In June this year, the Whole Person Recovery Programme posed a question to the recovery community, ‘what matters to you as a group, and how can we build on that?’ The Maidstone recovery community had an interesting response – ‘fun in recovery’.
In the recovery arena, we focus a lot of time on treatment, some time on trying to equip people with learning and opportunities to increase their networks of support; building on skills such as entrepreneurialism, but how much time do we dedicate to encouraging people to just get out there and have an enjoyable time in their recovery?
They say laughter is the best medicine. That’s often what I see from the Maidstone recovery community as a dozen or more people gather in the mornings to meet up and have breakfast. They welcome newcomers as if they were old friends, chat and make so much noise that it often disturbs whatever report I'm writing in my office, as I wander out to check on the source of the hysterical laughter.
How often do we have to justify just doing something nice with positive people that we enjoy? Certainly many of us will wish we had more time for it. Getting down to the seaside, or experiencing the cultural opportunities of our cities. All are far more enjoyable with a friend.
Laughter is one of the first emotions we display in human development, and we typically seek out things that will make us laugh rather than experience painful emotion. But for those who are sinking into the spiralling challenge of mental health problems or addiction, emotions become flattened and whilst the painful emotions are being avoided, there is also usually not much to laugh about.
It has been shown that laughter has both emotional and physical benefits. It can reduce stress and blood pressure. It can increase one's sense of wellbeing and coping. It can benefit your circulation and reduce anxiety. So that’s what they wanted to build on. More time to spend doing fun things with people who all want to be healthy and happy and have some fun. The group applied for –and won - the very first Whole Person Recovery Super Sparks grant – £500 to support the recovery community with this exact goal.
Whilst I’m typing this I can envision the reaction from some people – ‘shouldn’t we all be so lucky as to have the time and money be able to go out with our friends and just have fun?’ Of course we should, and if we have the skills and the resources we could count ourselves very lucky. To have a good sense of wellbeing there is evidence to say that we need to achieve five things. They are Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. Simple for most, but if your life has been taken up with just trying to cope and get through the days, hours or minutes, it takes practice to learn how to let yourself just be…….and to enjoy it.
And the Maidstone Recovery Community is practising hard! Having just completed their second day trip to the sea side, it was fantastic to see how their trips had ticked all of the boxes. The connection between a group of people who are all trying to achieve the same goals. Being active –getting out as a group –taking a walk in conservation areas. Taking notice – of each other and the change of environment. Keep learning – about themselves and their recovery. Give – of support and time to each other.
Shaun, expedition leader and celebrator of five years in recovery said about the last trip;
‘We had a lot of laughs, everyone was really grateful to get away from their old haunts and get away together’.
The RSA Whole Person Recovery Project makes individual grants to people in recovery of up to £200.00 through the Small Sparks Award scheme, and to group applications of up to £500.00 through the Super Sparks grant to support our recovery communities. These grants are designed to encourage people to take the next step in their recovery, whatever that may be. We are currently fundraising to ensure the future of this scheme. You can help support recovery in West Kent by visiting our JustGiving page, and making either a one off or a regular donation. We really appreciate your support and can assure you that all donations are pooled into a fund that is used solely for the provision of these awards. There is no diversion of funds for administrative or other costs.