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Home Life, Self-Care

39 Things to Do Instead of Watching TV When You Have a Chronic Illness

I know all too well how easy it is to become a professional couch potato when you have a chronic illness. And sometimes that is literally all you’re capable of doing. But other times we may be doing it out of habit, and it can get boring at times. Here are some other fun alternatives that don’t require too much physical exertion.

I have borrowed some of the ideas from a fantastic list put together by Michelle of Making Sense of Cents. While her post is great for most people, I decided to make a more doable list for us chronic illness warriors.

Update: Be sure to read the comments below for some additional great activity ideas. 😊

| Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no extra cost to you.


I don’t know about you, but I find many benefits in doing crafts. One it exercises my creativity. Second, I find it reduces stress, and lastly, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow I move, I can still create something beautiful.

I love doing crafts, and I love even more that it’s something I can still do while I have brain fog. For me, my brain fog can severely affect the left side of my brain. It can take away almost all of my analytical thinking, makes me confused, and can change my speech. I have found, though, that my brain fog doesn’t hinder my ability to be creative.  I might still be moving and thinking slower, but when it comes to creativity, that’s okay. My go-to craft is cross stitch, but I’ve provided others below.

  1. Cross stitch. My favorite patterns are from this shop on Etsy.
  2. Embroidery
  3. Punch needle
  4. Rug Hooking
  5. Knitting
  6. Crochet – Check out Jonah’s Hands for inspiration and tutorials.
  7. Adult coloring – I love these chronic illness coloring books I found here and here. I’ve also found adult coloring books at the dollar store.
  8. Friendship bracelets
  9. Scrapbooking
  10. Sketching
  11. Painting with acrylics or watercolor.
  12. Cake decorating
  13. Photography
  14. Create a photobook

Unplug with Games

Games can be a fun way to spend time. It can also give you an excuse to invite a friend or two over for a visit.

Here’s a list of a few games to get you started.

  1. Card games – Ranker has a great list of the most popular card games
  2. Yahtzee
  3. Scrabble or Bananagrams
  4. Crossword Puzzles
  5. Sudoku
  6. Word find
  7. Pass the Pigs – A silly game you can play, even when you have brain fog!

Work your Mind, Body, and Spirit

  1. Meditate – There are great free meditations on youtube. I also like the app 10% Happier (I’m still using the free version), and there are courses on Udemy.
  2. Start a gratitude journal. I started writing down what I was thankful for this fall, and it has helped me tremendously in trying to stay positive.
  3. Write a list of goals. Just because you’re chronically ill, it doesn’t mean you have to give up all your life goals. Yes, we may have to give up some, but we can also rework some of our goals to accommodate our chronic illness. We can always create new ones that we can achieve with a chronic illness.
  4. Do some stretches and/or a light workout even if it’s from your bed. Here are some videos on yoga for chronic illness.
  5. Read a book.
  6. Make a playlist.
  7. Learn something new. I’ve taken a few courses from Udemy and have enjoyed them. Udemy has frequent sales, and during these times, many of their courses are less than $20.

Connect with People

I don’t know about you, but being chronically ill can be very lonely sometimes. When I went into remission and reconnected with friends, I realized that most of my friends mostly stopped talking to me because they became busy with their own lives. Unfortunately, when you’re out of sight, you become out of mind with a lot of people. Does it suck? Yes, it does, but that doesn’t mean your old friends wouldn’t love to hear from you.

  1. Call, email, or text a friend or family member
  2. Handwrite a letter and send it through snail mail
  3. Respond to or post a question in your online support group

If You Have Nice Weather Get Outside

Sometimes spending time outside can really have a positive impact on how you’re feeling.

  1. Sit out on your front porch or back deck
  2. Have a picnic
  3. Watch the sunset
  4. Watch the sunrise
  5. Go for a short walk
  6. Go to a local outdoor concert
  7. Look at the stars
  8. Drive or ask someone to drive you to a state/national park. You may not be able to hike, but you can still take in the scenery and maybe stop at a lookout on the side of the road.

Take pictures wherever you go to capture memories of your adventure.

Do you have other activities that you like to do that I haven’t mentioned above? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
low energy activities | activities to do with a chronic illness | couch potato | bored of TV | things to do when you have a chronic illness

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara has worked in corporate America for almost 15 years, and she's worked the last eight years with FND. Her FND comes with paroxysmal dystonia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, sensory overload, muscle pain, and more. She is currently a part-time career woman, a mom and a wife.

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  1. As someone with Hashimotos, celiac disease and chronic fatigue, this is a really great list! Thank you so much!!

