Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Effects of Lack of  Recreational Activities in Addiction

Recreation refers to activities, with socially redeeming values, people do in their free or scheduled time. Recreational activities can either be mental or physical. The examples are diverse, including music, arts, sports, games, dance, etc. Recreational activities play key roles in our mental health, such as the reduction of day to day life’s stress, anxiety, as well as depression. 

The lack of recreational activities has extensive effects on individuals, including their mental health. Individuals who lack recreational activities often end up with high stress levels, mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, loneliness, addiction, etc.

Addiction refers to the compulsive seeking and using of substances or performing activities despite the negative consequences. Addiction can either be substance use disorders such as drug or alcohol addiction or behavioral addictions such as gambling or pornography. Individuals who lack recreational activities often end up with addiction issues.

What are the Effects of Lack of Recreational Activities in Addiction?

Opportunities for individuals to engage in recreational activities is useful in enhancing mental health and preventing substance use disorders, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Therefore, the lack of these opportunities have far-reaching effects on the chances of individuals developing addiction. Some of the effects of the lack of recreational activities on addiction are:

  1. High stress level: going through each day, facing diverse challenges of life, can be very overwhelming. We are often left stressed after doing so much each day. Recreational activities have proven to be effective in the reduction of stress. Without it, the risk of stressed individuals developing addiction is higher.
  2. Mental health disorders: the roles of recreational activities in mental health are often underestimated. A lower stress in life translates to a higher general level of satisfaction and ultimately a lower risk of addiction. This is a major reason experts leverage recreational activities in the treatment of addiction and mental health disorders. The lack of recreational activities, therefore, leads to a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Hence, addiction’s risk is also higher.
  3. Loneliness: a key advantage of recreational activities is that it fosters engagement or relationships with others. Without it, there would be increased loneliness, especially in a society that is already heavily individualistic. Loneliness can cause depression, among other issues. People handle loneliness differently, but it generally increases the risk of addiction.

Jump To Section

Recreation as a Form of Therapy

Experts often leverage the merits of recreation in therapy programs. For instance, individuals on an addiction recovery journey are often advised to engage in recreational activities, especially when there is an urge to use a substance. Simply taking a walk down the street or running up and down the stairs can be a perfect distraction or redirection.

Many psychiatric facilities across the United States use recreational therapy as a means of helping people recover from mental health issues.

Benefits of Engaging in Recreational Activities Therapy

benefits of recreational activities

Recreational activities contribute immensely to the general satisfaction individuals feel every day. They impact both the physical and mental health of individuals. Some of the benefits of recreational activities are:

  1. Helps develop different perspectives: one of the biggest challenges facing people with addiction or mental health illness is that they don’t get why they are suffering. An essential part of recovery involves getting a new perspective on the condition and this can be achieved through recreational activities.
  2. Positive relationships: failing relationships are among the symptoms and effects of addiction. Important relationships, such as at home, work, and among friends, suffer because they can no longer maintain communication and trust. These important characteristics, trust and communication, can be learned when involved in activities. So, as they recover, they are able to build and maintain healthy relationships.
  3. Reduced stress and anxiety: recreational, therapeutic activities can play important roles in reducing depression and anxiety. Hence, minimizing the withdrawal symptoms of addiction and making recovery easier.
  4. Increased Self-Esteem: one of the major effects of addiction and mental health disorders on individuals is to destroy their self-esteem. Therapeutic recreational activities can be very influential in helping build confidence and making people see they are worthy and even more.
  5. Avoidance of cravings and relapse: an addiction recovery journey can be very overwhelming, even when handled by experts in the best way possible. Therefore, the rate of relapse is significant. Recreational activities may help avoid cues that could trigger cravings and relapse. They can also provide exposure to new environments, away from environments that increase the risk of addiction and relapse.

Note: these activities, depending on the purpose, can either be in a group or individually. A sublime combination of both helps recovering individuals enormously. 

