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I get bored on shabbat and have a hard time staying away from my phone do you have any advice for fun things to do on Shabbat?

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This question is more a psychological one and it really depends on your personal situation. I will try to answer a bit more generally.

1. Keep the phone away

The easiest first step, regardless of all else, is to keep the phone in a place that is inaccessible in moments of weakness. If you use the phone as an alarm clock consider an alternative alarm clock for Shabbat. If you use the phone as an alarm so that you can use its functionality to automatically switch off after a set amount of seconds, then consider keeping it in a drawer so that you can still hear the alarm, but can’t see the phone. Every psychical and visual barrier between you and your phone will help prevent giving in to the urge to use it. Don’t make it a battle of willpower, because you will lose that battle eventually.

2. Be wary of conditioned behavior.

Regardless of your situation it is important to realize humans are creatures of habit. As such it helps to keep in mind that the urge to use the phone can feel like the urge to entertain, but is most likely in large part the urge to keep your routine. It is not really possible to just stop doing something that has become routine and which has become a behaviour that is associated with other behaviour; it needs to be replaced with a new routine. Many people are aware of Pavlov’s research into classical conditioning, where a dog would start drooling whenever a bell was rung after having been served food whenever a bell was rung repeatedly. Similarly, casual phone use, like smoking, gambling and other ‘addictive’ behaviour is difficult to stop because we condition ourselves, even when discounting the chemistry behind certain behaviours. If you are used to pick up the phone whenever you crash on the couch, merely sitting on the couch will trigger the urge to then also pick up the phone.

There are two things one can do to break this conditioned habit: If you use the phone whenever you sit on the couch it can be helpful to sit on a different part of the couch, or a comfy chair, if available. Do things on Shabbat differently. Alternatively, you can change your behaviour with the phone during the week. For example, condition yourself to use the phone more deliberately so that you have an easier time deviating from that routine on Shabbat. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as you make it easier for yourself to live your day on Shabbat without constantly doing something that you (unconsciously) associate with using your phone.

3. Fill the empty space

It is not always easy to change routine behaviour, especially at home. The easiest way to break up the routine is to prepare for a Shabbat routine. Delay the moment that you would normally start looking for the phone. The first few Shabbatot will feel off, but over time your body will adapt to a new Shabbat routine. The key here is preparation. As I mentioned earlier, never make a habit change become a battle of willpower, because that is a losing battle. Any ad-hoc solutions are potentially failing solutions. It helps to run the Shabbat-script in your head ahead of Shabbat. Some activities can help with minimizing the time where you need to find the motivation in yourself:

  • Synagogue. It can depend on your community how long the Shabbat service is relative to how long Shabbat is. I live in an area and far enough from shul so that after Shabbat-shacharit it is about 14:00 when I get home.
  • Invite guests. Or be a guest. Inviting friends, tourists, family are ways to stretch the day with a new routine. I used to be fearful of inviting people over for Shabbat lunch because I was really unsure about my Shabbat-cooking, but I told my guests that they were welcome at 15:00 for a conversation later. In time I had no issue with taking guests home from shul for a simple lunch. Before you know it you will have had fun talking, singing and eating with your guest(s) and it is already 16:00. Depending on the time of year and where you live this might mean that Mincha-Maariv is soon. In the summer months you still need to ‘survive’.
  • Prepare an activity: get yourself excited about a book you will read, or buy a board-game that you can enjoy. Try to deliberately set Shabbat aside as a part of the week where you can do new things you get excited about. Don’t look for a good book when Shabbat has started, but pick it at least a day in advance.
  • Go for a nap. The ‘shabbes-shluf’ is a great way to re-energize yourself and to not become bored.

There are probably many more suggestions, but you probably get where I am going with this: don’t try to get through Shabbat with ad-hoc activities, but try to make a mental script of how you are going to spend your time on Shabbat. Some have had Shabbat-routines ingrained in them through childhood, or have spent many years building their own in adulthood. But don’t be discouraged if it feels that you are the only one who struggles. Everyone struggles with the break in their routine behavior, some just have the luxury of experience in dealing with it.

So the bottom-line is to make sure you have a battle plan: start with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach so that you have to cross a few barriers before you can indulge an urge. Keep the urge under control by firstly finding sufficient distractions and avoid mundane weekly-routines, and secondly by planning for alternative activities.

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So I'm assuming you go to shul on Shabbos. That gives you a couple of hours to daven to Hashem. Tell him your struggles and ask him for help. Then after shul you can eat kiddush, take a nap, read a book, or play a game. Fun games to play on shabbos include chess, rummikub, and checkers. Hangout with some friends, maybe do a little learning. Take a walk with some family members, and talk about your week. Hope this helps!

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