Sunday, May 14, 2017

The vital importance of recreation and play

by Tracey A. Smith

When was the last time you participated in a leisure activity for the pure fun and enjoyment of it? When was the last time you felt the free spirit of creativity and play while engaging in a recreational activity?

Fun and enjoyment are very important aspects of recreation that increase a sense of wellbeing. Recreation is an activity of leisure, and leisure is defined as free, discretionary time away from work and obligations. In this fast-paced society, we may forego time for recreation and play. However, increasingly challenged by society's high levels of stress, we need the safe spaces and places found in an atmosphere of recreation.

Quite often we have perceived barriers to participation in leisure activities, such as unhealthy habits, lack of motivation, cost, and procrastination. At times, we may experience an attitude of guilt when having fun or doing a pleasurable activity. We may feel like we are being selfish taking time away from family and work responsibilities to enjoy ourselves. Or we may feel that leisure is a waste of time. However, research has consistently found that a balance of work and rest and play ultimately makes us more productive — not to mention happier.

It takes planning to overcome the internal barriers that prevent us from prioritizing play. We may need to pencil or type in time for fun on our schedules and calendars. The quote “All work and no play makes a very dull Jill or John,” also comes to mind when we consider our high investment in work and low investment in fun. When we have hobbies and interests outside our work lives, we can bring more energy, interest, and vitality to our lives and all of our relationships.

The options for how to spend our leisure time will be as diverse as we are. Some people may derive satisfaction from doing something meaningful such as volunteering with an environmental or political group, coaching little league, tutoring, or taking their dog to visit nursing homes. Others may make use of their skills for laughter and amusement, taking a comedy improv class or acting in community theater. Some people will enjoy solo leisure activities, such as writing, photography, Sudoku, or knitting; whereas others will want to seek opportunities for connection with others, whether by participating in sports and social clubs, singing in a chorus, or by organizing a team for trivia nights at local bars.

Individual values like beauty, truth, and equality impact our selection of enjoyable activities. There are many recreational activities from A to Z to fit each person’s needs, temperament and lifestyle. Recreational activities can include creative expression, relaxation, and physical movement. While it may be easy to keep with our “go to” activities, reluctant to take the risk of trying something new, often it is when we venture even a little bit outside our comfort zone that we make new connections, learn new things, and experience pleasant surprises that may even delight us.

“Get to Know Your Social/Leisure Self” Questionnaire

__ I enjoy engaging in activities individually.
__ I enjoy engaging in activities in a large group.
__ I enjoy engaging in activities in a small group.
__ I enjoy competitive activities.
__ I enjoy outdoor activities.
__ I enjoy extreme outdoor sports.
__ I have one or more hobbies I enjoy.
__ I enjoy artistic and/or cultural activities.
__ I enjoy crafting, creating, and/or building things.
__ I enjoy being part of a team.
__ I enjoy meeting new people.
__ I enjoy initiating a conversation.
__ I will spend money on cultural events or entertainment.
__ I enjoy individual or group computer games.

Here are two websites that can help you explore a variety of recreational activities, some discounted or free: List of Recreational Activities [Insert link to: and Philly Fun Guide [Insert link to:]
Treat yourself today to a playful activity, be it for therapeutic purposes or just For the Fun of It!

Tracey A. Smith, M,Ed., CTRS, owner of Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC, is a Certified Recreational Therapist, Wellness Lifestyle Management Educator, and Trainer, who provides educational programs, workshops, trainings, conferences & retreats to companies, schools and community organizations to promote self-care and wellness. She specializes in Workplace Wellness and team building for remote employees. To learn more about Tracey and how you can bring her creative, experiential workshops and consultation to your agency or business, contact her at or 215-605-3221 or visit her website at

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