Category Archives: Live positively

Understanding The Positive Health Benefits of Gratitude

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough.” Medieval German Theologian Meister Eckhart

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.” Khalil Gibran.

Preface: Gratitude is good for you. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” The Roman senator Cicero remarked, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” Recognize the health benefits of being grateful.  Why? Gratitude will lead you to the fountain of hope; it is good for your heart, soul, mind, and practicing gratitude will be beneficial for your life with Parkinson’s.

Introduction: In the backdrop of having a chronic disorder like Parkinson’s disease, it is easy to get trapped and driven down emotionally from its daily burden. Life happens and we are constantly making micro- and macro-decisions, big and small changes in direction, and it seems to me the list grows with time. Today’s post is centered on gratitude, not to complicate your life, but as a reminder that being thankful can improve your health all on its own.

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” Brian Tracy

Gratitude Defined: [grat·i·tudeˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/] Gratitude is from the Latin word gratus, meaning “pleasing” or “thankful,” Words from the Latin gratus have something to do with being pleasing or being thankful. To feel grateful is to feel thankful for something. Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness (Merriam-Webster). Thank you in several languages is shown below (image credit).

h-GRATITUDE-640x362

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” James Allen

Studies on Gratitude and Health: Doing a PubMed search for “Gratitude” reveals >1000 papers/chapters/books; searching for “gratitude and health” shows >500 citations.  Outside of PubMed, there are numerous reviews and magazine/newspaper/journal articles describing the health benefits of being thankful (having gratitude).  In the end, I will list several for your further viewing/reading. Here are some highlights linking gratitude and a better life.

  • Blessings vs. Burdens- In 2003, Emmons and McCullough published a landmark study of gratitude and well being entitled “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being in Daily Life”.  They described 3 experiments, two groups were healthy college-aged students and the third group was adults with various neuromuscular disorders.  Within each separate study, some subjects were asked to maintain a journal on a weekly basis for 10 weeks, and others on a daily basis for 2 or 3 weeks.  They all kept records of both positive and negative effects they had experienced; including their behavior coping with these events (health behavior and physical symptoms), and their overall appraisal of life.  Subgroups from each study were asked to focus their journal entries on different things: (Group A) this group recorded things for which they were grateful (they were “counting their blessings”); (Group B) this group recorded things they found irritating and/or annoying (they were “counting their burdens”); and (Group C) this group recorded things that had a major impact on them.  After compiling the data from the 3 experiments, two trends stood out. (1) The participants from ‘Group A’, those recording things for which they were ”grateful’, showed much higher levels of well-being compared to Groups ‘B’ and ‘C’; and this was particularly evident when compared to those recording events that were ‘annoying or irritating’. (2) The positive effects of gratitude in the 10 week study, compared to the 2 or 3 week studies, showed not only better well-being; these participants also showed social and physical benefits.
  • Feeling Happy- In a separate study from 2002, McCullough et al. reported that recording your blessings on a regular basis was linked with increased happiness. In a separate study, Kurtz et al. (2008) showed that this feeling of happiness through gratitude was sustained for several months.
  • Optimism– A study by Overwalle et al. (1995) found a positive link between the ability to express gratitude and the feeling of well-being; suggesting these individuals had an improved/optimistic outlook of their future.
  • Strengthening Bonds and Building Relationships- The link of happiness from gratitude was shown to strengthen bonds, enable friendships, and support social networks.  The results from Reynolds (2008) showed that by practicing gratitude, participants felt more cared for/loved by others.
  • Mapping Neural Networks of Gratitude- In a 2015 paper entitled “Neural correlates of gratitude”, Fox et al. used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to map the effect of gratitude in volunteers. They tested a hypothesis that gratitude activity would be linked to brain regions associated with moral cognition, value judgment and theory of mind. Their results showed that gratitude was correlated with brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which supported their hypothesis (see drawing below).

18.04.12.ACC_mPFC_Thalamus.

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy.” Marcel Proust

 Linking Gratitude to the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Basal Ganglia:  The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) can be described as a ‘neural network interface’ between emotion, sensation, and action. The ACC is linked anatomically with brain areas associated with each of these functions. An important interaction of the ACC is highlighted by its reciprocal connections to the reward centers of the brain, which includes the orbitofrontal cortex, insula, and the basal ganglia. Thus, the ACC is a target for the dopamine-expressing neurons from the substantia nigra (part of the basal ganglia; see figure below).  Understanding the reward of gratitude within the brain has given us an appreciation to what leads to a healthier and happier self. To further augment the benefits of gratitude, we enlist neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine):

serotonin.A Squeeze of Serotonin-  Serotonin is an elixir that boosts our mood, enhances will-power and eliminates self-doubt. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)  releases serotonin (i) when we write about gratitude and (ii) when we reflect about the positives in our lives (and our work).

dopamine.A Drop of Dopamine- Dopamine makes us feel good. With respect to practicing gratitude, we release dopamine (from the substantia nigra in the basal ganglia) (i) when we express gratitude for what’s good in our lives and (ii) when we offer gratitude for someone who has helped us thrive at life/work,

5379005_orig

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” John F. Kennedy

Gratitude Promotes the “4H Club” That Includes Happy, Healthy, Heartfelt, and Hopeful: I am neither a psychologist nor a neurologist, but I truly enjoyed reading the Emmons and McCullough (2003) paper described above (“Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being in Daily Life”).  First, it was well-written and easy to follow.  Second, they asked and answered some very important questions linked to gratitude.  Clearly, their work was preceded by other studies; however, their results likely provided a foothold for others to launch their ideas about how gratitude influences the human condition. In summarizing many studies, the folks at Happier Human (What About Happiness?) posted an amazing article entitled “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life” (click here) along with the figure below showing the huge overall impact of gratitude on human happiness (credit).

Benefits-of-Gratitude5

Remember, I am not a psychologist.  However, I felt that four major themes could be used to represent the positive impact of gratitude. Borrowing from the ‘4H Club’ name, the benefits of gratitude could make someone Happy, Healthy, Heartfelt, and Hopeful (see Figure below). And there are numerous studies to support the positive impact of gratitude on these four aspects of life (see references cited at the end).

