Tag Archives: Gratitude

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).

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“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,

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“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/

Journey with Parkinson’s Blog in Feedspot Top 50 Parkinson Blogs

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Matsuo Basho

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Award: The Journey with Parkinson’s blog has been recognized by FeedSpot as a top 50 blog on Parkinson’s Disease! “Top 50 Parkinson Blogs & Websites For People Living With Parkinson’s Disease” (Click here to see the list).

“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say.” Alice Walker

Acknowledgment and thank you: We thank FeedSpot for adding this blog to this very distinguished group of blog sites; this is indeed an honor.

Thank you to the readers and followers of the blog; your continued presence, comments and suggestions truly help sustain the time and energy needed to compose these blog posts.

“The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile.” Julia Child

The future: It is my hope that the Journey with Parkinson’s blog will continue to educate, to bolster and to offer support to anyone with Parkinson’s (or any other neurodegenerative disorder).

“Each day we wear a cape on our back labeled with the letters PD (Parkinson’s Disease).  Each day we bring a positive reaction to handle our symptoms, I am convinced we begin to fade those letters; we begin to gain control of our symptoms. While it is not easy to remain positive with such a somber disorder, staying positive can help you cope. Thus, we should strive to live positively as we try to shed our cape named Parkinson’s.” Frank C. Church (Excerpt from “Hope, Courage, Persistence, Positivity, Mindfulness, and the Journey“; click here to read this blog post).

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Chapter 8: A Parkinson’s Reading Companion on Mindfulness

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Précis: The students from my undergraduate course, “Biology of Blood Diseases”, submitted quotes about these words: hope, courage, journey, persistence, positivity, strength, adversity, mindfulness, and life (for further details click here). This blog post is Chapter 8 including all of their quotes about ‘mindfulness’ [click here to read Chapter 1 (hope); click here to read Chapter 2 (life); click here to read Chapter 3 (strength); click here to read Chapter 4 (adversity); click here to read Chapter 5 (positivity); click here to read Chapter 6 (courage); click here to read Chapter 7 (persistence)].

Mindfulness and Parkinson’s: Recently, I described mindfulness (click here to read post):  “The simplest view of mindfulness is to be aware of what is happening right now, unable to change this time but to embrace the current moment. Much of our lives are led at a pace where we fret for the future, remorseful of the past, and frequently, we are oblivious to the current moment.” Life with Parkinson’s is best lived in the current moment without either focusing on the past or dreading the future.  To my thinking, this comment by Michael J. Fox is a nice description of mindfulness in the presence of Parkinson’s where he embraces (accepts) the current moment, “There’s an idea I came across a few years ago that I love. My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. That’s the key for me. If I can accept the truth of ‘This is what I’m facing — not what can I expect but what I am experiencing now’ — then I have all this freedom to do other things.” May these quotes on mindfulness allow you to focus on what’s happening right now, and they remind you to be mindful and thankful for what you have today.

mindfulness

Mindfulness:  I am pleased to present Chapter 8 about mindfulness with my co-authors: Angle, Hannah; Arthur, Kallie; Artov, Michael; Bagley, Kendall; Batista, Kayla; Blaylock, Allison; Byrd, Emory; Cabell, Grant; Catalano, Michael; Clark, Kendall; Cossaart, Kristen; Culpepper, Houston; Das, Snigdha; Davis, Eric; Defazio, Stephanie; Doudnikoff, Alex; Dua, Shawn; Evans, Jessica; Evick, Andrew; Farooque, Tazeen; Ford, Kelsey; German, Zachary; Gouveia, Katie; Hall, Nikita; Isler, Victoria; Kirkley, Joel; Koutleva, Elitza; Laudun, Katie; Le, Kevin; Little, Sarah; Mackey, Josselyn; Macon, Briana; Maddox, Kaity; Marquino, Grace; Mattox, Daniel; Mcknight, Kyle; Mcmanus, Brenna; Mcshane, Sarah; Monkiewicz, Caroline; Nguyen, Michelle; Nguyen, Teresa; Olinger, Emily; Patel, Darshan; Patel, Dilesh; Patel, Jenny; Perez, Abby; Peters, Daniel; Quirin, Julia; Rawlins, Shelby; Raynor, Nathan; Renn, Matt; Scott, Alicia; Sherry, Alex; Shin, Christine; Stanton, Kate; Story, Charlotte; Swango, Summer; Szyperski, Caroline; Windley, Taylor; Wooley, Caleb; Xu, Alice; Yang, Michelle.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh)

