Happiness and Parkinson’s: 10 Simple Suggestions to Make Your Life Happier

“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli

“No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Introduction: Happiness, being positive, and remaining hopeful are “life-elements” important to us all. To give you an idea as to how important it is for us to achieve happiness, a Google search on “happiness and advice” gives more than 275,000 results. Here is one more to add to that huge list of advice on how-to-get-happier.

See yourself happy: The how-to-get-happier list* given below is neither complicated nor comprehensive. Each suggestion is easily within our grasp, and they are presented as a reminder of ways to bolster existing happiness. However, keep in mind what Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” My list likely won’t change your life; hopefully, it will pave a short path to give you a happier moment/hour/day.

See yourself happy and with Parkinson’s: Living with Parkinson’s is like getting dressed wearing a blindfold; you remember exactly how your clothes are supposed to fit but the process is slow and awkward, and the result is imperfect. Ultimately, your life-years are subtly altered as this disorder slowly and frustratingly evolves in complexity.

Staying connected to these life-elements (happiness, positivity, and hopefulness) is essential to those of us with a progressive neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson’s. The how-to-get-happier list* had its genesis as Frank’s “Parkinson’s-self-help-happy-tutorial”.  As a template-of-wellness, this list may help you derive (or rediscover) a little-slice of happiness during your journey with Parkinson’s.

  1. Stay in the present moment:  Life is always fluid, constantly moving.  Your Parkinson’s is always present, yes, it’s a nuisance. Being able to focus on the current moment, whether good or bad, hard or easy, is better; don’t complicate the thought dwelling on yesterday, tomorrow, or your disorder.  Try to stay in the present moment.
    “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray
  1. Go for a walk outside; stretch frequently; and exercise daily if possible: Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  If you’ve followed this blog at all, you already know how I feel about all forms of exercise, stretching frequently, and trying to exercise daily. And for anyone with Parkinson’s, exercise is essential and beneficial. And it only takes 20 minutes to achieve some benefit: “Exercise. The Surprising Shortcut to Better Health” http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/the-surprising-shortcut-to-better-health/?_r=0
    “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates
  1. Eat better and your body will be happier: We all know this, you are what you eat.  A good meal >> bad meal.  Your body, mind and your battle with Parkinson’s will all benefit if you carve out time to eat better.
    “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb
  1. Mindful Meditation, even for 5 minutes will make a difference:   In managing Parkinson’s, we should work to release/relieve mental stress. Meditation reduces stress and allows us to become more mindful. Simply stated, meditation creates in you a stress-free, relaxed, and happy place.  For a primer, go here: How to Meditate (Made Easy): Mindfulness Meditation (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-empathic-nature/201401/how-meditate-made-easy-mindfulness-meditation )
    “To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
  1. Do something nice for someone else: Be kind to others, you’ll feel better.  Doing something nice for someone else reminds you that you’re human; the happy-feeling should momentarily put your Parkinson’s behind shutters.
    “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Tom Bodett
  1. Smile more:  It just matters to smile, get out behind the “Parkinson’s mask”; smile big, smile more, keep trying.  “The smile — transmitted either consciously or subconsciously — is viewed across cultures as a sign of friendliness, especially when greeting someone. Frowns, too, are generally recognized as indicating sadness or disapproval.” (from http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/muscles-smile.htm )
    “I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.” Paul Simon
  1. Eat some chocolate (or share it with others):  Ignoring #3 above to eat better, chocolate falls in a unique sinful food class. Chocolate has compounds called polyphenols that can boost happiness. These same polyphenols may even benefit your health (but remember to only consume chocolate in small quantities): “The effects of cocoa on the immune system” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671179/ ).
    “The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” Audrey Hepburn
  1. Practice gratitude: Be thankful for what you have today. Be thankful for your career, your life. Practice gratitude to help soothe passing moments of pain, doubt, or difficulty. Express your gratitude to family/friends/loved-ones; they’ll themselves will be grateful for you.
    “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” Maya Angelou
  1. Sleep more: Sleep repairs/rejuvenates our bodies and minds. Sleep renews our daily lease on life to begin again.  Unfortunately, many people with Parkinson’s say that sleep disorders and fatigue are some of the most difficult aspects of the disorder.  There is far too much information about the importance of sleep for your health. For those of us with Parkinson’s, we must keep trying to get more sleep.
    “I’m not a very good sleeper. But you know what? I’m willing to put in a few extra hours every day to get better. That’s just the kind of hard worker I am.” Jarod Kintz 
  2. Listen to a song or watch a YouTube music video: Sing along, re-live an earlier happy-memory, focus on the beat, get up and dance. And to each his own musical delight (for me, anything from Led Zeppelin makes me happy).
    Top 20 ‘Happy’ Songs of All Time: http://www.billboard.com/articles/list/5915801/top-20-happy-songs-of-all-time
    “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire 

    Lagniappe [(/ˈlænjæp/ LAN-yap) a word used in south Louisiana, which means ‘a little something extra’]: 

  3. Stay hopeful, be positive, remain persistent because as long as you’re alive, you can do it all. As always, stay focused and determined; strive for health and strength. And through it all, try to incorporate happiness into your daily life to help manage your Parkinson’s.
    “Because you are alive, everything is possible.” Thích Nhất Hạnh

*I’d enjoy hearing what works for you. Please reply with your own how-to-get-happier list; let’s keep it going/growing.

7 thoughts on “Happiness and Parkinson’s: 10 Simple Suggestions to Make Your Life Happier”

    1. Just discovered ‘Journey with Parkinson’s.’ Inspiring and motivating. Yes, my journey too has been increasingly highjacked by a squatting neurological hacker called ‘Parkinson’s, who insists on dragging me down the dark, weird, regularly painful, very occasionally wonderful, at times humorous, but more often hostile winding lanes of the disease. This 62 year old musician, diagnosed 7 years ago, will return. Thank you.

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      1. Tony, thanks for your note and support. My work/teaching schedule between early August-November dominates my life. I have ~25 blog posts in various stages of development; I will get back to writing/posting them in the near future. Glad to have you along for the journey together, and it’s going to truly be an interesting journey. Take care, Frank

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