Screenshot 2018-04-10 23.49.01

“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.” Victor Hugo

Pursuing Happiness Through Gratitude and How to Achieve it: The best strategy for expressing gratitude requires your investment of time to create and maintain a gratitude-journal.  The idea is for your gratitude-journal to have short statements where you describe your gratitude, you reflect on your positive life-events, you give thanks to others, you think-ponder deeply, and write 3-5 things per time and you decide on the frequency (every few days, more or less, but you decide).   Here are some examples:

  • I hit golf balls at the driving range 2 days in a row this week, what fun;
  • Spring weather finally has arrived, it waited ’til now but that’s OK;
  • Got 6.5 hours of sleep one night last weekend (yay!);
  • A reader of the blog wrote to tell me how much he appreciates and values my blog posts [and that he was my biggest fan (thank you so much)];
  • I’ve enjoyed teaching my undergraduate class this semester;
  • Thankful for all of my favorite Physical Therapists who inspire me to exercise and to stay healthy (“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos — the trees, the clouds, everything.” Nhat Hanh);
  • So very proud of CJ for presenting her poster this week at the University Undergraduate Student Research Day;
  • Very thankful for the incredible help Marissa and Shelby have provided me as Teaching Assistants this semester;
  • Look forward to seeing my sisters in the near future;
  • Having lunch tomorrow with 2 former students from my undergraduate class, and this week I went out for lunch with the current class (I learn much from these events);
  • Received an amazing thank-you note from a former student;
  • Very fortunate to have Susan in my life, look forward to catching up soon.

“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends… Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

Benefits of Gratitude and Health in the Presence of Parkinson’s: The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of the brain are the key components that respond to gratitude. There is no doubt that people-with-Parkinson’s experience the benefits of gratitude and the 4H’s (Happy, Healthy, Heartfelt, and Hopeful).  However, the ACC communicates with the basal ganglia, which implies some role for dopamine. Thus, we must believe we still synthesize enough dopamine to realize the positive effects from gratitude (well, this is what I believe).

In closing, as I said at the start, I am convinced that gratitude will lead you to the fountain of hope; it is good for your heart, soul, mind, and practicing gratitude will be beneficial for your life with Parkinson’s. May you continue to be thankful. May the positive effects from gratitude provide you a constant source of happiness and good health that are reinforced by heartfelt feelings and hope for years to come.

“Thanks are the highest form of thought.” Gilbert K Chesterton

References For Your Further Reading:
Emmons RA, McCullough ME. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2003;84(2):377-89. Epub 2003/02/15. PubMed PMID: 12585811.

Fox GR, Kaplan J, Damasio H, Damasio A. Neural correlates of gratitude. Frontiers in psychology. 2015;6:1491. Epub 2015/10/21. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01491. PubMed PMID: 26483740; PMCID: PMC4588123.

The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life (click here).

McCullough ME, Emmons RA, Tsang J. The grateful disposition: a conceptual and empirical typology. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002;82:112–127.

Kurtz JL, Lyubomirsky S. Towards a durable happiness. In: Lopez SJ, Rettew JG, eds. The Positive Psychology Perspective Series. Vol 4. West-port, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group; 2008:21–36.

Overwalle FV, Mervielde I, De Schuyter J. Structural modeling of the relationships between attributional dimensions, emotions, and performance of college freshmen. Cognition Emotion. 1995;9:59–85.

7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude (click here).

Martins A, Ramalho N, Morin E. A comprehensive meta-analysis of the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and health. Personality and Individual Differences. 2010;49(6):554-64. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.05.029.

Alspach G. Extending the tradition of giving thanks recognizing the health benefits of gratitude. Crit Care Nurse. 2009;29(6):12-8. doi: 10.4037/ccn2009331. PubMed PMID: 19952333.

Emmons RA, Crumpler CA. Gratitude as a Human Strength: Appraising the Evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2000;19(1):56-69. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.56.

Ma LK, Tunney RJ, Ferguson E. Does gratitude enhance prosociality?: A meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin. 2017;143(6):601-35. Epub 2017/04/14. doi: 10.1037/bul0000103. PubMed PMID: 28406659.

7 Ways to Boost Your Gratitude (click here).

Reynolds DK. Naikan Psychotherapy: Meditation for Self-Development. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press; 1983.

O’Connell BH, O’Shea D, Gallagher S. Feeling Thanks and Saying Thanks: A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining If and How Socially Oriented Gratitude Journals Work. Journal of clinical psychology. 2017;73(10):1280-300. Epub 2017/03/07. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22469. PubMed PMID: 28263399.

Sirois FM, Wood AM. Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 2017;36(2):122-32. Epub 2016/10/28. doi: 10.1037/hea0000436. PubMed PMID: 27786519.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

 Cover photo credit: https://visitsrilanka.com/news/its-blooming-spring-22-great-uk-walks/

2018 Parkinson’s Awareness Month and 65 Quotes to Support Your Life With Parkinson’s

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Jim Valvano

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Brené Brown

Parkinson’s disease Awareness Month: Parkinson’s awareness month is exactly that.  You simply start by making people around you familiar with this disorder.  And you can help others learn more about this neurodegenerative disease.

Description of Parkinson’s disease: Instead of the usual written narrative, here are a couple of video presentations.

NPFiconFor further information also see: Understanding Parkinson’s.

 65* Quotes on Adversity, Hope, Journey, Life, and Persistence to Help You During the ‘Off-moments’ and to Remind You to Never Give up (*Why 65? My age later this year):

  1. “To me, hope is informed optimism.” Michael J. Fox
  2. “The truth is that on most days, there comes a point where I literally can’t stop laughing at my own symptoms.” Michael J. Fox
  3. “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.” Anonymous