“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” William Blake

“Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world.”Amit Ray

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.” Andrew Murphy

“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.” Amit Ray

“Stop, breathe, look around
and embrace the miracle of each day,
the miracle of life.”
Jeffrey A. White

“So often, we become focused on the finish line that we fail to enjoy the journey.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“How to stop time: kiss. How to travel in time: read. How to escape time: music. How to feel time: write. How to release time: breathe.” Matt Haig

“Science and mindfulness complement each other in helping people to eat well and maintain their health and well-being.” Nhat Hanh

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” Audrey Hepburn

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” Thich Nhat Hanh

 “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” Kobe Bryant

“Make sure your worst enemy isn’t living between your own two ears.” Laird Hamilton

“Be gentle with yourself; you’re doing the best you can.” Unknown

“We’re all a little crazy. Some just hide it better than others.” Kermit the Frog

“We have no right to ask when a sorrow comes, ‘why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way.” Anonymous

“Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow.” Catherynne M. Valente

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” Bob Dylan

“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” James Thurber

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.” Stephen King

“The key to creating the mental space before responding is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of being present: paying attention to and accepting what is happening in our lives. It helps us to be aware of and step away from our automatic and habitual reactions to our everyday experiences.” Elizabeth Thornton

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Mother Teresa

 “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” Frank Zappa

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” Sylvia Boorstein

“There is plenty of time, but each moment counts.”  Billy Graham

 “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When things are going well, be mindful of adversity.
When prosperous, be mindful of poverty.
When loved, be mindful of thoughtfulness.
When respected, be mindful of humility.”
Buddha

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” James Baraz 

Cover photo credit: http://www.wallpapers13.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Coast-beach-spring-flowers-HD-wallpaper.jpg

Mindfulness images: http://ritaharvey.counselling.co.uk/_sitedata/1398682330%206ZngCeReO/today.png; http://rootedreveries.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Mindfulness-quote.jpg; http://www.verybestquotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Mindfulness-quotes-acceptance-joy-peace-and-love.-Thich-Nhat-Hanh-Quotes.jpg; http://static.oprah.com/images/201204/orig/quotes-thich-nhat-hanh-06-600×411.jpg.

 

 

11 Tips And Character Traits For Living Better With Parkinson’s

“In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship but never in want.” Irish Toast

“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.” Criss Jami

Happy New Year!

Thanks for all of your support, feedback, responses and suggestions in 2015; they were most appreciated.

2016 begins with something old and something new; advice (and quotes) for living better with Parkinson’s. Listed alphabetically, the topics include: Believe; Courage And Strength; Exercise Is Your Best Friend; Gratitude And Contentment; Hope; Journey On; Mindfulness; Persistence; Sleep,Sleep Some More; Stay You; and Understand Nutritional Needs.  It is presented in the Table below (for a full-page image click here: 11_Tips.Traits_Living_Parkinsons.160101).

11_Tips.Traits_Living_Parkinsons.160101

Best wishes to you; may you have a wonderful, happy, productive, successful, loving, fulfilling, and most healthy 2016.

“Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.” Rita Levi-Montalcini [Dr. Levi-Montalcini was a neurobiologist. She was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Dr. Stanley Cohen for the discovery of nerve growth factor.]

Moving Day® was a Morning to Move for Parkinson’s and a Time to be Moved

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”  Carlos Castenada

“Don’t be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others.” Unknown

Background story: Over the years, my research career has been supported by various non-Federal organizations, in particular the American Heart Association (AHA) and Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Komen). Due to the generous funding of research projects and fellows by the AHA and Komen, my research group regularly participates in and raises funds for the annual Triangle Heart Walk and the Komen Triangle Race for the Cure®, respectively. 

