Recapture the Joy of Leisure

Mother pushing daughter in wheelchair at the park

5 Jun 2019 | ~2:55 Engagement Time


Roz Kalb , Psychologist


When MS interferes with an individual’s or a family’s ability to participate comfortably and joyfully in leisure activities, hobbies, or adventures, some of the spark in life is lost. We all need that spark to brighten our days, calm our souls, and strengthen our connections.  

So, what is leisure?  Simply put, it’s any activity that contributes to a full, satisfying, and balanced life. When we’re at leisure, we have the time and space to discover our interests and talents and explore our relationship with the world around us. Simply put, leisure is discovering the things we love most in life.  

For individuals living with MS, the barriers to enjoyable leisure can feel overwhelming: MS symptoms that flare unpredictably and disrupt plans; accessibility challenges; anxiety or depression that make planning and doing feel daunting; and cost are some of the most common. Families may find it difficult to identify activities or outings that all can enjoy.  

The key to maintaining a flourishing menu of leisure activities for yourself and your family is to open yourself up to new possibilities.  

How to recapture the joy of your favorite activities

Start by making a list of the the activities you most enjoy – from games to gardening, traveling to tennis, dining out to dancing, movies to museums. 

If your preferred activities have become challenging or even impossible, talk with your healthcare team about ways to adapt those activities to meet your needs.  

  • Occupational therapists can offer tips and tools to make activities easier 
  • Physical therapists can help with adaptive equipment and other mobility solutions 

Their goal is to help you identify the adaptations that can keep you doing the things you love. 

If your favorite pastimes are beyond your reach, explore some activities that you’ve never tried. Many people discover talents and passions they never knew they had – like painting, writing, swimming, or yoga. 

Look to resources in your community for ideas. You may find that your local YMCA, hobby clubs, library, churches or spiritual centers offer activities or classes for you to join. With each new leisure activity you try, you’ll also be expanding your social connections and opportunities for new friendships. 

Leisure in your life is known to benefit your emotional and cognitive wellbeing, relationships, and overall quality of life – so if you find that lack of interest or motivation is the biggest hurdle, consider talking with a mental health professional or spiritual counselor to explore what might be holding your back. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started

  • Set a physical activity goal and work with your PT to achieve it, or work with your OT to adapt it 
  • Try out an adaptive sports adventure like skiing, kayaking, golf, or tennis 
  • Work with an accessible travel specialist to plan a trip  
  • Call the local YMCA to see what’s available 
  • Pick up a paintbrush or a pen to put your feelings and dreams on paper 
  • Let your physical therapist help you plan safe, comfortable, and accessible family picnic  

To close, we leave you with this quote and wish you bright days of leisure ahead.  

“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in leisure…”  – Henry David Thoreau