  4. “Behind every chronic illness is just a person trying to find their way in the world. We want to find love and be loved and be happy just like you. We want to be successful and do something that matters. We’re just dealing with unwanted limitations in our hero’s journey.” Glenn Schweitzer
  5. “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”Muhammad Ali
  6. “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” Muhammad Ali
  7. “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip Toe if you must, but take a step.” Naeem Callaway
  8. “When the unthinkable happens, the lighthouse is hope. Once we choose hope, everything is possible.”  Christopher Reeve
  9. “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside of you that is greater than any obstacle.” Christian D. Larson
  10. “You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” Steve Case
  11. “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.” Anne Lamott
  12. “You are strong when you know your weaknesses. You are beautiful when you appreciate your flaws. You are wise when you learn from your mistakes.”  unknown
  13. “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”Muhammad Ali
  14. “The strongest people I’ve met have not been given an easier life. They’ve learned to create strength and happiness from dark places.”  Kristen Butler
  15. “You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.” Josh Shipp
  16. “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.” Mandy Hale
  17. “Live to inspire, and one day people will say, because of you, I didn’t give up” unknown
  18. Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong, and get enough rest. You can’t do it all, but you can do your best. Doe Zantamata
  19. “I can’t tell you when, but I can promise you it will get better, it will get easier, and it will all be worthwhile. Just promise me you won’t ever give up.” unknown
  20. “Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove that we showed up for it.” Hannah Brecher
  21. “We are stronger in the places we have been broken.” Ernest Hemingway
  22. “Just put one foot in front of the other.”  Austin Peck
  23. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  Henry Ford
  24. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  Helen Keller
  25. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”  Henry Ford
  26. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney
  27. “I find that the best way to do things is to constantly move forward and to never doubt anything and keep moving forward, if you make a mistake say you made a mistake.”  John Frusciante
  28. “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. / Instead, focus on what to do next. / Spend your energies on moving forward / toward finding the answer.” Denis Waitley
  29. “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.” unknown
  30. “If opening your eyes, or getting out of bed, or holding a spoon, or combing your hair is the daunting Mount Everest you climb today, that is okay.” Carmen Ambrosio
  31. “Please be patient with me. Sometimes when I’m quiet, it’s because I need to figure myself out. It’s not because I don’t want to talk. Sometimes there are no words for my thoughts.”  Kamla Bolaños
  32. “What would the hero of your life’s movie do right now? Do that!” Joe Rogan
  33. “Inspirations knock and hang around for a while and wait for some kind of response, which is the beginning of a creative act.” Thomas Moore
  34. “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall
  35. “What’s meant to be will always find a way” Trisha Yearwood
  36. “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”  Bruce Lee
  37. “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” Albert Schweitzer
  38. “When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” Peter Marshall
  39. “Ask yourself what problem you have right now. Not next year, tomorrow or five minutes from now. You can always cope with the now, but you can never cope with the future. Nor do you have to. The answer, the strength and the right action will be there when you need it. Not before or after.” Eckhart Tolle
  40. “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” Lance Armstrong
  41. “If you are depressed you are living in the past.
    If you are anxious you are living in the future.
    If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
    Lao Tzu
  42. “To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable.” Erich Fromm
  43. “Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.” Nicole Sobon
  44. “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Thomas Merton
  45. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu
  46. “Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes people unique.” Kevin Conroy
  47. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” Eleanor Roosevelt
  48. “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” George Iles
  49. “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Winston S. Churchill
  50. “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu
  51. “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” Thich Nhat Hanh
  52. “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” Orison Swett Marden
  53. “Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength. ”Theodore Roosevelt
  54. “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” Ben Okri
  55. “Sometimes you will be in control of your illness and other times you’ll sink into despair, and that’s OK! Freak out, forgive yourself, and try again tomorrow.” Kelly Hemingway
  56. “You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.” Richelle E. Goodrich
  57. “You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.” Abraham Lincoln
  58. “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln
  59. “I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.” Jeanette Winterson
  60. “Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise.” H.G. Wells
  61. “Since receiving my Parkinson’s diagnosis, my opinion of exercise has changed.  With Parkinson’s, I’m now exercising as if my life depends on it.”  Frank C. Church
  62. We are identified by our characteristic symptoms of our unwanted companion named Parkinson’s. We are all in this together, united by our disorder; held together by those who love and care for us.” Frank C. Church
  63. Today renews your lease on the rest of your life, enjoy it (get up, get out, get going). Today acknowledge your Parkinson’s; give it a nudge, because you are ready for the battle and for life.” Frank C. Church
  64. “The sum total of our health is a complex formula that differs slightly for each one of us.  Those of us with a progressive neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson’s increases the complexity of this life-equation.” Frank C. Church
  65. “Living with Parkinson’s requires you to adapt to its subtle but progressive changes over a long period of time; you need to remain hopeful for many different things.” Frank C. Church

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a sonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”  Jacob A. Riis

Cover photo credit: https://uspstrackingtool.com/red-tulips-bouquet-of-flowers-wallpaper/

 

Living and Working with “HOPE” in the Presence of Parkinson’s

“Life is difficult. This is the great truth, one of the greatest truths-it is a great truth because once we see this truth, we transcend it.” M. Scott Peck

“Life is hard. Life is beautiful. Life is difficult. Life is wonderful.” Kate DiCamillo

Introduction: A student and loyal reader of this blog recently asked “What do I do with all of the advice/tips/suggestion posts from the blog?” My reply was they help me balance out my day-to-day life; especially for work and to protect my time for exercise and time to spend with the significant-people in my life.  I typically print out the 1-page summaries and keep them in a folder, or post them at work, as reminders to what I value.  “What about all of your supportive and descriptive statements about living well with Parkinson’s disease?  I bet your readers of the blog would enjoy having some of your statements compiled like your advice posts, don’t you agree?”  My response was you want me to make some 1-page handouts of my comments? Yes, I could do that. That kind of a handout could help me as well; they could also serve as a roadmap to where the blog has traveled.  Interesting questions/suggestions, thanks for asking them.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

The tenacity of hope: There are 4 broad goals to this blog: i) describe living with Parkinson’s (“Life Lessons“); ii) report emerging medical strategies for treating/managing/curing Parkinson’s (“Medical Education“); iii) support mechanism to anyone with Parkinson’s or any of the neurodegenerative disorders (“Strategy for Living“); and iv) educate by presenting scientific aspects of Parkinson’s (“Translating Science”).  Throughout much of the posts here, I firmly believe that words/concepts like hope, positive, persistent, staying happy and healthy, exercise (a lot, daily if possible), and refuse to give up are all important ‘life-lines’ for us to adopt in our dealing with this disorder.  Today’s message returns to hope and “HOPE”.  Hope is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “the feeling that something desired can be had or will happen”.  I use HOPE as an acronym in Parkinson’s and it stands for:

H = Hope/Health(y)
O = Optimistic/Positive
P = Persistent/Perseverance
E = Enthusiasm for life, for career, and for exercise

Steve Gleason said “Life is difficult. Not just for me or other ALS patients. Life is difficult for everyone. Finding ways to make life meaningful and purposeful and rewarding, doing the activities that you love and spending time with the people that you love – I think that’s the meaning of this human experience.”  I really like the sentiment of his statement and admire his courage through adversity.  It reminds me that we are a community with a shared theme; while we are spread out throughout the world, we understand one another because Parkinson’s has been sewn in to the fabric of our lives. I am also convinced that staying hopeful and using HOPE gives us tenacity to deal with the subtle changes being forced upon us by the ever present Parkinson’s.

“Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.” J.K. Rowling

Living and working with HOPE: This current post reinforces the meaning for HOPE.  It reminds me of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide where she sings “Can I sail through the changin‘ ocean tides? / Can I handle the seasons of my life?” We confront both of these questions daily with Parkinson’s.  My hope is you find reassurance that your life and world are still meaningful, and you are not battling Parkinson’s alone. We know and we understand what you are confronting each day; thus, be persistent and remain hopeful.

