How I Learned to Train My Brain: Constructive Apps to Substitute for Social Media

I’m a pretty typical millennial. Free time = scroll time. Scroll time = thumbing through an endless array of mind numbing content on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc.

Scroll time can definitely help blow off steam, but if it becomes the sole occupier of your free time, it’s bound to mute a few neural pathways.

Last year, as I was an hour and a half deep into watching “My name is Jeff” parodies on Vine, I had an epiphany. “I need to do something useful with my life,” I muttered to myself as Mary Jane asked Spiderman who he really was only to be met with the direct answer, “My name is Jeff.” (classic Jeff).

So, I began looking for more constructive apps/services to direct my attention towards in lieu of scrolling.

(I also downloaded the Google Chrome plugin “StayFocusd” and limited my total time on sites like Facebook, Reddit, Imgur to two minutes per day which is admittedly the sweetest two minutes of my day… I’m not an addict I swear).

Based on my exploration and research over the past year, here are my top three recommendations:

  1. Meditate daily with Headspace

This is my personal favorite guided meditation service. Though in its full featured form Headspace is a website (Headspace.com), its full functionality is available through a fully featured app. Among all the forms of meditation I’ve tried, Headspace has kept me the most accountable because a) I have to pay for it and b) its guided meditation packs are structured in a path-like sequence that provide incentives for finishing packs and for practicing consistently. The first 10 days are free, so give it a try!

I can say, with certainty, that Headspace has truly changed the way my brain functions and has given me additional tools for handling the stress and anxiety that come with daily life. For more info about the benefits of meditation, read this article which we ran a couple months ago.

  1. Learn a new language with Duolingo

Duolingo is a great, free resource that enables you to learn a foreign language. The app has a unique learning interface that combines listening, observing, reading, and writing. The app itself is structured like a game, and consequently you do not need a long attention span to benefit from the language learning activities.

Overall, it’s pretty engaging, fun, and as well as effective. I’ve started taking German on Duolingo and can now say a number of useful phrases such as “I am a woman” and “The boy eats the apple.”

  1. Explore the world around you through podcasts

Podcasts are seriously awesome. Listening to a podcast can suddenly make a menial task, like doing laundry, engaging. Best of all they are free! I recommend checking out the following podcasts:

  • Invisibilia– chronicles of the ‘invisible phenomenon’ that influence humanity (i.e. the internet, fear, etc.)
  • TED Radio Hour- NPR explores a different subject weekly incorporating information from previous TED talks and featuring more in depth interviews with the speakers
  • This American Life– good ol’ American storytelling
  • Radiolab– where “science meets culture”; each episode brings to light a new story or a new investigation. Always interesting.
  • Snap Judgment– this podcast brings stories to life with its upbeat, musical storytelling style. It will make you laugh, grimace, cry, and even wet your pants.
  • The Sound of Trance with Johnny Monsoon– this podcast really doesn’t belong in this list… but it’d be a travesty not to tell everyone. Prime trance mixes from an up and coming DJ out of Seattle.
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