    1. Jen, you’re welcome! I’m glad you like the list. 🙂

    2. Hey Jen good suggestions, right now it is to hot but when it cools down me and my grandkids get outside. The VA got me a scooter last fall so now I can get out with the grandkids and play. We play basketball with me sitting on the scooter even though my grandkids didn’t believe it would go in so when I get to many in the basket they make me move the scooter farther away from the goal lol. We also live on a dead end road so the grandkids walk while I’m on the scooter and sometimes we take our 2 dogs but when we do it’s calling running instead of walking because that is what the dogs do

  2. Patricia says:

    I’ve tolerated (not suffered!) from fibromyalgia, etc for 15 years. Hate when I have a day when I need to stay in bed but it just happens. Don’t fight it. Accept it! You WILL have better days. Crazy enough you have hit everything I have learned to do to fill my time. I write, yes—hand-write—letters to friends and I never cease to get a happy thank you as written correspondence is so “vintage”! It’s a great way to stay in touch and you can quit whenever you tire. You have done such a wonderful kindness to fellow tolerators. Thanks, sweet one!

    1. Thank you! And I love that you say tolerated instead of suffered. I might steal that. 🙂

  3. Patricia says:

    Sorry, I looked at your list again and wanted to add sewing. There are so many things that are quick as easy to make that can help people in need. Again, it’s a great activity you can just stop whenever you tire.

    1. Yes, that is another great activity! Thanks for mentioning it.

  4. Organizing your closet or going through clothes to donate. Slowly & pacing yourself. ☺️

    1. I love it and it’s definitely an activity I should do. 🙂

      1. This is a nice list however I suffer from fibromyalgia, lupus, RA and they all effect my hands and the list everything in the list involves using ur hands

        1. Thanks, April. Sorry to hear you have so much trouble with your hands. I tried to make the list as encompassing as possible since chronic illness affects everyone differently. There are some seated outdoor activities listed that don’t include using hands, and others have posted great suggestions in the comments, such as audiobooks.

        2. I have Sjögren’s & rheumatoid arthritis, & have varying degrees of difficulty with my hands. If my hands don’t want to work, I play my games on line. I use an ipad, so all I have to do is poke at the screen. I have a fashion game (Love Nikki), cookie jam, shanghai mahjong, bejewelled, word cookies, etc. The different games have different amounts of poking involved. I spend time reading articles on The Mighty, which are always interesting.
          I can spend hours on Pinterest, pinning things, watching videos, & reading recipes. You can search all kinds of crafts, & then find directions & examples that vary beyond your imagination! The ones you like, want to remember, or want to try, you can just pin. Then you can go back to them any time you want.
          I’ve just gotten in to paper flowers! They have directions for making all kinds of different flowers from tissue paper & crepe paper. It’s so much fun!
          I’ve also started making pom-poms, & then making things with the pom-poms. That’s been interesting. It helps out with the ever-growing collection of skeins of yarn. I seem to collect yarn. Hahaha!
          I always have pinecones all over, from my trees, so I’ve learned to paint them & make flowers out of them, or make wreathes out of them. I get tons of ideas from Pinterest.
          When my fingers are wanting to fing, I make jewelry.
          Sometimes, i’m only able to lay here, with my cat, staring at the tv. He enjoys it though., especially if blankets are involved!

          1. Tess, these are all wonderful suggestions! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

          2. Tammy says:

            There are seated yoga activities you could look into.

    2. Elaine Brazil says:

      I did that a few weeks ago! It was SO gratifying & my closet looked amazing! Of course, I’ve been to visit my Mom since then & she always gives me a BUNCH of clothes…so now my closet is full again!

  5. M A Wilson says:

    I find it tremendously beneficial to my mood if I can do something to help others. I knit and crochet blankets, scarves and hats for homeless people and their dogs. When my hands function I make cheerful jewellery that I donate to a local charity shop.
    The other supporters are our dogs and cats,all rescues,and those we look after for friends, neoghbours, and people involved in hospital emergencies. We have a long garden and we play with toys indoors and out. They graciously consent to spend hours at a time cuddling with me on sofa or bed when I cannot move or have a low energy spell.

    1. Those sound like wonderful activities. I do wish I could volunteer more but you’ve found a fantastic way to give back even if you can’t be very active. 🙂

    2. I’m a cancer survivor times 2 and other chronic illness so I try to stay busy. I got this goal of making scrapbooks for all my family and friends which is at least 50 maybe more. I got started by getting all my photos together and scanning them and still doing this right now I got over a millions pics on my external hard drive there is a lot of doubles but I have a big family and been taking photos since I was a kid and then I also have all my mom’s and granny’s pictures to scan also so it’s been a big goal. I do some every day but not enough to over do it. These scrapbooks I hope will be special to those in my family and especially my grandkids who now will have pics of 6 generations.

