Having an Attitude of Gratitude Helps in Parkinson’s Disease and Life

Jo Gambosi avatar

by Jo Gambosi |

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We’ve all heard that having an attitude of gratitude can make a difference when doing this thing called life. But does gratitude make a difference for someone who is experiencing the distressing effects of Parkinson’s disease (PD), or for their caregivers?

In a beautifully written Parkinson’s News Today column about her father, who has PD, Mary Beth Skylis writes that rather than focusing on their struggles, she’s “determined to highlight the areas of our lives that are colored with success.” Doing that, she believes, “will make all the difference.”

My sister Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s, presses on in life despite the disease’s progression. One thing I admire about her is that in the midst of having difficulties with her balance, shaking hands, slowed speech, and increased short-term memory challenges, she always remarks: “I can’t complain. I am blessed.”

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Parkinson’s is not the only challenge Bev has confronted. In 2005, she had heart bypass and mitral valve replacement surgery. In 2014, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, had surgery, and underwent chemotherapy. Today, she is an eight-year cancer survivor!

According to the website Happier Human, there are health benefits to living a life of gratitude, both for people with Parkinson’s and for the rest of us. Simply thinking or writing a gratitude list can improve self-esteem, sleep, overall physical health, and relationships — even in stressful times.

It also can increase positive emotions and decrease recovery time for minor illnesses.

With gratitude, we are more motivated to extend compassion to others, exercise, participate in social activities with others, and improve our outlook on life.

For caregivers of people with PD, like me, it is easy to focus on “what is not” instead of being grateful for “what is.” Our family’s faith helps us to be grateful and to face the challenges of Parkinson’s.

“Prayer and my faith have helped sustain me when dealing with my PD diagnosis and other medical issues that I’ve had in the past,” Bev tells me.

Actor and Parkinson’s advocate Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed in 1991, shares his attitude about gratitude in a recent AARP article:

“And I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.

“And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism. You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.”

I am grateful for Bev. The biggest blessing for me and for all of our family is that Bev is still here among us offering words of wisdom and making sure that life itself remains a celebration.

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.


Mike avatar


I am definitely a Mary Beth fan. I have followed her on this and another PD website. Her excursions are always refreshing. Her challenges with her Dad’s PD and her sisters problems are significant. When I read about her own Thyroid issues it is was what impressed me the most. She demonstrates that even though we all have issues we can look to the ultimate healer who is called Jesus Christ. I join with you ladies in praying for a continued resilient attitude for my self and cohorts with various life challenges. Blessings, Mike

William Sterling avatar

William Sterling

Talk to your Doctor/Neurologist about the number of pills/day and are the pills are fighting each outer and are reaction causing. For instance, carbidopa-levodopa, while helping the symptoms, of PD.can cause dyskinesias.

Elizabeth sanabria avatar

Elizabeth sanabria

Thank you for writing such an inspiring article regarding gratitude and the fight we must endure with PD. It really brightened my day. Your sister is a warrior and I admire that.

Irene Treacy avatar

Irene Treacy

Thank you Jo for this article that I connected with on many levels. I am a Parkinson´s Coach and teach the importance of gratitude for producing dopamine and often come up with resistance and attitude of "what do I have to be grateful for". Gratitude for some is not a natural emotion when dealing with a chronic illness but it´s something that can be learned when we put into practice and put things into perspective. Things can always get worse and when you bring gratitude to EVERYTHING and learn how to reframe things, life does become easier. Example, if you are having trouble rolling over in bed, you can go into gratitude for having a bed and a roof over your head. Feel for 10 to 15 seconds (no longer) what it would be like to be homeless and then bring gratitude in for your bed, your home and then your health. If you consistency practice an attitude of gratitude, you will soon notice that you will be able to more better, you´ll have more motivation and generally be a happier person.
I have worked with some very angry and sinical people and when they open their minds and hearts to this practise, it really changes everything, not just for the PwP but for their loved ones too.
One of my favourite teachings from Dr Wayne Dyer is "Change the way you look at things and the way you look look at things change"


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