Rehab centers treat recovering addicts with numerous services, which potentially include integrated mental health care, individual and group counseling, behavioral therapies, relapse-prevention strategies, supervised detox, improved coping skills and anger/stress management. Many of these treatments help remove negative thoughts and self-defeating attitudes while fostering healthier habits and mindsets. Recreation, which some might see as merely a break from more traditional services, can also function as a complementary form of therapy that provides several recovery benefits.
What Does Recreation Do for Addicts
Recreation includes physical activities like jogging, swimming, hiking and yoga and mental activities like art, music, writing, dance and singing, among many options. The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2003 said recreational activities help patients improve self-esteem, self-identity and self-confidence, while the Professional Psychology journal that same year argued that physical exercise is associated with more positive mental health outcomes. As a form of therapy, recreation can potentially help addicts in several more ways including the following:
- Exercise helps patients improve their physical and mental health.
- Yoga, meditation and other holistic activities help reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Group activities can help create social ties associated with positive behavior.
- Spiritual growth and martial arts like Tai Chi can improve psychological balance.
- Recreation can be an effective way to relieve stress, anxiety and frustration.
- Pursuing old hobbies can tap into happy memories the addiction suppressed.
- Staying active can help minimize potential boredom and fill emotional voids.
- Certain types of exercise release endorphins that create a positive natural high.
- Exercise-related highs help restore healthy dopamine levels and neurotransmissions.
Rehab patients should create a list of recreational hobbies they enjoyed in the past or always wanted to pursue, and possibly speak with a counselor about the best way to pursue them. However, use common sense when choosing and pursuing recreational interests. For example, individuals suffering from a process addiction like gambling should not play cards, while people who abused steroids may want to find another setting beside a weightlifting gym.
Expressive Arts and Rehab Therapies
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health disorders often occur in tandem with addiction, and certain types of recreation have been modified to assist in addiction and mental health treatment. Several clinical studies have confirmed the efficacy of these therapies including the following:
- The American Journal of Public Health in 2003 concluded that drum circles help release emotional trauma and establish a sense of connectedness.
- The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published a study in 1998 showing lower relapse rates for patients who participated in therapeutic camping.
- The Psychology of Men & Masculinity journal in 2011 said that adventure therapies improved therapeutic processing and fostered more personal sharing.
- The Arts in Psychotherapy journal in 2007 found that dance therapies played a role in reducing symptoms of depression.
- The Journal of Affective Disorders in 2012 argued that writing about emotionally traumatic events helped reduce mood disorder symptoms.
- The Society and Animals journal in 2007 praised equine therapies (involving interaction with horses) for their positive treatment outcomes.
The Handbook of Art Therapy suggests that substance abuse warps an addict’s perception of reality, yet expressive arts help individuals admit the problem and express emotions in a non-judgmental forum. Likewise, the Journal of Chemical Dependency Treatment published “Integrating the Creative Arts into Trauma and Addiction Treatment” in 2008 arguing that the arts help people identify, explore and express emotions with more integrity and honesty. Artistic expression can also encourage catharsis and allow for projection with fewer cognitive distortions.
Recreation as Recovery Support
Physical, mental, and artistic recreation has the potential to assist patients even if the activities were not modified to address addiction specifically. Furthermore, there are several ways in which recreation can help recovering addicts after primary treatment including the following:
- Recreational activities can be an outlet for emotions, thoughts and energy.
- Hobbies and athletics provide healthy entertainment in the real world.
- Group activities provide an opportunity to bond with other recovering addicts.
- Physical exercise can play a positive role in anger and stress management.
- Relationships and connections made through recreation can provide social support.
- A disinterest in such activities can be used as a warning sign of relapse risk.
Individuals must also make sure the situation is conducive to their recovery. For example a sports team that goes drinking after every game would likely provide too much relapse risk, and a painkiller addict may not want to take up boxing. A better option is to engage people in local support groups and pursue recreational interests with new recovery partners and friends.
Our admissions coordinators can help if you have questions about art therapies, healthy recreation, treatment facilities, local support groups and any other related issues. We can also look up health insurance policies and explain their treatment benefits. We are available 24 hours a day, so please call our toll-free helpline now.