Photo of a group of students hanging out on Farrand Field.

Does it ever feel like everyone is glued to their phones? That’s probably because, well, we are. And they may be experiencing negative health effects as a result. 

Spending excess time on digital devices, like phones and laptops, can negatively impact things like sleep quality, mental health, belonging and connection, self-esteem and even academic performance. 

Making time to intentionally step away from your devices can help mitigate these effects. In fact, going screen-free, even for a few hours, can help you relax, boost your creativity, connect on a deeper level and enjoy meaningful experiences.  

If you’ve been feeling in a rut or simply want to take a break, here are a few screen-free things you can do that are guaranteed to brighten your day. 

1. Try geocaching  

Head outside to join the world’s largest treasure-hunting community! Millions of clever containers, known as geocaches, are hidden around the world, including some right here in Boulder. You can join the search by downloading the free Geocaching app, which will walk you through your first treasure hunt. Geocaching is not only a fun challenge, but it can be a great way to get outside, add adventure to your routine and have fun with friends. 

Don’t let the snow stop you
If you want to go geocaching in winter weather, remember to dress in layers. You can also rent snowshoes, winter boots, insulated pants and jackets from Outdoor Pursuits at The Rec.

2. Dive into a DIY project  

DIY projects are a great way to express your creativity and upgrade your space on a budget. In fact, the Center for Student Involvement offers free DIY Nights every month. All supplies are provided, and you can easily register online. Upcoming projects include candle making, sock animals, tie blankets, soap making, succulent origami and much more! They also have sessions that allow you to choose your own crafting adventure. 

3. Zen out over lunch 

Need to take a break from your busy schedule? Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a free Feel Good Friday meditation each week from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. at the CU Art Museum. This meditation workshop will feature a piece of artwork on display that relates to mindfulness. Can’t join in person? No worries! Feel Good Fridays are also available on Zoom. 

4. Take a day trip 

Did you know that you can visit museums and other attractions for free? The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), which covers most Denver Metro counties, offers free admission to art and science museums, cultural heritage sites and more on specific days throughout the year. This means you can visit places like the Denver Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Butterfly Pavilion, Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Molly Brown House and much more for free. You can check out the full Free Day schedule online to plan your trip. 

Free Cultural Passes
Did you also know that many libraries also offer Cultural Passes? These passes are available to check out for free entry to local cultural attractions. To reserve a Cultural Pass, you must have a local library card. Library cards are available for free to all Colorado residents. You can even sign up for a library card within neighboring counties or regions. Participating libraries include the Boulder County Public Library, Denver Public Libraries, Demis Public Library (Littleton), Douglas County Libraries, Louisville Public Library, Jefferson County Public Libraries and more.

5. Get together for games 

Whether you want to be inside or outdoors, there are plenty of ways to play with your friends on campus. Here are two to try: 

Yard games 

The Recreation Center offers free equipment checkouts for members to enjoy. Packages are available for various games and sports, including soccer, football, frisbee, spike ball, volleyball and more. 

Pickup basketball 

Head to the Rec Center to join a pickup game of basketball with your fellow Buffs. You can also invite your friends to play against another group or team. 

Board games 

Visit The Connection at the UMC to enjoy bowling, billiards and board games! They offer a variety of weekly programs, including extreme bowling, poker tournaments, live music, trivia nights and more. 

6. Volunteer 

Volunteering doesn’t just make your community better — it can make you feel better as well. In fact, studies have shown that volunteering can help you feel better, improve your connection with others and provide a sense of meaning and purpose. The best part is that there are volunteer opportunities for every interest, skill set and schedule available. 

Check out the Volunteer Resource Center for a full list of opportunities around Boulder. Don’t have time to commit to a regular volunteer schedule? That’s okay! Many organizations have flexible scheduling options and drop-in opportunities available. You can even sign up with your friends as part of a group volunteer project. 

7. Declutter your space 

Okay fine, this one isn’t as fun, but it’s still likely to have an impact on your day. When we live in spaces that are cluttered by excess belongings, it can influence stress, sleep, mood, relationships, self-perception and productivity. Removing excess items can help you feel better and support your well-being. 

