Whether You’re Talking Social Prescribing, Recreational Therapy, or Having a Hobby, Activity Can Help
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An article in The Guardian, a British news publication, caught our eye recently. Under the headline and subhead “Young people to be prescribed surfing and dancing by NHS to help anxiety: Study to assess if ‘social prescribing’ such as surfing or rollerskating can stop conditions worsening while on waiting lists,” the article by health policy editor Denis Campell begins like this:
Young people will take part in surfing, rollerskating and gardening to see whether sport, the arts and outdoor activities can make them less anxious and depressed.
NHS [National Health Service] mental health trusts will use the activities to help 600 young people on their waiting lists for care as part of a study into whether “social prescribing” helps improve mental wellbeing.
People aged 11 to 18 in 10 parts of England will also be able to take part in dance, music, sport and exercise and attend youth clubs during the trial, which is being run by academics from University College London.
If participation proves successful the NHS may seek to make such activities available across England as a way of helping the many thousands of young people who face what can be months-long delays in accessing formal treatment, during which time their condition often worsens.
There is sure to be lots of new information and data to be gleaned from this study, but it could be argued that the notions the article calls “social prescribing” are already accepted parts of mental health treatment, and by extension, treatment for substance use disorders.
Recreational Therapy Is More Than Fun and Games
Here’s a quote from a U.S. News & World Report article about recreational therapy:
From team sports to music, hiking to bowling, a recreational therapist fuses goal-oriented leisure and health care. After meeting with a patient, therapists develop a treatment plan for him or her. They take into account where patients are in their care, their abilities and disabilities, and their interests.
“We will ask you, ‘What do you enjoy doing? What makes you, you?’” [a recreational therapist] says. “These aren’t questions they’re going to get from their physician or their nurse; they’re questions they’re going to get from their recreational therapist.”
Sounds a lot like “social prescribing,” doesn’t it? The key distinction may be that recreational therapy involves a therapist working directly with an individual whereas “social prescribing” seems to be a practice that involves suggesting an activity as a kind of placeholder while one waits for more traditional types of mental health care—like talk therapy, medication, or both.
In that sense, social prescribing may be a bit less like recreational therapy, and a bit more like…well…having a hobby. That is not necessarily a bad thing at all.
Having a Hobby Can Boost Your Mental Well-being and Support Sobriety
An engaging hobby can have a number of significant benefits. For example, you can turn to your hobby at moments when you feel anxious or at times when cravings for drugs or alcohol seem particularly strong. Taking the time to regularly do something you truly enjoy is a great stress reliever and can go a long way toward helping you stay in the present moment rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
And the wonderful thing about hobbies is that they are entirely yours. Learn to play the piano! Take up knitting! Join a bowling league! (You might want to keep an eye out for “dry” leagues in your area if your substance use disorder is centered on alcohol). Read your way through the works of a favorite author! Find the various walking and hiking trails in your area and trek them all! Start at the beginning of a new cookbook and cook your way through to the end!
The key to making sure your hobby serves your mental health and sobriety is to find something that you truly enjoy—and it makes no difference what it is as long as it is safe, legal, and does not tempt you to turn back to drugs or alcohol.
Helping You is not a Hobby
At Bel Aire Recovery Center in Kansas, we are fully engaged in the work of helping individuals regain their sobriety. And our commitment doesn’t end there. We will also provide resources, strategies, and ongoing support to help you maintain that sobriety going forward while also addressing any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be contributing to your struggles with drugs or alcohol. We are ready to bring a combination of expertise, experience, personalization, and compassion to the job of helping you reclaim your life.