Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are common companions of Parkinson’s disease. Fortunately, there are things we can do every day to boost our mood and improve our quality of life.
Parkinson’s disease is often characterized by motor symptoms such as tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia. Over the years, researchers have discovered there are common non-motor symptoms as well, including sleep difficulties, cognitive decline and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
In addition to managing the motor symptoms of the disease, it’s important for people with Parkinson’s to be cognizant of their mental health. If feelings of depression or anxiety arise, it helps to know that this is a common experience among Parkinson’s patients and that there are proactive measures we can take to improve our moods.
Here are 10 helpful tips that anyone – not just people with PD – can apply to their everyday lives to curb anxious feelings, fight off depression and feel more in control of their mental health.
1. Practice mindfulness and gratitude.
Scientists have found that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with higher immune function, lower levels of inflammation, better cardiovascular health, more efficient sleep cycles and can literally change the molecular structure of the brain. Revisit our article on the health benefits of gratitude to learn some easy ways to make gratitude a daily practice.
2. Pay someone a compliment.
Research suggests that paying someone a compliment activates the same parts of the brain as receiving a monetary award, and that compliments and praise might actually help us learn new motor skills and behaviors. Being in the habit of giving compliments also helps us notice and appreciate the goodness in people and have a more optimistic outlook on life.
3. Eat healthy, nutritious meals.
Nourish the body and mind with a well-balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts beans and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. There are certain types of “superfoods” believed to contain nutrients that may help boost our moods. Berries, for instance, are rich in flavonoid, which may help regulate mood, improve memory and fight inflammation.
4. Stick to a routine.
Humans are creatures of habit who need structure and organization to keep their health and wellness in good working order. People who follow routines tend to have lower stress levels, more energy and better sleep habits. Those with Parkinson’s would especially benefit from routines because they can help people cope with memory loss and cognitive issues.
5. Hang out with positive people.
You’ve probably heard of the expression “misery loves company” – well there’s some truth to that. Spending time around negative people can bring on some negative feelings of your own. If you want to be happy and calm, hang out with happy and calm people. Those are the individuals most likely to motivate you to feel your best and maintain a positive attitude.
6. Get out in nature.
Studies have shown that spending just 20 to 30 minutes outdoors each day can significantly reduce cortisol levels and therefore lower our chances of experiencing stress, depression, anxiety or preexisting mood disorders. Exposure to natural light is also conducive to better moods. Click here for five ways to make the most out of your time outdoors.
7. Accomplish a small task.
There is a scientific reason for why we feel the way we do after checking off a task on our to-do lists: the brain gets a whiff of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that starts to become depleted in the brains of people with Parkinson’s. The more you accomplish the better you feel about yourself. Just be sure to keep the number of tasks on your daily to-do list at a reasonable length.
8. Exercise on a regular basis.
Working out isn’t just good for the body – it’s good for the brain. Exercising releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin and increases the connections between nerve cells in the brain, which can improve memory and cognitive function. That’s why a consistent, vigorous fitness routine is one of the best medicines for Parkinson’s disease.
9. Treat yourself.
Self-care is a fundamental aspect of managing Parkinson’s disease symptoms because it helps improve our quality of life. The concept itself is subjective, meaning self-care can be anything from cooking a meal or taking a bath to buying a new pair of shoes or watching your favorite movie. Whatever it may be, try to fit in at least one form of self-care each day.
10. Join Team Grant.
Team Grant is free online fitness network created by the Brian Grant Foundation to unite people with Parkinson’s and their supporters from around the world through exercise. It’s a fun and easy way to track your fitness progress and meet other people with Parkinson’s. Every time you try a new exercise you are rewarded with badges. Join the movement and sign up today!