Journaling Ideas for Recreational Therapy

Journaling can be a powerful intervention tool for Recreation Therapists and other Activity Professionals. In a previous post, I discussed how journaling is an excellent way for your participants to explore their inner selves, troubleshoot problems in their lives, revisit pivotal memories, and positively express emotions. Some journaling ideas can even explore the value of recreation and positive leisure in a participant’s life.

By creatively incorporating journaling ideas into our recreation or leisure education programming, we allow our participants to contemplate and discover just how important recreation and leisure is to their health and well-being.

Benefits of a Recreation Therapy Journaling Group

The benefits of journaling vary based on how you run the activity and your participants’ needs. Here are just a few ways journaling benefits your participants:

  • Self-Expression
  • Creativity
  • Improved memory
  • Working through difficult emotions
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-discovery
  • Increased feelings of calm

In addition to these benefits, by focusing your journaling ideas towards leisure and recreation, your participants could:

  • Increase leisure awareness
  • Explore new leisure options
  • Understand the benefits of leisure and recreation
  • Develop an appreciation for a positive leisure lifestyle
  • Identify leisure barriers and how to address them

image of person journaling

Individual Journaling Ideas

Here are some recreation-related journaling prompts to help participants discover the value of recreation in their lives. These prompts are designed for higher functioning clients with the ability to read, write, and think critically about subjects. Of course, the prompts are just suggestions. You could adapt them as you see fit for your participants.  

  • If you could wake up tomorrow and do whatever you wanted without anything holding you back, what would you do?
  • What is an activity you always wanted to do but never had a chance? How would you feel while doing this activity? What is holding you back?
  • Make a list of leisure activities you would love to try in the future. How many of them do you think you could do in the next six months?
  • Write about a recreation activity you loved doing in the past. How did it make you feel? What new activities can you try now that would give you that same feeling?
  • Invent a game you think you and your peers would love to play. What are the rules? How is it played?
  • Has your disability or situation kept you from doing something you loved? What are some alternatives or new activities you could try?
  • What benefits do you get from activities? Write about a time a positive recreation activity helped you through a difficult time.
  • Draw a picture of your ideal self. What leisure activities can help you become this image?
  • Write about your ideal vacation. Give vivid details about what you would do, eat, explore, and experience during this vacation.

Group Journaling Ideas

Most of the time, journaling is a personal experience. Participants individually write and process their thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Sharing may be encouraged afterwards with debriefing questions. This doesn’t always have to be the case. As a means to connect with others, participants can first spend a brief time reflecting on a question, then share their answers with a small group. This technique allows participants to connect with others while embracing the subject of recreation.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Have each participant think of their favorite leisure activity and journal about the feelings they get while doing it. Then they break in small groups and discuss the feelings they wrote. Encourage the group to make a list of common feelings and how activities mean something different to everyone.
  • Pick an activity most of your participants enjoy. Have each participant brainstorm the benefits they get from the activity. Have them break into small groups and discuss their lists of benefits. Then encourage the small groups to write an article about the activity including various benefits of each participant.
  • Create a list of leisure-related words. Have your participants break into small groups and create a story using all of the words. Have each small group read their work to the larger group then discuss the similarities and differences in the stories.
  • Write a Recreation Bio. Have your group pair up and give a brief interview about leisure activities they love to do. After the interview, have each participant write a brief recreation biography about the person they interviewed.

Journaling Ideas When Participants Can’t Write

Not every population has the ability to grab a pen and paper and write down their thoughts. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the basics of journaling (brainstorming, self-expression, creative thought, etc) as a valuable leisure education group.

Using adaptive journaling ideas can benefit your participants by:

  • Improving vocabulary
  • Making decisions
  • Connecting with others
  • Expressing feelings
  • Feelings of empowerment
  • Decreasing isolation

Here are a couple ideas for participants who have a hard time committing words to a page:

Mad libs

You are probably familiar with Mad Libs. This game has a person list random types of words like adjectives, nouns, adverbs, etc. Then those random words are inserted into parts of the story. The results are usually funny, absurd stories giving the whole group a laugh. You could pick up a Mad Libs book online or at most bookstores. Feeling creative? You could create your own recreation-themed Mad Libs with an online generator like this one at Project Labyrinth.

Drawing or doodling

Who says journaling has to be words? If your participants could draw pictures or even just simple doodles, it could have some benefits. Simply thinking about a topic and having a participant spend some time concentrating on their doodles could help refocus their minds. It could even put their minds in a state similar to meditation. This helps with participants struggling with anxiety, obsessive/compulsive thoughts, and even depression.

example of boardmaker imagesPictures or Flashcards

Lower functioning participants may enjoy filling in blanks by picking picture or symbol cards like the ones created on Boardmaker. In addition, if you want to make it a creative venture, have them pick a picture or card to start a story. Then, have another staff or participant tell a story based the cards the participant continues to pick.

Raise Your Hands and Be Heard

Another way your lower functioning or nonverbal clients can contribute to journaling ideas is by having them raise their hands or do other gestures. For instance, you could provide them with a few different choices for answers like:

When I think of swimming,

  • I get excited, it’s my favorite.
  • it makes me think of good memories.
  • I want to run the other way.
  • it is something I always wanted to try.

Activities like this empower participants that may not ordinarily have their voices heard. Even more special, they get to express their feelings about recreation and leisure.

 

There are countless variations to engage your participants in journaling. Using journaling ideas like these can help stir the creative juices of your participants.

 

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Comment below to help other Recreation Therapists improve their programming.

 

What journaling approaches have worked for your groups?

 

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