You don’t even have to do it all at once. In fact, it’s usually better to start small to avoid getting overwhelmed by the process. Here are a few ways to practice small-scale decluttering: 

  • Start with a smaller area. Don’t try to tackle your home or even your entire closet at once. Instead, choose a small area to focus on, such as a single bathroom or kitchen drawer, your nightstand or a single category of clothing like socks or pants. 

  • Pick a set number of items. Sometimes decluttering can be difficult because there are bound to be items that end up in our ‘maybe’ pile, which can be overwhelming for some people. A good way to avoid this is to choose a set number of items you’d like to get rid of in one day or one weekend. For instance, you may choose to donate or discard 10 items. This allows you to more easily pick out items you know you don’t want to keep without spending too much time deliberating. 

  • Set a timer. Take your time when it comes to decluttering. Instead of dedicating a whole day to the activity, consider setting a timer for 15 to 30 minutes and get as much done as you can. You can easily pair this with one of the strategies above to help you limit how much time you’re dedicating to a specific area or number of items. This can also help you choose between decluttering projects that are manageable within a set amount of time. 

Declutter with the environment in mind

If you find items you don’t want, consider whether you can sell them, donate them or just trash them.

Selling. Selling items can take a lot of time and energy. This is because you’ll need to take photos, write descriptions, post them online and potentially haggle with buyers. Consider how much you’re willing to put into selling an item. For instance, if you plan to sell a shirt for $5 or $10, it may be less stressful to let it go to a donation center.

Donating. There are a variety of donation centers in and around Boulder, including national chains like Goodwill and smaller non-profits like A Precious Child. Before you donate items, be sure to check online to see what kind of items they accept and in what condition. Avoid donating items that are stained, ripped, broken or missing parts.

Trash. While it’s not ideal, some items simply can’t be sold, donated or saved. In these cases, it may be best to look into ways to dispose of them in the trash or recycling. The Environmental Center on campus is a great resource to help you figure out how to best repurpose or discard items and live more sustainably by avoiding overconsumption.

8. Get creative in the kitchen 

Cooking can be a great way to express your creativity. It can also be a fun way to hang out with friends. One low-stress option is to host a build-your-own pizza night. You can invite friends to bring a variety of ingredients to share and make personal sized pizzas.  

Want to be extra creative in the kitchen? Here are some out-of-the-box pizza ideas to try: 

  • Taco pizza: Taco Tuesday just got more interesting. Top your pizza with queso sauce, seasoned ground beef and cheddar cheese. You can also add toppings like pico de gallo, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream after baking. 

  • Breakfast pizza: Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Enjoy a delicious breakfast pizza by topping your dough with thawed hashbrowns, cooked breakfast sausage or ham, eggs and cheese. You can also add omelet toppings like bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach and more. 

  • Baked potato pizza: Potatoes are delicious in any form, including on pizza. Simply top your crust with a few wedges of baked potatoes (you can make these in the microwave), butter, cheese and seasonings. Don’t forget to add your favorite loaded toppings after baking, like sour cream, crumbled bacon and even more cheese. 

  • Hummus pizza: Looking for a vegetarian or vegan option? Try out a hummus pizza by pre-baking your crust and adding hummus, seasonings, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and olives once it has cooled. 

Connect with resources 

Looking for more screen-free ways to destress and feel better? Check out these resources on campus. 

Nutrition Services

The registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) at Wardenburg can help students decipher fact from fiction when it comes to nutritional advice. Campus RDNs can also help you create individualized nutrition goals to support a sustainable eating pattern for you. 

Food and Body Image Support Meeting

The Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC) offers a free food and body image support group for students, staff and faculty. This group is designed to help individuals build community and work with others who are in recovery from unhealthy relationships with food and body image. 

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)

CAPS provides support for students struggling with issues related to food, weight and body image. They can also provide coordinated care with medical providers or help refer students to community resources. 


Students, staff and faculty can access free nutrition counseling from registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) online through AcademicLiveCare, regardless of your insurance plan. 

Thriving Campus

Students, staff and faculty can connect with community providers who offer individual counseling related to body image, dieting and eating disorders. To find providers with your desired specialty, use the filters section to search for 'practice areas.’