Here is a link to a SlideShare file that will allow you to easily read/view all of these 1-page handouts.  You do not need a login, it’s free. You can read, clip and copy individual slides (1-page handouts); it even will let you download the entire file: click here to view Living and Working with “HOPE” in the Presence of Parkinson’s. Alternatively, here is the URL: https://www.slideshare.net/FrankChurch1/living-and-working-with-hope-in-the-presence-of-parkinsons  And finally, in case the above link proves problematic, here is a copy of these 1-page summaries (click here to download PDF file).  I have enjoyed re-reading the old blog posts these were derived from (some of these were previously posted and several are new) and they are presented as follows:

  • Part 1: Some of Frank’s quotes about living with Parkinson’s (four 1-page handouts);
  • Part 2: Suggestions, character traits, and tips for the journey through life and career in the absence and presence of Parkinson’s (seven 1-page summaries);
  • Part 3: Health and exercise while living with Parkinson’s (five 1-page summaries);
  • Part 4: Historical time-line of Parkinson’s disease (six 1-page reports)

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

Know that wherever you are in your life right now is both temporary, and exactly where you are supposed to be. You have arrived at this moment to learn what you must learn, so you can become the person you need to be to create the life you truly want. Even when life is difficult or challenging-especially when life is difficult and challenging-the present is always an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and become better than we’ve ever been before.” Hal Elrod

Cover photo credit: asisbiz.com/USA/17-Mile-Drive/images/The-Lonely-Cypress-Tree-17-Mile-Drive-Monterey-California-July-2011-06.jpg

Effect of Forgiveness on Health

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.”  Bernard Meltzer

“The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive.” Marianne Williamson

Précis: Recently had a friend go through a difficult break-up from a marriage. The notion of getting past the failed relationship, achieving forgiveness, and moving on without causing illness was of paramount importance. The implications of forgiveness/unforgiveness as it relates to health-illness crossed my mind. It started with assembling the quotes in this post. Next, I did a Google Scholar search for “forgiveness and health” and discovered a whole new area of psychology-science-medicine (well, it was new to me). Most of us would agree that forgiving yourself promotes wellness; whereas remaining unforgiven could disrupt your mental and possibly even your physical health.  This post reviews forgiveness and its positive impact on our health.

“Forgiveness is really a gift to yourself – have the compassion to forgive others, and the courage to forgive yourself.” Mary Anne Radmach

Forgiveness and Health: The Oxford dictionary defines ‘forgive’ as to stop feeling angry and resentful towards (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.  Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Forgiveness is a big part of positive psychology regarding both physical and mental well-being.   Over the past 15 years, researchers have focused on 2 primary hypotheses: (1) forgiveness has important connections to physical health; and (2) this relationship is guided by an association between lack of forgiveness and anger.  Evidently, there is consensus in the field that these two primary processes form the basis of forgiveness: (i) letting go of one’s right to resentment and negative judgment; and (ii) fostering undeserved compassion and generosity toward the perpetrator.  The first process implies a person would reduce their negative emotions (i.e., anger and revenge); while  the second process involves increasing positive feelings and might even include reconciliation. Collectively, there is growing scientific evidence that links the positivity of forgiveness and health.

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The more you know yourself, the more you forgive yourself.” Confucius

Forgiveness vs. Unforgiveness: It is probably apparent (to you) that forgiveness is generally associated with improved mental and physical health, as opposed to someone unable/unwilling to forgive.  Modeling the relationship between forgiveness and health, based on the hypothesis that forgiveness reduces hostility (and this would be considered healthier), 6 paths linking forgiveness and health have been described: (i) decrease in chronic blaming and anger; (ii) reduction in chronic hyper-arousal [“a state of increased psychological and physiological tension marked by such effects as reduced pain tolerance, anxiety, exaggeration of startle responses, insomnia, fatigue and accentuation of personality traits.”]; (iii) optimistic thinking; (iv) self-efficacy to take health-related actions; (v) social support; and (vi) transcendent consciousness (“state achieved through the practice of transcendental meditation in which the individual’s mind transcends all mental activity to experience the simplest form of awareness“).

What does this mean? The majority of studies on forgiveness indicate a reciprocal relationship to hostility, anger, anxiety and depression.  Forgiveness may directly alter sympathetic reactivity, which is often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response. These responses include increases in heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac contractility, and cortisol.  This implies that unforgiveness could promote an acute, stress-induced reactivity that could be associated with general health problems.  However, it is much more complicated than this simplistic flow of events: anger is a component of unforgiveness; anger is a health risk; therefore, unforgiveness is a health risk.  This is really interesting reading but way beyond my training as a protein biochemist (If interested, look over the references listed below)

Forgiveness and Mental Health: Let’s take a different angle by looking at mental health. We begin with unforgiveness as being associated with stress from an ‘interpersonal’ offense and stress is associated with diminished mental health. Furthermore, unforgiveness due to an ‘intrapersonal’ wrongdoing may lead to shame, regret and guilt, which could also negatively affect mental health. The positive impact of forgiveness may help correct the downturn in mental health that resulted from either interpersonal or intrapersonal stress.  In many instances, mental health is linked to physical health. This suggests that practicing forgiveness would positively influence mental health and could therein bolster physical health.

To summarize the ability of forgiveness to bolster mental health, I have re-drawn the figure from Toussaint and Webb  (2005) as a 4-piece puzzle. It begins with the ‘direct effect’ of forgiveness as told through unforgiveness with emotions of resentment, bitterness, hatred, residual hostility, and fear. The negative emotions of unforgiveness could contribute significantly to mental health problems.  By contrast, the emotion of forgiveness is positive and strong and love-based that could improve mental health. The ‘indirect effect’ of forgiveness through social support, interpersonal behavior and health behavior are all positively-linked to good mental health. The ‘developmental stage’ describes the recognition of the problem, need for an alternative solution, and ultimately the effect of forgiveness augments mental health.  The final piece to the puzzle is the ‘attributional process’, which suggests that being able to forgive bolsters personal control of one’s life, which is perceived to be positive.  By contrast, unforgiveness blocks this life-controlling process by consumptive negative emotions made worse in the individual through rumination.  Due to my own internal word limit and time-period to read/understand the topic, I have not included the religious or spiritual basis of the forgiveness of God, feeling God’s forgiveness, and seeking God’s forgiveness in the narrative of this post.  For many people, these would be integral components to the discussion here on forgiveness and its overall impact on both mental and physical health.

