your brain active, introducing you to new cultures and people and will make travelling opportunities easier and a more fruitful experience.
  10. Start a business. So many people dream about owning their own business but never get round to really thinking about it or putting a plan together. Dedicating an hour each night or even an hour a week will get you closer to your life goals and keep them front of mind.
  11. Study. Learn a skill and expand your mind. Complete that qualification you’ve always dreamed about. There are hundreds of free online and distance learning courses out there. Courses these days cover everything from the science of happiness to code breaking. Anything you want to learn is out there.
  12. Make a ‘goals’ board on Pinterest or cut out images from magazines to plan your next moves. Pick images that inspire you to reach your travel, career and lifestyle goals.
  13. Read some nonfiction – learn something new, read an autobiography, a how-to or a history book.
  14. Catch up on life admin. Granted it’s not the most fun thing to do, but if you do it purposefully and mindfully, you will feel happier as a result.
  15. Start a blog. Whether you’re mad about films, reviewing books, want to share your skills – starting a blog is a great way to express yourself and get your voice heard. Learning the technical skills on how to set up and maintain a blog will give your CV a boost too.

  16. Fun

    Two colourful origami swans

  17. Learn a dance routine on YouTube. Whether you want to learn the moves to a Strictly Come Dancing favourite or one of Justin Bieber’s videos, you can find pretty much any dance routine tutorial on YouTube.
  18. Go through your holiday photos and select some to print out and display, or if they are already printed, put them into an album.
  19. Learn origami. You can make this as easy or as hard as you like. Origami animals are particularly popular with kids. They make great toys, place settings and decorative garlands.
  20. Learn calligraphy. It means beautiful writing. Not only will you have the best handwriting, many people say that practising this art and filling sheets of paper with letter and words is calming and meditative.
  21. Plan your next holiday. Researching and planning can sometimes feel a like a bit of a chore, but if you start planning well in advance it will be much more enjoyable. Don’t feel you have to book everything all at once. Start with looking up places you want to see, read travel blogs, soak up beautiful photos online, read a guidebook – most of all, get excited!

  22. Productivity

    Two rows of colourful wigs

  23. Listen to the news via podcast and do some small DIY chores that you have been putting off. This way you’ll make a boring job more enjoyable, plus you’ll be more active than if you were sitting and watching the news on the TV.
  24. Experiment with a new make-up or hair up-do. There are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube. Practise your make-up for festivals, fancy dress parties, next year’s Halloween look, or a special night out.
  25. Make some music playlists. Make ones specifically for different situations such as for the gym, when you’re walking to work, uplifting anthems when you need a boost, and one for relaxing and dining to.
  26. Turn the music up loud on your favourite album and clean out your cupboards, fridge or even tackle the oven. Use one of your motivating playlists!
  27. Rearrange your wardrobe or have a clothes clearout. Try different outfits on. Take what you no longer want or need to a charity shop.
  28. Revamp your living room or just rearrange it. You could swap around or change the pictures on your walls for example. Declutter – some research suggests that clutter affects the brain’s ability to concentrate and process information.

  29. Relaxation

    A young boy kissing his cat's head

  30. Yoga/workout at home. Push your furniture to the walls and do some yoga. It’s the perfect mind-body practice that will help you unwind after a busy day and help you feel calm and relaxed.
  31. Play with your cat or dog. Research shows that the human-animal bond can lower anxiety levels and control blood pressure. Plus it’s both soothing and lots of fun. 
  32. Have a bubble bath, paint your nails, try a face mask – pamper yourself!
  33. Colouring in. Colouring books aren’t just for kids; these books have been on the bestseller lists for months now. There are lots of benefits – read Jane’s blog about them here.
  34. Paint a picture, draw or doodle. A friend of mine committed to drawing something every day for a year. He tried out lots of different styles of drawing and materials. When he looked back on the year he was so pleased to see how much he had improved.
  35. Learn a new way of being with these mindfulness techniques. We’ve got a whole section of blogs dedicated to this practice.

  36. Social

    A mantlepiece of memories and photos

  37. Start a book club – invite friends round to discuss the latest thriller or Penguin classic if you prefer. It’s a great way to discuss similar interests, connect with your friends and read things outside of your comfort zone.
  38. Start a family quiz night. You can take it in turns to be quiz master and have fun putting your questions together. It’s a great way to spend time as a family and help your kids learn new things.
  39. Board games aren’t just for Christmas - rediscover old favourites like Operation or Buckaroo – charity shops are great places for picking up games and jigsaw puzzles.
  40. Play cards. Gin rummy, whist, UNO or even snap; there are lots of card games to learn that you can play yourself (try solitaire) or with your kids.
  41. Go through your last holiday photos with your family and each pick a favourite and recount a memory from the trip.
  42. Catch up on correspondence – FaceTime your best friend with a cuppa for a virtual coffee date.
  43. Write a letter or card. There’s something really touching about receiving a note in the post. Make someone’s day and send a little card or write a letter to a far-flung friend.
  44. Have friends round for dinner. Why not whip up one of these recipes from our dietitian, or do a pot luck dinner where everyone contributes a dish?
  45. Bake a cake and take it in to work for your colleagues to enjoy. The Great British Bake-off may be over, but treating your team to a tempting cake occasionally will boost morale in your office or workplace. You could also set a healthy treat challenge to encourage a healthy diet in your workplace.

Even healthy people become unhealthy sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance

Bupa Health Editor Natalie Heaton
Natalie Heaton (she/her)
Health and Lifestyle Editor at Bupa UK

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