  6. Great list! So glad I found your blog .

  7. Daniel says:

    Music. You mentioned “make a playlist” and “go to a local outdoor concert”, but strangely you didn’t mention “go to a concert”. I very much prefer indoor concerts. Outdoors is often too warm, too cold, too wet, etc.
    And then there’s playing an instrument, of course. I take tremendous joy in playing the piano and singing. Sure, I can’t always do it, as it does require a fair amount of energy, which I don’t always have. Or I might be in too much pain to play, but I play and sing whenever I can.

    1. Daniel, I’m so glad you commented because going to a concert, playing an instrument, and singing are excellent activities. They also made me think of going to a musical or play. Thank you. 🙂

  8. I suffer from fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and pulmonary artery hypertension. There are days I literally can’t get out of bed. Thanks so much for this list as well as understanding. I also find that watching my grandchildren play is very soothing.

    1. Serena, you’re welcome. I’m so glad you found the list helpful. I love that you find watching your grandchildren play to be soothing. My boys are finally at an age where they have started to play together, and I find it very heartwarming that they are becoming friends. 🙂

  9. Rebecca says:

    I have fibro, me/cfs, and a seizure disorder, and spend most of my life in my bed or recliner as a result. Your list is terrific! Many of my go-tos are on your list (cross stitching is awesome! I’ve been doing it since I was 21, which is more than three decades ago; I also read, paint, do loom-knitting, meditate, and do stretching exercises). I think of myself as a writer, though I have a hard time writing now, due to poor concentration. I can still write a couple of paragraphs in my journal whenever I feel like it, and I still write poems on occasion. I do a lot of art journaling, which is hugely enjoyable. I do a lot of crafts— I make most of the Christmas gifts I give each year, and I love learning new handicrafts. Pinterest is great for finding inspiration and tutorials. One of my favorite things to do is watch cats on 24-hour streaming programs on YouTube: Tiny Kittens is located in BC, Canada, and focuses on feral cats, and The Critter Room is hosted by Foster Dad John, who is located in Seattle, Washington, USA, and has one foster group at a time (usually a mama with kittens). There’s chatting for anyone who wants to participate, and both groups also have Facebook pages. I also do a lot of internet surfing, and I do jigsaw puzzles online (at

    1. Hi Rebecca, Thank you so much! I love the list of all your activities! I love doing crafts too and have made some crafts with my little guys with the help of Pinterest. Pinterest does have some great ideas and I can get lost there in my searches. 🙂 I’ve never thought about the idea of art journaling. That is such a great idea! I will also be checking out these 24-hour streaming programs. I had no idea they existed. The Foster Dad John one sounds particularly fun. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  10. I am surviving Fibromyalgia for 20+ years. I say surviving instead of suffer because I have found ways to live with this illness. I agree with your lists. I have had to find ways to live with this condition. I would add putting together jigsaw puzzles. I use a puzzle maker on my desktop computer. No need to mess with pieces all over. Another way is online games. There are so many different kinds of games that there is something for anyone. I use BigFishGames. Not only are the games fun but they keep my mind active with the least amount of energy.
    I love to read cookbooks and discovering new recipes for the days I can’t cook. Love your site.

    1. Hi LeeAnn, I love that you say surviving instead of suffering. I think I’m going to adopt that language as well. 🙂 Putting together jigsaw puzzles is an excellent activity. I’m personally not an online game player so I had no idea that you could even do jigsaw puzzles on the computer. How cool! Discovering new recipes is another great suggestion. Thank you!

  11. This is great list! I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome 3 years ago and still suffer with chronic pain and fatigue. I’ve never been a TV or film person over and above my usual soaps and I do like to be productive so I’ve had to find lots of new things to do. I work part time but on days off I really enjoy blogging, creating photo scrapbooks ( I regularly order prints off my phone to use) and as someone else mentioned sorting out your wardrobe has been a big one for me. I’ve been able to sell unwanted clothing and use the cash to help pay my bills. Not socialising as much means lots of clothing is now not needed.

    1. Thanks so much Lisa! That’s great you’ve been able to sell your unwanted clothes for money. I feel a little overwhelmed when I think about that task. Lol. I checked out your blog and it’s great. Do you have an email list I could sign up for?