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“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all.” Maya Angelou

9 Steps to Forgiveness (Fred Luskin, LearningToForgive.com): Dr. Luskin is a noted-researcher in the field of forgiveness. His belief is that by practicing forgiveness, your anger, hurt, depression and stress will all be reduced and it will increase feelings of hope, compassion and self confidence. Furthermore, he believes that practicing forgiveness contributes to healthy relationships and to improved physical health; here are the 9 steps to forgiveness:

  1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
  3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
  4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
  5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
  6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
  7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
  8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
  9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness in the Presence of Parkinson’s:  Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, a lifelong chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorder is a real shock.  The diagnosis comes with a variety of emotions. After a while, acceptance takes over; no, not your identify, just ok, I’ve got Parkinson’s, live through it, make the most of this experience. Eventually I had to put forgiveness into part of this living-life-equation. There were two self-involved events where I might have contributed to the development of my own disease.  The first was as a young boy in the summertime riding my bicycle behind the DDT trucks spraying for mosquitoes on our Air Force bases [Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odorless crystalline organochlorine known for its insecticidal properties]. DDT is one of the known chemical inducers of Parkinson’s. Second, in graduate school before OSHA took over regulating lab safety, I routinely used many different noxious compounds for the benefit of science and for the completion of my PhD. Both events caused me to pause and ponder; however, I decided to forgive myself. I truly believe had I remained unforgiving, I would have paved a path of ill health.

This whole process of dealing with the emotion from diagnosis to acceptance (and forgiveness) of Parkinson’s reminds me of the opening verse of “We Are The Champions” by Queen: “I paid my dues/ time after time./ I’ve done my sentence/ but committed no crime./ And bad mistakes-/ I’ve made a few./ I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face/ but I’ve come through./  (And I need to go on and on, and on, and on)

The vast majority of people with Parkinson’s are 60-years of age or older (although there is a group of early-age-onset). Interestingly, in a recent study with an elderly population, forgiveness showed positive and significant association with mental and physical health.

“You cannot travel back in time to fix your mistakes, but you can learn from them and forgive yourself for not knowing better.” Leon Brown

“Accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it.” Mitch Albom

Forgive Ourselves: Dr. Elaine in her post “The-healing-power-of-forgiveness” nicely summarized self-forgiveness: “We tend to believe that forgiveness supports the transgression that has been committed against us. But forgiveness is not an endorsement of wrongdoing; rather, it’s an act of releasing the pain and hurt it caused through love, the root of forgiveness—and it is not love of the other but of the self. We must forgive ourselves as well as others in order to be whole and healed.”

Effect of Forgiveness on Health: The sum total of our health is a complex formula that differs slightly for each one of us.  Those of us with a progressive neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson’s increases the complexity of this life-equation.  Thus, dealing with the axis defined by forgiveness/unforgiveness in the matter of health (both mental and physical) clearly could complicate our health.  Truly we need to add forgiveness as a filter to our life-lens; the benefits from this addition should favor our health in the long-run.

“If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.” Maya Angelou

Cover photo credit: https://orig05.deviantart.net/0a42/f/2015/095/1/6/painted_wallpaper___fog_on_lake_by_dasflon-d8oiudk

Useful References:

Lawler KA, Younger JW, Piferi RL, Jobe RL, Edmondson KA, Jones WH. The Unique Effects of Forgiveness on Health: An Exploration of Pathways. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2005;28(2):157-67. doi: 10.1007/s10865-005-3665-2.

Akhtar, S., Dolan, A., & Barlow, J. (2017). Understanding the Relationship Between State Forgiveness and Psychological Wellbeing: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Religion and Health, 56(2), 450–463. http://doi.org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/10.1007/s10943-016-0188-9

Lawler-Row KA, Karremans JC, Scott C, Edlis-Matityahou M, Edwards L. Forgiveness, physiological reactivity and health: The role of anger. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 2008;68(1):51-8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.01.001.

Rey L, Extremera N. Forgiveness and health-related quality of life in older people: Adaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies as mediators. Journal of Health Psychology. 2016;21(12):2944-54. doi: 10.1177/1359105315589393. PubMed PMID: 26113528.

Toussaint, L., J.R. Webb.  Theoretical and empirical connections between forgiveness, mental health, and well-being E.L. Worthington Jr (Ed.), Handbook of forgiveness, Brunner–Routledge, New York (2005), pp. 207-226

 

 

 

 

Diet and Dementia (Cognitive Decline) in the Aging

“When diet is wrong medicine is of no use. When diet is correct medicine is of no need.’’ Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

‘‘What is food to one man may be fierce poison to others.’’ Lucretius (99 B.C.-55 BC).

Précis: Last month in London, England, at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017, there were several presentations focused on diet and the link with dementia/cognitive decline in the elderly population.  Two reports described the effect of specific diets [Mediterranean, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), and NPDP (Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern)] to maintain cognitive function in the aging population. In another study, the MIND diet was shown to reduce dementia in the women from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS).  Finally, it was shown that either the absence or excess of certain vitamins, minerals and other key nutrients could promote neuro-inflammation, which would be detrimental to the brain. This post reviews elements of these presentations.

“One should eat to live, not live to eat.” Moliere

A Healthy Body and Brain Combine Diet, Life-style, and Attitude: It is easy to say what it takes to be healthy; however, approaching/achieving/accomplishing it takes a concerted effort. In a minimal sense, achieving a healthy body and brain unites an efficient diet, an effective lifestyle, and a positive attitude.  Thus, a healthy body and brain requires a collective approach to living properly (and it helps to have good genes).

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

Inflammation and Parkinson’s: One of the many suggested causes of Parkinson’s is neuro-inflammation (see figure below).  The impact of diet promoting inflammation and cognitive decline in the aging population got my interest.  The combination of eating too much of ‘bad’ foodstuff with too little of some ‘good’ food components somehow promotes neuro-inflammation that contributes to the development of dementia. If the goal of my blog is related to Parkinson’s, what is the goal of this particular post? To present the notion that detrimental effects of neuro-inflammation could diminish brain function. And it’s this ‘possibility’ that makes the story relevant to this blog because neuro-inflammation is linked to the development of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Therefore, the specific pathway to how you develop that inflammation of the brain is relevant and an important topic.

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“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Diet Linked to Neuro-inflammation: There’s an old phrase “You Are What You Eat”, which simply means it’s critical to eat good food in order to stay healthy and fit. Building on solid evidence that eating well is brain healthy, researchers are beginning to explore mechanisms through which dietary mechanisms may influence cognitive status and dementia risk. Dr. Gu and colleagues (Columbia University, New York) examined whether an inflammation-related nutrient pattern (INP) was associated with changes in cognitive function and structural changes in the brain. Gu, Y., et al. (An Inflammatory Nutrient Pattern Is Associated Both Structural and Cognitive Measures of Brain Aging in the Elderly) presented a follow-up study to earlier work using brain scans (MRI) combined with levels of inflammatory makers [C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6)] and cognitive function studies of >300 community-dwelling elderly people who were non-demented.

