We recently came across this Ted Talk on joy, and it seemed a perfect supplement to our post on happiness. It’s by Ingrid Fetell, who states in part, “Each moment of joy is small, but over time, they add up to more than the sum of their parts. … Joy isn’t some superfluous extra. It’s directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. On the most basic level, the drive toward joy is the drive toward life.”
Our patient-centered research report on resilience and Parkinson’s Disease focused on how the ongoing challenges of having Parkinson’s can impact your life. It defined resilience as a dynamic process whereby individuals cope with and exhibit positive behavioral adaptation to stress, challenge, and adversity. The report noted that resilience seems to be more of a personality trait and is independent of physical function in PD and does not necessarily decrease over time as the severity of the disease worsens. Going hand-in-hand with resilience is a sense of happiness. Thus, a recent article by Adam Sternberg called Read This Story and Get Happierimmediately caught our attention.
Mr. Sternberg reported that the most popular class currently being offered at Yale University by Pofessor Laurie Santos is on happiness, called Psychology and the Good Life. Like resilience, happiness does take practice. The class teaches what happiness is, why are you’re not happy, and what you can do about it.
The takeaway is simply this: We are inclined to assume that circumstances play the biggest role in our happiness, when research suggests they play the smallest role ( … this is only true if your most basic needs are met) … we grossly underestimate the extent to which changing our behaviors, rather than our circumstances, can significantly increase our well-being.
Happiness, in the end, is a mind-set to be cultivated, not a condition to be imposed.”
Luckily for us, you no longer need to be a Yale student to benefit from Professor Santo’s class. There is now a free version of this popular class called The Science of Well-Being offered on Coursera that you can take online. The class teaches not only about the psychological research and “the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do,” but on activities that increase happiness and build better habits.
We forwarded Mr. Sternberg’s article to Dr. Jeffrey Wertheimer, our chief research consultant and also is Chief of Neuropsychology Services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, for his opinion on it. He replied saying it’s a topic of great interest to him. He added:
I integrate some of the content into the Growing Resilience and CouragE (GRACE) curriculum I facilitate. There is definitely a trend in contemporary “l, psychology” highlighting research on happiness. U Penn is the home of Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the contemporary father figure of positive psychology and the one who coined the term Authentic Happiness (the title of one of his books).
Dr. Seligman is also the author of The Hope Circuit, which is featured on the The University of Pennsylvania’s website entitled Authentic Happinesss. This website includes a wealth of resources, including videos on topics such as happiness, gratitude, and compassion.
If you simply want to listen to some music to make you feel happier, it’s hard not to smile while watching the world’s first 24 hour music video of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The music video features people, alone or in groups, dancing and singing to William’s infectious song. You can view the 24 hour video here. We smiled at the two guys in tuxes in front of a Starbucks at 2:20 pm.
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month! That means it’s time for the annual Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York City’s Central Park. This year it will be on Saturday, April 28th. Are you registered to go? We hope so!
It’s always a fun-filled, inspirational event that raises awareness and funds for Parkinson’s research.
Besides the 1.4 mile gentle Walk, there are several free programs to enjoy throughout the morning at the Bandshell. Programs include a Wake Up nd Stretch to the Classics; Nia Brain Body Fitness for PD; Dance for PD and the PD Movement Lab; Rock Steady Boxing; Amplify your Life with LSVT Loud and LSVT Big; Small Beach Towel Workout for PD; and musical performances by The Original Mixed Company, an oldies singing group specializing in Doowop, R&B, and Gospel. Be sure to stroll down Margot Zobel Way where you’ll find sponsor booths with educational information and materials. Visit our Ask The Heathcare Experts booth, where a variety of individuals—such as a movement disorder specialist, neurosurgeon, movement disorder nurse practioner, physical therapist, occupational therapist, DBS programmer, and a nutritionist—are available to answer your questions. Light snacks and drinks are provided, and each participant will receive a tote bag to hold information from our sponsors.
We have been proud to run this event each year. From the very beginning, 100% of all donations raised by walkers and contributors is designated specifically for research and is divided among the following major U.S. Parkinson’s foundations:
Our guest blog post is by Gil Thelen, who is a Parkie, class of 2014. He is Executive Director, Florida Society of News Editors; a retired newspaper editor and publisher; and past founder of the PD SELF training program in Tampa. He is completing a book about his journey of discovery with PD titled “Counter Punch: Sparring With Parkinson’s. His website is https://shufflingeditor.com.