What are the Types of Recreational Activities People Do?

recreational activities people engage in

Physical Activities

Physical activities such as walking, jumping, running, and swimming have tremendous advantages for the body. For instance, they help to keep the body in shape and regulate or control some underlying health issues such as obesity. In addition to these, they also have enormous mental or psychological merits.

The exposure to meaningful routine activities, informal social controls, and personal agency brought about by physical activities offer individuals the chance for identity transformation. They give you something to participate in and look forward to.

Experts caring for older adults find physical activities very productive in the reduction of depression. This includes the simple act of taking a daily walk, perhaps with a dog, and sophisticated ones like a bowling club. Physical activities have similar effects on new mothers facing postpartum depression.

Examples of physical activities include:

  • Ball sports and team sports: football, basketball, volleyball, hockey, rugby, netball, etc.
  • Movement and dance: dancing, yoga, aerobics, martial arts, gymnastics, circus sports, etc.
  • Outdoor and adventure: surfing, snowboarding, caving, etc.
  • Others include swimming, running, walking, jogging, bowling, cycling, tennis, squash, etc.

Note: there are so many options for physical activities to choose from. This flexibility makes it even more interesting as everyone will definitely find at least one physical activity they really like.

Mental Activities

These activities have more to do with thoughts than action. For example, games like chess require individuals to do a lot of thinking. Arts such as painting also have more to do with thinking capacity.

These activities require a high level of focus or concentration, which can help to train the mind.

Examples of mental activities include:

  • Games: board games like chess, card games, crosswords, puzzles, etc.
  • Films and music
  • Reading or listening to audiobooks
  • Crafts, painting, making cards, etc.

Note: there’s hardly a recreational activity that is completely physical or mental. It is always a combination of both but at varying degrees. Some are heavily physical while others are heavily mental. For instance, swimming and running are mostly physical activities, while arts and writing are mostly mental.

Why is Recreation Important in Recovery?

Cravings are among the most difficult parts of recovery. One of the first things individuals on an addiction recovery journey will learn is how to deal with cravings. Cravings are normal but can be very strong. Fortunately, there are effective coping mechanisms for handling them. Recreational activities are among the most effective coping mechanisms for cravings, redirecting the attention and energy of individuals. Therefore, recovering individuals are able to deal with boredom, stress, and isolation by the purpose and structure given to their day by recreational activities. Recreation allows individuals to have fun on their recovery journey, hence making it easier. So, they no longer have to wonder what their free time will be for and whether they will enjoy themselves again.

How can social isolation and a lack of recreational activities lead to addiction?

Social isolation and a lack of recreational activities leads to addiction by increasing feelings of loneliness, boredom, and depression. When individuals do not have access to positive social interactions and engaging activities, they may turn to substances as a way to fill the void or cope with negative emotions. The absence of recreational outlets can also prevent the development of healthy coping mechanisms and social support networks, which are crucial for resilience against addiction. Promoting community programs and accessible recreational opportunities can help mitigate these risks and support overall well-being.

What are effective strategies to incorporate recreational activities into addiction recovery programs?

Incorporating recreational activities into addiction recovery programs can be an effective strategy for enhancing overall well-being and reducing the risk of relapse. Strategies include offering a variety of activities such as sports, arts and crafts, yoga, and nature outings to cater to different interests and abilities. These activities provide a healthy outlet for stress, improve physical health, and foster social connections. Additionally, involving clients in the planning and decision-making process can increase engagement and ensure that the activities are meaningful and enjoyable. Regularly integrating these activities into recovery programs can support mental health, build resilience, and create a supportive community for individuals in recovery.

How Effective are Recreational Activities in Addiction Recovery?

When expertly combined with other important elements of addiction treatment, recreational activities make the recovery process easier and reduce the risk of a relapse. The fact that they are very enjoyable and replete with options makes them particularly effective. Other aspects of the treatment of addiction include detoxification, behavioral therapy, support groups, etc.

Questions About Treatment?

Get confidential help 24/7. Call now for:

  • Access to our licensed treatment centers
  • Information on treatment plans
  • Financial assistance options

Related Articles

Get Help Now


Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

Picture of This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

Related Articles
Magnified Health Systems