They created what was termed an “InflammatioN-related Pattern (INP) where increased levels of CRP and IL-6 were found in participants with low dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium, folate and several water- and fat-soluble vitamins (including B1, B2, B5, B6, D, and E) and increased consumption of cholesterol, beta-carotene and lutein. The INP was derived from a 61-item food frequency questionnaire that the study participants answered about their food intake during the past year. Study participants with this ‘INP-diet-pattern’ also had poorer executive function scores and smaller total brain gray matter volume compared to study participants with a healthier diet.  The strength of the study was the scientific precision and methodology; however, it was not directly comparing one diet to another.  Further studies are needed to verify the role of diet to induce neuro-inflammation-related changes in dementia (cognitive health).  Furthermore, mechanistic insight is needed to understand how a diet with either an absence or an excess of certain nutritional components promotes neuro-inflammation to alter brain function and structure. Their results imply that a poor diet promotes dementia and smaller brain volume in the aging brain through a neuro-inflammatory process.

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” Ann Wigmore

What is Good for Your Heart is Good for Your Brain: The Mediterranean diet, a diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, is usually thought to confer healthy-heart benefits. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was developed to help improve cardiovascular health, especially hypertension. The DASH diet is simple: eat more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods; cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats; eat more whole-grain foods, fish, poultry, and nuts; and limit sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and red meats. Neurologists have merged the two diets, creating the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet; testing the hypothesis that if it’s good for the heart it will be good for the brain.   The MIND diet is gaining attention for its potential positive effects on preserving cognitive function and reducing dementia risk in older individuals. In an earlier study, Morris et al. (Alzheimer’s Dement. 2015; 11:1015-22) found that  individuals on the MIND diet showed less cognitive decline as they aged.

Moving to 2017, Dr. McEvoy and colleagues (University of California, San Francisco) studied ~6000 older adults in the Health and Retirement Study. They showed that the study participants who followed either the MIND or the Mediterranean diets were more likely to maintain strong cognitive function in old age (McEvoy, C., et al. Neuroprotective Dietary Patterns Are Associated with Better Cognitive Performance in Older US Adults: The Health and Retirement Study). Their results also showed that study participants with either of these healthier diets had significant retention of cognitive function.

The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” Thomas A. Edison

The Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (NPDP) Protects Cognitive Function: The NPDP includes both more frequent and less frequent food consumption categories: More frequent consumption of non-root vegetables, apple/pears/peaches, pasta/rice, poultry, fish, vegetable oils, tea and water, and light to moderate wine intake; Less frequent intake of root vegetables, refined grains/cereals, butter/margarine, sugar/sweets/pastries, and fruit juice. Dr. Xu and colleagues (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden) studied the relationship of diet to cognitive function in >2,200 dementia-free community-dwelling adults in Sweden (Xu,W., et al. Which Dietary Index May Predict Preserved Cognitive Function in Nordic Older Adults). During six years of evaluation, they reported that study participants with moderate loyalty to the NPDP had better cognitive function compared to study participants who deviated more frequently from the NPDP.  The scientists noted that, in the Scandinavian population studied, the NPDP was better at maintaining cognitive function compared to other diets (Mediterranean, MIND, DASH, and Baltic Sea).

“The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.” Gilbert K. Chesterton

Women on the MIND Diet are Less Likely to Develop Dementia: Dr. Hayden and colleagues (Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina) studied diet and dementia in >7,000 participants from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) (Hayden, K., et al. The Mind Diet and Incident Dementia, Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study).   The study showed that older women who followed the MIND diet were less likely to develop dementia. These results were obtained by stratification of the WHIMS  participants from very likely to very unlikely to adhere to the MIND diet; they were  assessed for almost 10 years.  Their results imply that it may not require drastic diet changes to help preserve the aging brain.

“It’s not about eating healthy to lose weight. It’s about eating healthy to feel good.” Demi Lovato

Diet and Dementia in the Aging Brain: Four different studies with similar results; diet can  influence dementia and cognitive function in the aging brain.  The single most important finding in these studies was simply that a good diet helps maintain a healthy brain. Strong evidence was presented in three of the studies that the Mediterranean, the MIND and NPBP are excellent diets to help maintain cognitive function as we age.  Mechanistic studies to further demonstrate the link of dietary components with an increase in neuro-inflammation  would be most interesting. A confounding issue is that overall health and a healthy brain are more than just diet alone.  To reduce the chance of cognitive decline and dementia, it’s important to remember as we get older to protect our brain by eating well, exercise regularly, and exercise our brain by becoming lifelong learners (see Word Cloud below).

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“The older I get, the more vegetables I eat. I can’t stress that more. Eating healthy really affects my work. You not only need to be physically prepared, but mentally and spiritually.” James Badge Dale

 Cover photo credit:  C.J. Reuland

 

 

The Mask of Parkinson’s

“I wear the mask. It does not wear me.” Man in the Iron Mask

“See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” Luke 11:35

Précis: The simplest way to describe Parkinson’s is that it’s a movement disorder due to the reduction of dopamine production.  Sometimes one of the more obvious places this absence of dopamine is noticed is the reduction of facial expressions (also referred to as masked facies or hypomimia).  The “mask of Parkinson’s” is further described below.

Loss of facial expression: There are 43 muscles in the face, which are all mostly controlled by the seventh cranial nerve.  Johann Kaspar Lavater said “…The human face is nature’s tablet, the truth is certainly written thereon.” We view the smile as a sign of friendship, happiness, and acceptance; while we view the frown as a sign of sadness or unacceptable.  The Parkinson’s face is somewhat less expressive than before; somewhat more rigid than before.  Many people-with-Parkinson’s also have chronic stiff necks; however, that doesn’t make us Frankenstein.

Scenario #1: You’ve played 17 holes of golf, and you approach the 18th hole to finish the round. This is a long par three with a lake between you on the tee box and the putting surface.  Your three golf buddies have already safely hit their balls over the lake;  you  launch the ball over the water and safely onto the green (this is a big deal).  Without Parkinson’s, your facial expression and your exuberance are so obvious.  With Parkinson’s, your joy and exuberance are still over-flowing inwardly yet it is displayed in a more muted  manner.