What makes each of these such special annual events?  From my perspective, it is a combination of being around “survivors” (either heart disease or breast cancer), the camaraderie of the lab group participating together, and giving back to both organizations. However, my personal reasons for participating in these events are two-fold: first, to support the organizations that help fund my research; and second, to remember my parents (they died from cardiovascular issues) and to honor a sister (breast cancer survivor).

“Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.”  Tim Hansel

People who move can change the world: “Moving Day® is the National Parkinson Foundation’s annual fundraising walk/run event. It is a fun and inspiring fundraising event that unites families, friends and communities both large and small in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. This celebration of movement will feature a family friendly walk course, a kids area, a caregivers relaxation tent and a special Movement Pavilion featuring yoga, dance, Tai Chi, Pilates, etc. all proven to help manage the symptoms of PD. It will be ‘A day to move, a day to move others, a day that moves YOU!’.” [http://www.parkinson.org/get-involved/moving-day-walk-for-parkinsons]

Moving Day® NC Triangle was Saturday, October 31, 2015 at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, NC.

“We have common enemies today. It’s called childhood poverty. It’s called cancer. It’s called AIDS. It’s called Parkinson’s. It’s called Muscular Dystrophy.” Jerry Doyle

Walking for Parkinson’s: Moving Day was a morning to move and a time to be moved: Unlike the AHA and Komen events described above, my participation in Moving Day was personal. I have Parkinson’s and I am trying hard to support numerous Parkinson’s organization, continue to stay focused on Parkinson’s advances, and remain committed to helping others with Parkinson’s through outreach/education/blog activities.  Thus, Moving Day was both important and very personal to me.

I did 3 things for Moving Day: (1) formed a ‘team’ named Carolina Parkinson’s; (2) wrote lots-and-lots of emails trying to raise awareness of Parkinson’s, and yes, solicited for donations (thanks to many friends, family members/loved ones, colleagues and students we reached our team fund-raising goal); and (3) recruited team members to walk with me. Below are photos of the team, team T-shirt and the walk.

IMG_7761IMG_7938 IMG_7939 IMG_7944 “All trials are not the reason to give up, but a challenge to improve ourselves. Our pain is not an excuse to back out, but an inspiration to move on.” Unknown

A walk and a moment of self-reflection:  Michael J. Fox once said, “Nobody would choose to have a disease visited upon them. Still, Parkinson’s forced me to make a fundamental life decision: adopt a siege mentality – or embark upon a life journey.”  Moving Day preparation went smoothly (fund raising, recruiting teammates to walk and the team T-shirts arrived in time).

The Day itself was inspiring; more than 1200 people and almost 90 teams participated.
The Day itself was simply a beautiful Carolina blue sky fall day.
The Day itself put me with a team of friends who came committed to recognizing Parkinson’s and to demonstrate their care for me; a moment in my life to remember, to cherish, to be thankful.
The Day itself was somewhat of an awakening; to walk next to 100’s of individuals with Parkinson’s and their army of supporters was both a joyous and sincere moment. Joyous because it was an event fueled by love and kindness. Sincere because it was a public day to reflect upon our disorder and to bring solidarity to acknowledge and support one another.
The Day itself was a 1st time for me as a participant with Parkinson’s; I missed some of the day’s events and opportunities to interact with my teammates and others (a poorly planned trip by me).

Thanks to everyone who donated to the team (both those who walked and those unable to be present) and thank you so very much for your constant support, friendship and love!  I have already begun planning for Moving Day 2016.

“The amount of new knowledge in the field of Parkinson’s disease gained in the past five years exceeds everything we knew from the previous 200 years” John Jurenko, healthcare research philanthropist who recently passed away after living with Parkinson’s

Poetry to Parkinson’s

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan

Defining Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s start from the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra region of the brain.  Lewy bodies are found in these cells; they are denatured aggregates of the protein named alpha-synuclein. Formation of Lewy bodies promote neuronal cell dysfunction and death. Parkinson’s presents mostly as a movement disorder (rigidity, slowness of movement, postural instability, and resting tremor).

