The Lighter Side of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a serious illness that can have major effects on a person, both physically and emotionally. As a caregiver to my older sister, Bev, I have witnessed those changes in her after she was diagnosed in 2017.
But can there be a lighter side to the disease? Bev, who now has stage 3 PD, and I think so.
In Proverbs 17:22, King Solomon writes, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” It seems that lightheartedness is good for a person’s health.
Bev has been living with the progressive, annoying, and inconvenient effects of Parkinson’s for more than four years. However, many days she can laugh at herself when she has memory challenges or is trying to think of the right word to use to express her thoughts. I really admire that about her character.
Bev said, “I refuse to let my illness control my life. I can tolerate whatever I am dealt. I make fun of myself even when I screw up. I laugh about it because laughing is good for the body, mind, and soul.”
Other people with PD have written about how humor helps them. My fellow Parkinson’s News Today columnist Jean Mellano shared how she was able to laugh at herself when she got lost trying to find a library entrance.
“As I step outside myself and look at the absurdity of the situation, I feel like I was in an episode of ‘Seinfeld.’ If you have Parkinson’s, I am sure you can relate to my story. Being able to laugh at myself whenever a Parkinson’s symptom issues a challenge will help me battle this disease,” she wrote.
For all of us focusing on the lighter side of life, laughter and humor can have healing effects on our physical and mental health. An article published in Psychiatric Times notes that humor has been found helpful in managing stress and improving relationships.
Although I can’t get my sister to buy into it, laughter yoga (yes, really!) is an exercise in which participants chant and laugh to encourage positive emotional outcomes.
A study published in Biomedical Research and Therapy examined the effects of laughter yoga exercises on individuals with Parkinson’s. Participants experienced improved sleep quality and reduced stress and anxiety. The article notes that “there was a significant difference between the average stress change as well as sleep quality in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease (versus control subjects) following laughter yoga exercises.”
I admit that I have tried laughter yoga with friends. Maybe I can eventually convince Bev!
In her book “Shake, Rattle & Roll With It,” Vikki Claflin writes about the funny side of living with Parkinson’s disease. She shares how to laugh at what might instead be considered embarrassing moments.
So, it seems that there is a lighter side to PD, and fighting back with joy and humor can help.
Laughter may be the best medicine after all!
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.