‘Life is a mask through which the universe expresses itself.” Frank Herbert

“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.” Alan Moore

Changes in your voice: The loss of dopamine in your brain leads to reduced volume in your voice along with your voice becoming flatter/softer in tone.  The same process affecting your face is happening in your voice. If you think of dopamine as a “messenger service”, the brain uses it to send orders/messages to nerves.  When dopamine-producing cells die, all muscles are affected and diminish, including muscles involved in speaking, swallowing, facial motion, legs and  walking, and hand/arm movements.

Scenario #2:  You and your partner are attending a college basketball game;  your home team is 3-points ahead of your biggest rival, and it’s near the end of the second half.  Game over, your team wins, let the fun begin.  Like everyone else in the arena, you are standing, jumping around, high-five’s all near you, and you are shouting (and singing) your lungs out.  Such happens during great college basketball rivalry games.  Without Parkinson’s, all of this is a reality, a dream come true.  There is a feeling of satisfaction and there is a huge positive feeling from the game.  With Parkinson’s, there is the same positive feeling of happiness but with a diminished ability to clap  continuously and you’re less able to shout and sing along loudly with everybody.

Two famous masks:

“Without wearing any mask we are conscious of, we have a special face for each friend.’ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“A mask tells us more than a face.” Oscar Wilde

Consequences of the ‘Parkinson’s Mask’: The change is subtle over time. Mostly,  there is a softness to your voice, your smile is not as big, and you don’t blink your eyes as much.

Subtle differences in the before/after pictures (I’m also younger in the without PD pictures):

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Because I do a lot of teaching, I get a lot of teaching evaluations and critiques. Here are two comments from two medical students regarding my lecturing in Immunology (one of the medical school courses I co-direct and teach in):

“Dr. Church is a wonderful lecturer! Not only is he easy to follow during lectures as far as explaining concepts is concerned, but his dedication to his students, their questions, and their general well-being never ceases to amaze me.

“Dr. Church should take it as a huge compliment that he was able to convey enthusiasm about the topic and inspire passion in students despite his expression often being limited by Parkinson’s.”

LSVT LOUD® can certainly help boost the volume and tone of your voice. If you use it and practice, it will make a difference.  My Speech Pathologists told me that we think we’re speaking at a normal volume but we’re really not.  Your goal is to train your brain to really speak loud (almost shouting). You can also practice making accentuated facial motions, trying to accentuate what’s going on with your face. You can practice smiling large, and other facial exercises (try practicing your vowels).  I have never had a loud voice and I’m not an overly expressive person; having Parkinson’s has softened everything. When you listen to someone speaking, you also listen with your eyes; thus,  the reduction in visual cues makes it harder to understand you.  To continue to get these positive comments shown above, I need to be constantly practicing on speaking louder and working on my facial exercises.

“Take the emotional temperature of those listening to you. Facial expressions, voice inflection and posture give clues to a person’s mood and attitude.” John C. Maxwell

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Resist the evolving Parkinson’s mask:  The worst-case scenario to what I’ve been describing is the total outward masking/blocking of your inner self and its expression. We must resist that change, we must really work hard to speak louder and to over-accentuate our facial motion to show the emotion that’s within us. Change may be subtle but change is inevitable for most of us regarding this mask. Stay vigilant. Let’s keep working on talking louder and being more expressive. The inner you is still there, it’s functioning and still wanting to get out. Keep working.

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging—lives inside of our story.” Brené Brown

Cover photo credit: http://7-themes.com/6793576-free-pacific-ocean-wallpaper.html

Sleep Disturbances in Parkinson’s and the Eagles Best Song Lyrics

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” Homer, The Odyssey

“Man is a genius when he is dreaming.” Akira Kurosawa

Précis: There are many manifestations associated with Parkinson’s; one of the more frustrating aspects is the alteration of sleep patterns.  Herein is a brief overview of sleep disturbances in Parkinson’s.  And in a recent evening of insomnia, I compiled a list of some of my favorite lyrics by the American rock band “the Eagles”.

Sleep problems associated with Parkinson’s: The vast majority, >90%, of people-with-Parkinson’s have some sleep-related problems. The factors related to disrupted sleep pattern in Parkinson’s can broadly be classified as follows:  (1) Parkinson’s-related; (2) treatment-related; (3) psychiatric-related; and (4) other sleep-related manifestations. For further review, please see the following articles: Garcia-Borreguero et al., “Parkinson’s disease and sleep” (click here for the PubMed citation); Barone et al., “Treatment of nocturnal disturbances and excessive daytime sleepiness in Parkinson’s disease” (click here for the PubMed citation) and Chaudhuri et al. “Non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: diagnosis and management” (click here for the PubMed citation). An expanded description of some of the sleep disturbances in Parkinson’s is given below:

  • Parkinson’s related motor symptoms that could alter sleep patterns include disruption from tremor, difficulty in turning over in bed, impairment of voluntary movement (akinesia), abnormal muscle tone that results in muscular spasm and abnormal posture (dystonia), and painful cramps.
  • Therapy-related nocturnal disruption of sleep from legitimate Parkinson’s drugs, e.g., dopamine agonists, levodopa/carbidopa, and certain antidepressants. The known side-effects of the ‘gold-standard’ of treatment levodopa/carbidopa include: dizziness, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dry mouth, mouth and throat pain, constipation, change in sense of taste, forgetfulness or confusion, nervousness, nightmares, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and headache.
  • A significant portion of people-with-Parkinson’s exhibit psychiatric symptoms.  The most frequent manifestations, which could alter one’s sleep pattern include vivid dreams, insomnia, hallucinations, psychosis, panic attacks, depression, and dementia.
  • Finally, there are other sleep-related disorders linked to Parkinson’s, which include excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, periodic leg movements, and sleep apnea.

“Daytime sleep is like the sin of the flesh; the more you have the more you want, and yet you feel unhappy, sated and unsated at the same time.” Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Sleep-related problems from Parkinson’s: Many people-with-Parkinson’s have a difficult time sleeping throughout the night. With or without Parkinson’s, a good night’s rest is critical to feeling well. Thus, understanding and treating the cause of the sleep-related disorder from Parkinson’s is important.  The list described above is somewhat intimidating; especially in trying to sort out the primary-cause(s) of sleep problems from Parkinson’s. My sleeping problems seem to be related to the timing of when I take levodopa/carbidopa (I need to re-focus my effort to take it at the right time each day; not late in the evening), renew my nightly melatonin therapy (3 mg capsule 1-2 h before sleep); sleep apnea (now being treated by CPAP), and stress related to my work deadlines/professional goals-expectations (now being dealt with by increased time for exercise and better use of mindfulness-meditation).

