Chronic pain conditions are noted mostly for what they are: painful. What many people don’t realize is that they have another unpleasant side effect – boredom. Pain patients spend endless hours in waiting rooms, on examining tables, and sidelined in bed or on a couch when pain flares up. Watching endless hours of television isn’t doing your brain any favors. For those times when you need something to do, here are 17 pain-friendly hobbies to productively (and engagingly) wile away the hours and distract from the pain.

17 pain-friendly hobbies

1. Cross stitch

Cross stitch is one of those pain-friendly hobbies that requires no expertise in sewing or other specific dexterity. This may be challenging for people with severe arthritis when it flares up, but cross stitch can also help keeps hands and fingers flexible and mobile.

2. Crocheting

Crocheting is knitting’s easier cousin. Crocheting requires just one needle, a skein of yarn, and a simple online tutorial to get started. There is less fine detail work than some of the other yarn crafts, so crocheting may be a pain-friendly activity that can help prevent painful flare-ups.

3. Sudoku

Sudoku is a Japanese numbers game that can be as easy or as challenging as you need (or want). This highly portable and entertaining brain exercise keeps the mind sharp when your body needs to rest.

4. Coloring

Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. Growing research has shown that adult coloring books that include designs like mandalas are actually meditative and can help reduce stress and the perception of pain. This is an activity that you can do with the kids, too.

5. Knitting

Knitting may have a steeper learning curve, but once you get the basics down then the possibilities are endless.

As with cross stitch and crocheting, there are ways to make knitting even more pain-friendly. Try these suggestions from the Arthritis Foundation for pain-friendly adaptations that help the hands.

6. Painting

After about third grade we start judging ourselves and our artistic abilities. Now is the time to stop and just create. Slap paint on a canvas and see what happens. There is no need to try to make something “perfect”; sometimes moving paint around is enough. You can use your hands as brushes or start with simple sponges.

7. Collage

If you cannot stop judging your efforts at painting, start a collage. Start simple and cover a canvas with shades of red or blue scraps of paper, or create a graphic piece of art by outlining a word that speaks to you and filling it in with pictures that bring you joy.

8. Scrapbooking

Scrapbooks are a great way to create memories to share with other people. If you have kids and their art, papers, and pictures are piling up, take some time to create scrapbooks organized by school year. This helps declutter your space and makes a keepsake they will cherish when they get older.

9. Online gaming

Online games are not just for singles anymore. Many online platforms have options to play complicated games with people all over the world. Stick to the free online games and ignore any in-app purchase options.

10. Reading

From quick magazine articles to involved books with endnotes and complicated plots, reading is always a great way to pass the time. Learn something new or dive into another world. With e-readers you don’t even need to go to the library. Many public libraries in the U.S. now offer an e-book checkout option.

11. Pinterest

Pinterest is the electronic bulletin board you never knew you needed. Some chronic pain patients may first discover Pinterest for its valuable information on chronic pain, but from there the sky is truly the limit. Create your own Pinterest account then start pinning everything from cute crafts for kids to low-impact exercise for when you are ready to go.

12. Organize photos

If you are old enough, there is a huge box of old pictures in your basement, envelopes of family memories gathering dust. Certainly everyone has a plethora of digital photos that could be organized and catalogued. Take some time to use a digital service to organize your photos in a printed book, or go through the old boxes in the basement and weed out the good ones to keep in a scrapbook.

13. Start a family budget

It’s not glamorous, but when is the last time you sat down and looked at your spending? Check out free online budget planners and then get your financial house in order.

14. Make phone calls

Remember phone calls? That thing that happened before texting, Facebooking, and tweeting took over the world? Reaching out and connecting with friends on the phone can be a great way to spend down time. Settle into a comfy chair with a cup of tea (hot or cold) and give a good friend a call.

15. Write something

Ever think about starting a blog? Keeping a journal? Writing poetry or fiction? Now’s a great time to start. The Unbroken Smile is always looking for stories of chronic illness to share with their readers, as are a number of other websites. Share your story.

16. Take an online class

Coursera offers many free or very affordable classes online. If you have something you have always wanted to learn, now might be a great time to do it!

17. Listen to a podcast

Podcasts are interviews, radio shows, or other audio delivered over the internet. Most are free to listen to, discussing everything under the sun.

These pain-friendly hobbies are great, but what if pain makes it hard to hold a pen, sit up straight to read, or stand to paint? Adaptive and assistive tools can help. Some days the pain may be so bad that rest is all you need, but when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel (or need to kill some time at a doctor’s appointment) adaptive tools can be a lifesaver.

When the pain gets bad for you, what pain-friendly hobbies help you stay active?