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Research has shown that physical recreation (such as hiking) and social recreation (such as going to the movies with friends) play an important role in improving everyone’s quality of life, whether or not they have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Recreation has even been shown to reduce hospitalizations in individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses.

Benefits of Leisure and Recreational Activities

Physical and/or social recreation and leisure can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Improve physical health
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Improve mood
  • Increase energy and activity levels
  • Reduce side effects of medication (e.g., weight gain)
  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Provide a distraction from stressful situations

Despite the fact that physical and social recreational and leisure activities have many positive effects, people diagnosed with mental illnesses are often significantly less active and may have more difficulties with social inclusion than the general population. This may be because there are many barriers to overcome:

  • Negative attitudes and discrimination against individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses may prevent some of them from participating in leisure/recreational activities
  • Decision-making in leisure and recreational activities may be difficult.  People may be unsure of their interests or how to pursue them.

To improve recreational opportunities remember:

  • It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be fun.  There are many free or low-cost activities that are fun, relaxing, and may provide opportunities to meet new people.
  • Take a leisure time activity inventory
  • Check the paper – local papers often have “things to do” that are free or inexpensive
  • Talk about interests with other people.

Source:  UPEN Collaborative on Community Integration (

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