Dealing with sleep-related issues from Parkinson’s is both complex and frequently multi-factorial. Therefore, given below are some websites that may offer guidance and suggestions to better handle your sleep disorder from Parkinson’s:

  • Nighttime Parkinson’s issues and how they can be treated (click here);
  • Sleep Disorders and Parkinson’s Disease (click here);
  • Sleep Disturbances (click here);
  • Parkinson’s Disease and Sleep (click here);
  • Problems with Sleep at Night (click here);
  • And from this blog: Sleep, Relaxation, and Traveling (click here); 7 Healthy Habits For Your Brain (click here);  and try dealing with the stress from and the reality of Parkinson’s using Contentment, Gratitude, And Mindfulness (click here).

“Am I sleeping? Have I slept at all? This is insomnia.” Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

“Frank, what’s your favorite line from an Eagles song?”:  A recent Sunday morning on the golf course, my golf buddy and good friend Kim asked Frank, what’s your favorite line from an Eagles song?”; yes, it came our of nowhere.  My initial response was “You can see the stars and still not see the light”.  He quickly replied “We live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key.” And I followed up with “I’m standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona and such a fine sight to see.”  We talked briefly about the Eagles from the early 1970’s and their song lyrics; however, the thought stayed with me.  If you need a reminder about the Eagles: “The Eagles were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner. With five number-one singles, six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and six number one albums, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s.” [for more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eagles_(band)%5D

“I grew up with another pretty darn good writer: Glenn Frey of the Eagles. We were very good friends, and we kind of studied it together.” Bob Seger

The lyrics from the Eagles songs take us to the limit(s) of our imagination: For me, great music has a memorable beat and meaningful lyrics; and you can just remember these songs years later. The Eagles were wonderful musicians, harmonized beautifully, and wrote songs with a lot of imaginative/descriptive lyrics. The other night, I started listening to the Eagles and decided to compile a list of some of their best (i.e., my favorite) lyrics. I had iTunes open and would start listening and then search for lyrics to certain songs (those that brought back the most memories).  I also used my Echo Dot by saying things like “Alexa, play Desperado by the Eagles”.   At 5:00 AM the next morning, I had 27 favorite lyrics from 24 songs; the result of a very fun and reflective evening.  There is no accompanying narrative to the included lyrics, just the song title/album title/album cover.  All lyrics for the songs by the Eagles were found here: http://www.azlyrics.com/

 “The records in the house I really remember were, well, Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘Galveston.’ Even as a kid, I knew these songs were glorious. My dad also had records by Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, and then there was also the Eagles and Don Henley. Anything Texas, which includes Don Henley, was big.”  Keith Urban

Album: “The Eagles” (1972)

01-eagles-1972

“Take It Easy”
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though
we will never be here again

“Peaceful Easy Feeling”
I like the way your sparkling earrings lay,
Against your skin, it’s so brown.
And I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight
With a billion stars all around.

“Most Of Us Are Sad”
Most of us are sad
No one lets it show
I’ve been shadows of myself
How was I to know?

Most of us are sad it’s true
Still we must go on

Album: “Desperado” (1973)

02-desperado-1973

“Desperado”
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you before it’s too late

“Saturday Night”
What a tangled web we weave
Go ’round with circumstance
Someone show me how to tell the dancer
From the dance

“Doolin-Dalton / Desperado Reprise”
The queen of diamonds let you down,
She was just an empty fable
The queen of hearts you say you never met

Album: “On The Border” (1974)

03-on-the-border-1974

“Already Gone”
Just remember this, my girl, when you look up in the sky
You can see the stars and still not see the light (that’s right)

“Already Gone”
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

“My Man”
No man’s got it made till he’s far beyond the pain
And we who must remain go on living just the same

“The Best Of My Love”
I’m goin’ back in time
And it’s a sweet dream
It was a quiet night
And I would be all right
If i could go on sleepin’

“The Best Of My Love”
But here in my heart I give you the best of my love

Album: “One Of These Nights” (1975)

04-one-of-these-nights-1975

“One Of These Nights”
The full moon is calling
The fever is high
And the wicked wind whispers
And moans

“Take It To The Limit”
If it all fell to pieces tomorrow
Would you still be mine?

“Lyin’ Eyes”
Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things
You’re still the same old girl you used to be

Album: “Hotel California” (1976)

06-hotel-california-1976

“Victim Of Love”
Some people never come clean
I think you know what I mean
You’re walkin’ the wire, pain and desire
Looking for love in between

“Hotel California”
“Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine”
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night

“Hotel California”
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

“New Kid In Town”
You look in her eyes; the music begins to play
Hopeless romantics, here we go again

“Wasted Time”
And maybe someday we will find , that it wasn’t really wasted time

Album: “The Long Run” (1979)07-the-long-run-1979

“I Can’t Tell You Why”
Aren’t we the same two people who live
through years in the dark?
Ahh…
Every time I try to walk away
Something makes me turn around and stay
And I can’t tell you why

“The Sad Cafe”
Some of their dreams came true,
some just passed away
And some of them stayed behind
inside the Sad Cafe.

Album: “Eagles Live” (1980)08-eagles-live-1980

“Seven Bridges Road”
There are stars in the Southern sky
And if ever you decide
You should go
There is a taste of thyme sweetened honey
Down the Seven Bridges Road

Album: “Hell Freezes Over” (1994)

10-hell-freezes-over-1994

“Get Over It”
Complain about the present and blame it on the past
I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass

“Love Will Keep Us Alive”
I was standing
All alone against the world outside
You were searching
For a place to hide
Lost and lonely
Now you’ve given me the will to survive
When we’re hungry, love will keep us alive

“Learn To Be Still”
Now the flowers in your garden
They don’t smell so sweet
Maybe you’ve forgotten
The heaven lying at your feet

“Pretty Maids All In A Row”
Why do we give up our hearts to the past?

 Album: “Long Road Out Of Eden” (2007)

12-long-road-out-of-eden-2007

“It’s Your World Now”
A perfect day, the sun is sinkin’ low
As evening falls, the gentle breezes blow
The time we shared went by so fast
Just like a dream, we knew it couldn’t last
But I’d do it all again
If I could, somehow
But I must be leavin’ soon
It’s your world now

“I’ve dreamed a lot. I’m tired now from dreaming but not tired of dreaming. No one tires of dreaming, because to dream is to forget, and forgetting does not weigh on us, it is a dreamless sleep throughout which we remain awake. In dreams I have achieved everything.” Fernando Pessoa

Cover photo credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/e5/aa/eb/e5aaeb8a5363fdeacccb567becee86b6.jpg

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