Recreational Therapy Activities For Mental Health

  • Muna Hassan Bachelor of science in molecular biology and Genetics Üsküdar Üniversitesi

Science and literature over time, as well as many years of evolution, have shown we’ve grown to have activities of all kinds in our lives – and they’re good for you not just physically, but also mentally.

When we think of therapy and mental health, often many of us think of something done in an office in a chair. But therapy can be done through social bonding, play, taking a walk, and so much more. 

Science has shown, as well as backed by many of our natural urges, that activities of many kinds are good for our mental well-being. 

Recreational therapy activities for mental health

In today's fast-paced world, it's important to take time for ourselves and prioritize our mental well-being. While there are various approaches to improving mental health, recreational therapy has gained popularity for its ability to combine fun and relaxation with therapeutic benefits. 

Recreation is a "skill that results from freely chosen participation in physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual pursuits, that enhance an individual’s and the community’s wellbeing" 1

Recreational therapies are an integral part of mental health care, offering a wide range of benefits for individuals with enjoyable ways to reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance overall quality of life. Whether you're a healthcare enthusiast or someone looking to explore new ways to enhance your mental well-being, this article will explore the world of recreational therapy activities and why they are beneficial for mental health.

Benefits of recreational therapy for mental health

Research studies show that recreation is an important part of rehabilitation as it increases cognitive ability and improves social and communication skills among clients with mental health disorders2. Recreational therapy activities offer a wide range of benefits for mental health, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of well-being. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Stress Reduction: Engaging in recreational activities can help reduce stress levels, promoting relaxation and a sense of calm. Activities such as yoga, nature walks, and art therapy can be particularly effective in reducing stress.
  • Improved Mood: Recreational therapy activities can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Physical activities like sports and dance therapy can release endorphins, known as "feel-good" hormones that can improve mood.
  • Increased Socialization: Many recreational therapy activities encourage social interaction, which can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Group activities such as team sports, cooking classes, and gardening clubs provide opportunities for socialisation and building connections with others.
  • Enhanced Self-Esteem: Engaging in recreational activities can boost self-esteem and self-confidence. Accomplishing goals, such as completing a challenging hike or finishing a painting, can provide a sense of achievement and pride.
  • Improved Physical Health: Many recreational therapy activities offer physical health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. These physical improvements can also have a positive impact on mental health.
  • Distraction from Negative Thoughts: Participating in recreational activities can distract from negative thoughts and worries, allowing individuals to focus on the present moment and enjoy the activity.
  • Creative Expression: Activities such as art therapy and music therapy provide opportunities for creative expression, allowing individuals to express their emotions in a non-verbal way.

Overall, recreational therapy activities offer a holistic approach to mental health treatment, addressing the physical, emotional and social aspects of well-being.

Recreational therapy activities for mental health

Countless recreational therapy activities can benefit mental health, ranging from physical activities to creative pursuits. The key is to find activities that are enjoyable and meaningful. Here are some popular recreational therapy activities for mental health:

  1. Outdoor Adventures: Nature has an incredible way of soothing the mind and rejuvenating the soul. Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking, camping, or even a stroll through the park can greatly reduce stress levels and promote mental clarity. Breathing in fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun, and connecting with the natural world can help improve mood, increase self-esteem, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  2. Art Therapy: Unleash your creativity and let your emotions flow through art therapy. Painting, drawing, sculpting, or even colouring can be incredibly therapeutic. Engaging in artistic activities allows for self-expression, helps process emotions, and provides a sense of accomplishment. You don't have to be an expert artist to benefit from art therapy; it's the process itself that matters, not the result.
  3. Music Therapy: Music has a profound impact on our emotions and can be a powerful tool for improving mental health. Whether you're playing an instrument, singing, or simply listening to your favourite tunes, music therapy can reduce stress, enhance mood, and promote relaxation. It can also be a form of self-expression and a way to connect with others, making it a valuable therapeutic activity.
  4. Physical Exercise: Engaging in regular physical exercise not only benefits our physical health but also has a positive impact on our mental well-being. Whether it's going for a run, practising yoga, or joining a dance class, physical activity releases endorphins, known as "feel-good" hormones. These endorphins can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve sleep, and boost self-confidence.
  5. Animal-Assisted Therapy: The bond between humans and animals is truly special, and it has been harnessed in the form of animal-assisted therapy. Spending time with animals, whether by petting a dog, grooming a horse, or even swimming with dolphins, can have a calming effect on the mind. Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to reduce stress, decrease feelings of loneliness, and improve overall well-being.
  6. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help calm a racing mind and bring a sense of peace and serenity. Taking a few minutes each day to focus on the present moment, pay attention to your breath, and let go of worries can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. There are various mindfulness and meditation techniques to explore, such as guided meditation, body scan, or mindful walking.

Remember, recreational therapy activities should be enjoyable and tailored to your personal preferences. Experiment with different activities and find what resonates with you the most. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Incorporating recreational therapy into your routine can greatly contribute to your mental well-being and overall quality of life.

In conclusion, recreational therapy activities offer a unique and enjoyable approach to improving mental health. From outdoor adventures and art therapy to music therapy and animal-assisted therapy, there are numerous options to explore. Find what brings you joy and helps you relax, and make it a regular part of your self-care routine. Prioritize your mental well-being and remember to take time for yourself.


Recreational therapy offers a holistic approach to mental health care, incorporating enjoyable activities to promote well-being. Research supports the benefits of recreational activities in reducing stress, improving mood, and enhancing socialization. Various activities such as outdoor adventures, art therapy, music therapy, physical exercise, animal-assisted therapy, and mindfulness are highlighted for their therapeutic effects. Engaging in these activities can lead to stress reduction, improved mood, increased socialization, enhanced self-esteem, better physical health, distraction from negative thoughts, and creative expression. Overall, recreational therapy activities provide individuals with enjoyable ways to prioritize their mental well-being and enhance their quality of life.


  1. Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. A Framework For Recreation in Canada 2015—Pathways to Wellbeing by Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association. Canadian Parks and Recreation Association and the Provincial/Territorial Parks and Recreation Associations 
  2. Jagannathan, Aarti et al. “Recreation for Psychosocial Rehabilitation of Clients with Mental Health Disorders: A Retropective Review.” Journal of psychosocial rehabilitation and mental health vol. 9,3 (2022): 329-333. doi:10.1007/s40737-021-00247-3
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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