‘The heavens rejoice in motion’ (John Donne)
Activity or occupation is central to life. Our daily routine, our work and leisure time involve activities. Activity provides us with routine, rhythm and balance in life, and can give us a great sense of satisfaction and achievement (Barris and Kielhofner, 1988). Activities also provide us with a lot of fun and enjoyment.
Activity is a very broad term that includes a wide range of pursuits – from very physical sports through to gentle activities such as reading and meditation. It is important not only to recognise the importance and benefits of activity, but to give yourself permission to enjoy relaxing and pampering activities.
Different people enjoy different sorts of activities. Some people like movement and enjoy things such as sport, walking the dog, scuba-diving or yoga. Some people enjoy auditory activities such as music, and others enjoy visual things such as art. Some activities stimulate a range of senses; think about gardening or cooking – you can enjoy wonderful colours and smells.
In stress, anxiety and depression, individuals may be less inclined to engage in activities. When stressed or anxious, it can be hard to focus on an activity as the mind can be preoccupied with worrying thoughts. Lethargy and loss of motivation are common in depression. This means the individual with depression is less likely to do the activities that usually provide them with pleasure. A vicious cycle can result – the less active the individual becomes, the more depressed they feel and the less they do (Hickie, Scott, Ricci, et al., 2000; Kidman, 2006).
However, it is important to make efforts to engage in activities that are relaxing or enjoyable to help manage these issues. It is recommended to start with simple activities for a short period of time and to build up gradually. In fact, people’s lives can be greatly changed and their mood lifted through activity. The key is finding activities that are meaningful to the person – perhaps something creative, social, physical, educational or doing something to help another person, or teaching a skill.
Don’t forget creative activities, such as art and crafts, as they can be very satisfying. Everyone has creative potential – it is a matter of finding the sort of activity that brings out your creativity. This may be in drawing, music, crafts or writing. Creative activities also allow you to express yourself and build self-esteem.
Some examples of creative activities include:
- Singing or playing a musical instrument
- Writing a story
- Painting and drawing
- Cooking (creating a new dish!)
- Re-arranging/ decorating a living space
Some activities are very social and allow us to connect with our friends and family as well as make new connections in the community. Some examples of social activities include:
- Joining a walking group or book club
- Taking dancing lessons
- Volunteering (helping and caring for others can promote happiness!)
- Learning a language
- Going to the movies with friends
Some activities have great physical health benefits, or incorporate wonderful relaxation such as yoga or tai chi. Caring for a pet can be a great source of enjoyment and occupation. Some more examples of physical activities include:
- Riding a bike.
- Playing sport.
- Going to the gym.
Is there something you would like to learn more about? There are many places to do courses, such as your local community health or adult education centre. Learning can be fun and very satisfying.
Give yourself permission to enjoy relaxing and pampering activities. Some examples of pleasurable activities include:
- Playing computer games.
- Going to a play.
- Watching a DVD or the television.
- Listening to the radio.
- Taking a bath or shower.
- Having a massage.
- Talking on the phone.
- Buying flowers.
So consider which activities you currently enjoy, and which ones you might want to re-engage with or try for the first time. Colouring-in has been a craze for the past year or so, and is a great example of a relaxing, mindful, creative and enjoyable activity. The fact that so many people have taken it up is probably testament to how stressful our lives are.
To finish, take some time to write down a list of activities that you may enjoy, and remember to allow yourself to partake in some enjoyable activities each day!
Feel free to share ideas on the dr cate howell facebook page too.
Barris R, Kielhofner G, Hawkins Watts J. Occupational Therapy in Psychosocial Practice. Thorofare, NJ: Slack Inc.; 1988.
Hickie I, Scott E, Ricci C, et al. A Depression Management Program: incorporating cognitive-behavioural strategies. Melbourne, Vic: Educational Health Solutions; 2000.
Howell, C. Keeping the Blues Away A ten step guide to reducing the relapse of depression. Oxford, UK: Radcliffe; 2010.
Kidman A. Feeling Better: a guide to mood management. 2nd ed. St Leonards, NSW: Biochemical & General Services; 2006.