Recreation with a Disability
When I think about recreation, I think about having fun! Something I do that brings me enjoyment or pleasure. It is so valuable from an emotional and physical perspective to return to activities or find new ones that bring you pleasure! This applies to all of us, whether you have a disability or not.
Emotionally, you will find yourself being distracted from thinking about the negative aspects of having a disability when you’re having fun. Imagine taking a break from the challenges and the struggles! Also, you are probably interacting with other people on some level or other, those with and without disabilities, who share that common interest with you. Let’s not forget about accomplishing activities with success and experiencing the joy and satisfaction that goes along with that achievement.
Physically, there is a therapeutic quality to getting involved in some recreational endeavor. Yes, even photography can give you a workout and you may not even realize it until the day after when your neck or legs or arms remind you that they hadn’t been used in that manner for quite a while! We can also mention stimulating that big mass between your ears [yes, we’re talking about your brain]. Not only will you be planning and problem solving; you may find yourself producing endorphins when you’re having a great time. Endorphins are healthy; they are responsible for the experience of euphoria in the body and are proven to decrease pain!
Of course, in today’s language and culture, you’re saying “I gotta get me some of that!” It’s not as difficult as you might think. Once again, think about what you have to work with, physically. Know your disability. What kinds of activities can you perform safely? In my case, the safety issue can be hard to pin down. I have found myself face down in the pool, off my trike and in the middle of the road, on the floor by the exercise bike and off the curb in my wheelchair. Trying new activities does entail some risk. These accidents and moments of fear do make you question whether you’re doing the right thing, or, if it’s worth the risk. You have to weigh the pros and cons. The true test is not giving up. Assess what caused the goof up, and, as my wife would say, “Just don’t do that anymore!” Thanks honey!
So, you understand your disability and how it affects your ability, but, how do you decide what to start with and how? Ultimately, pick something and just give it a shot. While my photography and computer projects give me great satisfaction (and they are very safe), I have flower boxes and plants, a modified recumbent trike, and spend time in the swimming pool. We used to go camping; OK, you caught me, a motorhome isn’t really camping. We tried it for a while and found it was more work than fun. Yes, disappointing, but you move on. I can assure you that failure does and will occur. However, so does success.
Here are some thoughts that may help you to make some choices:
What kinds of pursuits are your friends involved in; your family? There are plenty of support groups and organizations that will open opportunities for you. What do you enjoy? Maybe trying some volunteer work could start you in the right direction. Anything, something. The key is to be pro-active. You have to push the start button. I do know this to be true, once you find something to participate in, you will improve your physical and emotional well-being. You’ll be having fun!
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Steven J. Smith, M.Ed.