  12. Read or listen to a book. Audible isn’t the only audio book provider any more, and the new guys are giving them a run for their money. Walmart’s audio book club is only $10 per month for 1 credit that you can buy any audio book with. Audible is $14.95/month but if you also have Prime, you get a lot of other “extras” that make it hard to leave Audible/Amazon. Audible also just added a 2 books per month option for $22.95. So you basically can get any two audio book(s) for $11.50 each, monthly. No, I can’t afford Amazon Prime either, but Amazon kindly lets me use my Mom’s membership.

    Glad to find y’all.

    1. Sherril thank you so much for the information on audio books. I had no idea, but it’s good information to know. 🙂

      1. Tiffany says:

        Often your local library will have an e-book and audio books program online that is free to use. Entirely free. You can usually get up to 5 items at a time and never even have to leave the house. Here in Pennsylvania it’s called Overdrive; I don’t know if it’s the same in other states but a quick call to the library will tell you.

        1. Tiffany – thank you so much for sharing! This is an excellent suggestion! 🙂

  13. Christy says:

    I’m glad so many people benefited from this! Unfortunately, I usually don’t have the energy, muscle strength , or mental dexterity to do the things in this list. Fibro/CFS, Hashimotos, Endometriosis, and still searching. If I have the energy to crochet, I’m going to use that energy to cook food for myself so I can survive or to shower. And if I do that, I no longer have the energy or focus for anything but rtv, and sometimes just resting takes all the fight I have. Match 3 games on my phone can be helpful alternatives to tv. but coloring usually takes too much muscle.

    1. Hi Christy,

      I’m sorry to hear your symptoms are so disabling, and I hope you are able to find some activities that you can do. Thank you for your suggestion about Match 3 games. I know nothing about online games so any suggestions on them are welcome! 🙂

    2. Debby says:

      I live with fibromyalgia, arachnoiditis, osteoarthritis, osteopenia, DDD, hypothyroidism, s-curve scoliosis, chronic hip dysplasia, bulging and herniated discs, chronic migraines, and the list goes on and on. Besides coloring in adult coloring books there are free apps where you just need to poke and it fills in the color. They will save your progress too so you don’t need to finish at one sitting. My favorite is Hey Color. Also since I don’t know how to knit or crochet I do loom knitting. One year I made 80 sets of hats and scarves and donated to a camp that serves children who come from economically disadvantage households. Another thing I like to do is Art Journaling. You don’t have to have any artistic ability. (Pinterest has lots of examples and lists of topics).

      1. Hi Debby – Wow, 80 sets of hats and scarves are amazing! Thank you for all of your suggestions. I’ll be looking into these. 🙂

  14. I always say I have a choice. I can allow a disease to have me or I can have a disease. I choose not to allow a disease have me because I then give all my power to the disease. I have crohns and fibromyalgia. More down days than up but hey every day I wake up is another day I am blessed. Quilting is my passion

    1. Yvonne, I love that. “I choose not to allow a disease have me because I then give all my power to the disease.” Such a powerful statement. Thank you for sharing. Quilting is another excellent activity I hadn’t thought of. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Jennifer says:

    I have been suffering with Fibromyalgia for the last ten years and recently auto amune and ms was added to my list. In order to cope day to day I now do scrap booking. I go out and take photos of the family and walks and travels and places I love to be in and put it in albums so I can remember where I was and how my family has grown.

    1. Jennifer – I’m sorry to hear that you have multiple chronic illnesses. But I do love all of the activities you do and that you incorporate your family. Scrapbooking is a wonderful activity and an idea I may take on. I still love physical albums more than digital ones. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  16. 3D or 5D puzzles they help keep your mind focused on what your doing and not the pain your in !!

    1. Hi Tina – I love this! Great out of the box thinking. Thank you for sharing!

  17. I am a cancer patient. I’ve been told to try Diamond dotz. I just got my first kit and I’m so excited!

    1. I’ve recently heard about diamond Dotz and they do look fun. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for sharing.😊

  18. Christie says:

    I just found this list and very much appreciate it. CFS/chronic lymes for last three years, going from frantic search for answers to finding new normal and new joys in life. I would love to find more things to do with my children who are elementary school age and still want me around. I’ve found drawing and coloring and movie nights are nice. Baths where I can lie on the bathroom floor and listen to them play, and occasionally chime in with a character voice or question. And although I was once against them, considering a video game system that we can enjoy playing together. Would appreciate any others suggestions on how to stay involved with your own children when housebound or bedridden. Thanks again for this lovely article and list.

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