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Leading a meaningful life through purposeful activities

August 28, 2014

Leading a meaningful life through purposeful activities

Shelley Danser, Coordinator of Adjunctive Therapies, explains the importance of leisure time for our clients and alumni at Skyland Trail.

When a person is experiencing a mental illness, often the attention to self and wellbeing falls by the wayside. Many times, individuals isolate themselves and push away from their families, school, work, and pleasure. They often have difficulty identifying what they enjoy doing and tend to occupy their mind with a great deal of worry. In recreational therapy, we work to identify things that the clients did when they were healthy that helped them feel pleasure, comfort or satisfaction.

The term recreation is often defined as a sports related activity, involving cardio endurance and teamwork. At Skyland Trail, we define recreation as the free time a person has in his or her daily life. We all have free time that we have to figure out to use. As a recreational therapist, I help clients identify the recreational, leisure and social benefits of free time and make a plan for how they will engage in their free time in a healthy, purposeful way.

We do that in several ways. In classroom-style groups, we discuss the importance of paying attention to how we spend our free time, along with healthy strategies for managing it. Through a variety of exercises and lessons, we discuss clients’ interests, attitudes, awareness and barriers that they may have. After each group, I challenge the clients to be more aware of how their time is spent and think of ways to better utilize their free time.  Clients leave these lessons with new ideas and awareness’s and a goal to participate more freely in activities that will bring you better health and happiness. 

We also offer hands-on experience-based leisure opportunities here on campus and out in the community. We offer a variety of on-campus exercise groups, including circuit training, weight training, team sports and yoga. In addition, we offer several groups and experiences in woodworking, art, music, and horticulture therapy. On week nights and weekends we organize social outings in the community through our LEAP Program, from baseball games to museums to swimming and volunteer work. Through these services and experiences, we hope clients are able to learn how to fill free time with activities and experiences that help them feel healthy, independent and a part of the social fabric of their communities.