Recreational therapy activities for traumatic brain injury patients offer exciting ways to restore your independence after brain injury.
If you’re like most people though, you’ve probably never heard of recreational therapy.
That’s why today we’re covering seven awesome recreational therapy activities that will help you in your TBI rehabilitation.
Not only are they great ways to boost your recovery, they’re also just plain fun!
But first, what is recreational therapy?
What is Recreational Therapy?
Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is designed to engage both the mind and body.
Unlike traditional therapy, in recreational therapy patients get to participate in meaningful, functional activities they actually enjoy.
This not only gives people more motivation to persevere with their therapy, it also stimulates the brain and speeds up recovery!
The skills recreational therapy targets involve every aspect of a person’s life, including motor skills, cognitive functioning, and social skills.
What are the Benefits of Recreational Therapy Activities for Traumatic Brain Injury?
Recreational therapy activities provide many benefits. Here are three of the most important ones:
Relieves Social Isolation
Recreational therapy activities offer a relief from the social isolation that is common after brain injury.
Because these activities don’t usually take place in a clinic, they can give you opportunities to improve their social skills and form new friendships with people facing the same challenges.
Reduces Depression and Anxiety
TBI anxiety disorders are usually triggered by a fear of the unknown. So when there is nothing to look forward to during the week, anxiety symptoms can worsen.
Likewise, a lack of activity and interaction with others also leads to a decline in abilities, which only feeds depression.
Recreational therapy activities for traumatic brain injury addresses the root of both these issues.
It gives people something enjoyable to look forward to during the week and keeps them active so they don’t lose progress in their recovery.
Improves Quality of Life
Probably the best benefit of recreational therapy is how it makes patients more independent and engaged with life.
Whether it’s playing sports, cooking, or just playing a card game, recreational therapists help you get the skills back to do the things you love again.
Types of Recreational Therapy Activities for Traumatic Brain Injury
So now that you know a little bit about what recreational therapy is and how it can benefit you, here are a few activities that are perfect for traumatic brain injury patients.
Kayaking is a great recreational therapy activity for traumatic brain injury patients.
That’s because, in addition to strengthening your core and arms, you are actually engaging several cognitive skills at once just to paddle around!
For example, you need to pay attention to both your strokes and your surroundings to make sure you are going in the right direction. At the same time you need to control your posture so that the boat doesn’t tip.
Plus, the soothing sound of the water flowing beneath you can calm your mind and offer relief from stress and anxiety.
That explains why kayak therapy is a very popular treatment for people suffering from the effects of traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
If you are interested in kayaking but worried that you can’t do it on your own, there are lots of programs dedicated to helping people with TBIs get out on the water.
2. Going for a walk
A nice, leisurely walk in the park can give you a chance to unwind. At the same time, the change in environment can stimulate your brain in new ways and promote your recovery.
Next time you go for a walk, try to pay close attention to your surroundings. Take note of how many birds you see, or how many people you meet. This will improve your concentration and memory skills.
3. Making Music
Music therapy is clinically proven to stimulate the brain and promote healing.
While passively listening to music is also good for your brain, to get the most out of music’s benefits, you need to be actively engaged with it.
And the best way to do that is to make your own music! Try taking music lessons for your favorite instrument, or try a new instrument you never thought of before.
You don’t have to worry about sounding good. The only thing that matters is that you’re engaging your brain and having fun!
Yoga has lots of benefits for traumatic brain injury. The stretching poses can improve balance, strength and coordination, and the meditation techniques can calm the mind and allow it to heal.
In fact, a recent study found that TBI patients who participated in yoga had a significant improvement in balance, endurance, and walking speed.
They also reported better sleep and decreased feelings of anxiety and depression.
If meditation and stretching aren’t really your thing, you could always try dancing.
Dancing combines the health benefits of aerobic activity with the cognitive and emotional benefits of music, making it an especially worthwhile recreational therapy activity for TBI survivors.
If you’re able to take dance therapy lessons, that’s an even better option. Dance therapy can help you regain coordination of your body that you may have lost.
Even if your mobility is limited, you can still dance! Just move whatever you can and let the music take control.
Art therapy, especially painting, is a great way for traumatic brain injury patients to activate the right side of their brain. Plus, it strengthens their cognitive abilities.
Some skills that painting improves include:
- problem solving
- visuospatial abilities
- fine motor control
Painting and viewing art also increases blood flow to the brain and gives people a healthy outlet to process their negative feelings.
7. Adaptive sports
Adaptive sports are popular with spinal cord injury patients, but there are lots of sports adapted for brain injury as well! Examples include baseball, tennis, bicycling, and even skiing.
These sports provide people with chances to socialize and work closely with others. Social isolation can have a devastating effect on brain injury recovery, so it’s extremely important to find a community where you feel welcome.
For many people with TBI, their adaptive sports team is that community.
Recreational Therapy Activities for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients
There are even more recreational therapy activities for traumatic brain injury than the ones listed above. You can also do knitting, pottery, puzzles and board games.
In fact, pretty much any activity that brings you joy can be used as a recreational therapy activity.
If possible, you should try to work with a trained recreational therapist. They can help figure out the best ways to adapt an activity to fit your needs.
They also train you to learn how to find activities on your own, so you can have more freedom and independence to do the things you like.
The more freedom you have, the greater your quality of life will be. And the greater your quality of life, the farther your brain injury recovery will go.