We “Parkies” never forget the date that we heard the words.
“You have Parkinson’s disease. Progressive and incurable. But it is treatable.”
Too often, the words that follow diagnosis are merely to fill a prescription and return in three months.
No counseling about managing the condition. No mention of what to tell, or not tell loved ones, friends or employer. No pamphlets explaining Parkinson’s. No advice about trustworthy information, online and off. No mention of support groups to join.
Lesson learned: There is no system of care to enter if you have Parkinson’s. That’s the case unless your treatment is from an extremely small handful of highly specialized and patient-centered institutions.
It’s all on you. You live by your ingenuity and perseverance.
That grim lesson won’t stand for some fed-up Parkies. They are creating patient-centered approaches to management of their condition.
University of Colorado Neurologist Benzi Kluger is field-testing an umbrella organization that provides education, counseling and assistance to Parkies who want to write their own care plans. Test sites are Denver, San Francisco and Alberta.
PDF consultant Diane Cook is field-testing a different model. It lacks an umbrella organization but trains Parkies to become captains of their own health-care teams. Her program is PD SELF (Self-Efficacy Learning Forum). Reports are encouraging from the nine test sites finishing year one.
Here in Tampa Bay, committed members of PD SELF want to spread key lessons they’ve learned: You can counter punch PD and retake some lost ground of competence. You can live well despite PD.
Living well entails aggressive self-management, rigorous exercise, changed diet, mental conditioning and deep understanding of your condition.
I call the PD SELF veterans the “Special Ops” group. We are ready to share our experiences with newly diagnosed Parkies.
Our challenge is to find newly diagnosed Parkies and connect.
We are committed. We will find our way. We have so far.
Recently Margaret Tuchman joined an online Parkinson’s community at MyParkinsonsTeam.com, a social network for people living with Parkinson’s. Laura Crawford sent Margaret a welcoming note, some of her original artwork, and also spoke of how The Parkinson Alliance website was a help to her after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We are very grateful that Laura agreed to share her story and some of her artwork here.
When people ask me: “What do you do?” I mumble and look puzzled. In my case, a better question would be: “Why do you do what you do”?
You see, in many key aspects, I’m no longer who I was.
I was born in 1962, and for half a century my life ran on what I believed were firm tracks. I loved to read and majored in Literature. For 15 years I did media relations for a telecommunications firm. In 2009 I opened a Design and Communications agency. There I wrote copy while my partner led the graphic side of the business.
Then one day in February 2014 I heard four little words — how can I say this in a way that doesn’t seem melodramatic and yet conveys the massive importance of the moment?— that flipped my life over like an omelette on the range:
“You have Parkinson’s Disease.”
Duh. It was sort of undeniable: I shook; the muscles on one side of my body were scrunched taut; I couldn’t smell a thing (which on occasion was a blessing); I cried for no reason; I fell asleep in front of a client (he was very boring).
With time, though, it became apparent that the truly fundamental changes were occurring in my brain.
Once my life was encased in books; now it is overflowing with markers, pencils, sketchpads and other paraphernalia of the arts. Instead of flipping the pages of a novel, I doodle, draw, and my hands are usually dirty with ink.
I don’t illustrate or draw to please, though that would be nice extra. I do it because I have to, as I free fall into this raw and surprising stage of my life.
Where I was very coherent and (blush) quite eloquent, I now bumble and look for words that sometimes are no longer there.
Yet, even if it were possible, I would not change this final stretch of my life (dopamine-eating monster inside me and all) for the one torn away by those four words.
I have found an undeniable pleasure in graphics and purpose and vibrancy (though that could just be the shakes) in the community of Parkie colleagues and their caregivers.
If you think it through, even if Parkinson’s is a life-sapping monster that disfigures us with time, everyone ends up a corpse at the end.
Given that cheery fact, at least I can say that at this very moment I’m thoroughly enjoying a cup of coffe while writing this. You have what you have, life is what it is… And moreover, I was given the opportunity to march this last bend of the road in the loving loving loving loving company of my husband and my peers.
Just listen to our collective footsteps resound in deep compassion of the human condition that we share.