Studies have shown that staying socially connected can help slow down cognitive decline, which can be especially beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Think back to the last time you visited with a family member, had a phone call with a friend or a friendly chat with a neighbor. Chances are those interactions left you feeling pretty good. That’s because humans are hardwired to crave interactions with others regardless if you are a social extrovert or reserved introvert.
Researchers have found that those who are more plugged in socially tend to function better cognitively and that increasing social interactions may help slow cognitive decline. That’s why it’s so important for people living with Parkinson’s disease to get out there and stay social.
Here are 10 ways to engage with others – however that may look for you!
1. Get online.
There’s a reason why they call it social media! Technology can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are popular social media platforms that let you post pictures and messages and stay up to date with the goings-on of friends, family, old classmates and colleagues all around the world. There are a variety of Facebook groups that are set up for people with Parkinosn’s. Search for “Parkinson’s” and Facebook and a list will come up. You can also use services like Skype or Google Meets to video-conference with multiple loved ones at the same time.
2. Allocate time for phone calls and emails.
Sometimes we get so stuck in our routines we forget to stay in touch with our closest loved ones let alone old neighbors, classmates or colleagues. Why not turn boring tasks into relationship-building opportunities? Schedule time to talk hands-free on the phone with your friends while you do laundry, walk your dog, make a meal or clean your home. You can multitask by calling loves ones on long drives, whether it’s the commute home from work or a road trip to visit other relatives or friends.
3. Start a blog or newsletter.
If you’re already pretty tech-savvy and love to flex your writing skills, consider starting a blog or newsletter and having family and friends as subscribers. Many people use blogs to update loved ones on their travels, expanding families, hobbies or side businesses. You can also email monthly or quarterly newsletters or go the old-fashioned route by printing out letters and snail-mailing them to your loved ones.
4. Take on new projects.
Challenge yourself to try new activities like book clubs, free courses at your local library, interest groups like knitting or gardening, or get more involved in a local church or community club. Sharing a common goal or hobby tends to bring people together from different backgrounds to create meaningful bonds. If you can’t find something that appeals to you, try starting your own club or group and recruit members.
5. Volunteer to support a cause.
One of the most powerful ways to bond with others is by sharing in the experience of community service. Get involved in a social or civic cause, whether it’s fundraising for a charity you are passionate about, participating in an awareness walkathon, handing out fliers around the neighborhood or volunteering at local voting polls on election day.
6. Reconnect to those with whom you’ve lost touch.
Things happen, life gets in the way and sometimes we lose touch with friends, relatives, old colleagues and classmates without ever realizing it. There’s never a bad time to reconnect. It may feel a little awkward to make the first move, but go ahead and make that phone call, write that email or send that social media request. There’s a good chance you’ll both be glad you did.
7. Help out a friend, family member of neighbor.
If you have some free time on your hand and want to spend it wisely, why not offer to help out a friend? If you have grandchildren or other young family members you would like to see more often, offer to babysit regularly. Tutor a young family member or neighbor. Lend loved ones a hand in cooking meals or cleaning house.
8. Try meeting people when you’re out and about.
Practice random acts of kindness, like holding a door for someone or asking how they’re doing. It’s easy to get a friendly conversation started by simply paying someone a compliment. The simple act of sharing a smile with a stranger you pass on the street or in the grocery store aisles can light up the parts of our brain affiliated with warmth and human connection.
9. Meet friends of friends.
One of the easiest ways to make new friends and expand your social circle is to meet your friends’ friends. If strong ties exist between person A and person B, as well as person A and person C, then person B and person C are likely to have a connection too. Researchers have referred to this as the “triadic closure.”
10. Join a Fitness Group
Find a fitness network in your area that will connect you to others with Parkinson’s.