Defining poetry and a poet: Jane Kenyon said “The poet’s job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.”  Likewise, Robert Frost remarked “There are three things, after all, that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is most important of all to reach the heart of the read.”

TED talks and a poet with Parkinson’s: Most people have heard of TED talks. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences follow the slogan of “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  Many  universities and organizations have TEDx meetings (e.g., TEDxUNC), which are both fun and inspiring to attend.  The primary reason for writing this particular blog is to connect you with Robin Morgan’s TED talk. Robin is a poet with Parkinson’s.  Her poems she presented at a recent TED conference are beautiful and moving.  I can definitely agree with much of her description of Parkinson’s. Clearly, it is a well-deserved honor to be chosen to present at a TED meeting.

TED talk:

Difference between prose and poetry, and prose to Parkinson’s:  Maeve Maddox writes “What makes a poem ‘good’? The answer ultimately lies with the reader of the poem, but there is a certain consensus as to what makes a poem ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ According to the critic Coleridge, prose is ‘words in their best order,’ while poetry is ‘the best words in their best order.’ Poetry demands precision…The job of the poet is to create a picture in the mind and an emotion in the heart. Every single word counts.”  [go here for the complete article: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/telling-a-good-poem-from-a-bad-one/ ]. Based on this description, I am clearly not a poet.  However, here’s an attempt at prose to Parkinson’s.

Live on, life has not yet been cancelled
Living with Parkinson’s is like walking on the beach as high-tide approaches; sand moving under your feet while the water hits your ankles that brings some imbalance to your movement.  As high tide continues in, walking becomes even more difficult. Likewise, with Parkinson’s you handle the difficulty, adapt to the changes, manage the progression, and live on.

Living with Parkinson’s says your future life will be different from your life before.  Accept the diagnosis, do not let it define you, challenge it, continue to thrive and be happy, and live on.

Living with Parkinson’s says subtle progression is expected. Stay active, keep exercising, be mindful, remain persistent, be positive, show gratitude, and live on.

Living with Parkinson’s today says there is still no cure.  We must remain hopeful and stay educated because advances are being reported weekly for neurodegenerative disorders.  Small steps to better understanding brings us closer to new therapies, slowing progression and more, please live on.

Living with Parkinson’s says you are still you today.  The same you from before the diagnosis. Stay active, be focused and, as always, remain hopeful. Live on, life has not yet been cancelled.

Day-by-day with Parkinson’s
Daily life after the diagnosis, I feel the following
Physically; a little different but getting stronger.
Inner-self; mindfulness matters.
Intellectually; focused, very focused on learning more.
Emotionally; stable but brittle, determined to expand.
Psychologically; seeking to understand.
Outreach; ready to help others understand Parkinson’s.
Consciously; ready, awake, hungry, capable.
Educationally; able, capable, ready to expand.
Mood; happy, want some red wine.
Motivation; ready, really ready to understand the brain.
Sleep; too many sleepless work-filled nights, sleepy.
Future; the big unknown, focus on the moment, breathe.

Dopamine, my constant symbol of hope
The molecular formula of dopamine is C8H11NO2. In terms of chemical structure it’s relatively simple; however, in terms of functional value it’s the missing ingredient to my disorder, to the one named Parkinson’s. My new life-pattern can be blamed on the reduced synthesis of dopamine. The result is my newfound reliance for a dopamine agonist; a complex chemical to mimic my simple dopamine.

Dopamine is more than just a neurotransmitter; it is truly my symbol of hope and renewed possibilities. C8H11NO2 solves my new life’s-riddle and confounding mysteries. This allows me to learn a lot about Parkinson’s science; which further gives me opportunity to educate others. And remember Mark Watney’s words (Matt Damon in “The Martian”): “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.” The key, to never lose hope and to remain persistent, optimistic, and informed.

IMG_7656“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”  Viktor Frankl

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.