SLEEP

The modern world is exhausted! Most of us don’t have the time to get enough sleep; we then try to muster up the strength to power on through the day and by the end of it, we feel like we’ve run a marathon.  We feel the weight of never-ending to-do lists; we have too much to do and excessive demands are put on our time, consequently the time that we devote to sleep is being squeezed and squeezed.  Modern society pushes people to their limit; it encourages people to challenge themselves, to be achieving and to always be on the go, there is little thought to the cost and the impact on our health. We wear our tiredness like a badge of honour; it is a sign that we work hard and are tough, and it is a symbol of what great martyrs we are. I have no doubt that years of sleep deprivation was a key component in contributing to my early diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease; my body was screaming out for rest; I didn’t stop, and so it made me do just that! 

So, did you get enough sleep last night? Did you get your 8 hours? Did you allow your body and brain enough time to rest, recover and repair? Are you at a tipping point? I would imagine that most of you who are reading this would benefit from more sleep; I know that I would. We are not super-human and sleep is not a waste of time or indulgent. Our health is governed by the amount of sleep that we get; and so, it’s time to make some changes…

Our bodies and minds need rest, refusing to slow down greatly increases our risk of being diagnosed with a chronic or indeed terminal illness. Sleep influences all areas of our lives; it is essential for neurological, mental, physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep impacts every cell, tissue and organ; it affects stress levels, concentration and immunity. Cortisol levels surge when we are tired, and too much cortisol causes inflammation and chronic illness. When we are tired, we are more likely to crave junk food and fail to exercise. Sleep deprivation has been linked to reduced life expectancy, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, morbid obesity, cancer, and the list goes on… The health of my brain is an absolute priority to me, and so, I have to be selfish with my sleep, I must make time for myself. I am not lazy but I take every opportunity that I can do to get some rest and relaxation, I no longer feel guilty for allowing myself to have a break, I am just tuning in to what my body needs and refusing to damage my health any more than I already have done.

Alternatively, you may suffer from insomnia and will have spent last night staring at your phone in the hope of dropping off to sleep. You may have spent the night calculating how much sleep you would get if you fell asleep in the next five minutes. Not everyone can easily slip into a deep sleep. Many of us will stare at the ceiling for hours and our over-zealous brains will start to think about something that happened years ago and what we should have said and done, we might even reflect on every bad decision that we have ever made, or we make up imaginary situations that will most likely never ever happen. Well, there are many things that you can do to promote good sleep, they won’t work for everyone, but they are certainly worth trying…

Firstly, it is essential that you avoid food with chemicals and toxins as these are not helping your body to relax; your body is working overtime to cleanse itself of the harmful substances in junk food and alcohol. Sugar and toxins hardly have a sedative effect on the brain, instead they raise and elevate stress levels. Low carb diets also lead the body to go looking for energy, we need ‘good’ carbs to stay asleep. Plant foods containing calcium and magnesium can lower stress levels, and magnesium encourages the release of melatonin which is needed for sleep. Chamomile tea is very soothing and a great way to help your nervous system to unwind as you get ready for bed.  

I have already written about the benefits of meditation; it is an excellent way to help the body to relax, and there are so many excellent apps and resources on YouTube that can be availed of.  ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is growing in popularity as it induces feelings of relaxation; it has a meditative effect and can help anxiety. There are literally millions of ASMR videos on YouTube; they range from whispers to waves, and whilst it doesn’t work for everyone, it does help many others.

Those who exercise, particularly outdoors, report better sleep as it releases stress and endorphins. Yoga Nidra videos can be accessed online; these encourage total physical relaxation, release tension and calm the nervous system by helping the body to switch off.

So, to conclude; anything that stops you getting sleep needs to be addressed; find a way and take control. Say no to people pleasing and set some boundaries. Those who think that you are lazy are probably struggling with their own guilt about taking time out as they also want more sleep. You need to take responsibility for your health and well-being. Stop everything and be selfish. If you don’t do this for your own body, then who else will?  

Hello 2020

The New Year is an obvious time to reflect on the year that has passed, but it is also an opportunity to plan for the year ahead.  Living with Parkinson’s means that I live in a constant state of self-evaluation and self-improvement; I regularly have to evaluate what is and isn’t contributing to my health and well-being, but I feel that this should be something that we could all benefit from doing regularly, not just once a year. The New Year is a time of optimism and hope; it is a time to look at the areas of our lives that aren’t working and then to make the necessary changes, it is a time to sync with our souls and do more of what makes us happy.

Think back to the year that has gone. What would your life look like today if you had kept last year’s resolutions? Are you a better version of yourself now than you were at the start of the year? What did you hope to achieve this time last year? Did you do it? Have your dreams gone unrealised? Many of you will be answering ‘no’ and feel that this represents failure, but if your resolutions were not kept, then perhaps they never happened for a good reason; life is unpredictable and can derail us, maybe they were shallow goals that didn’t show an understanding of what really mattered, or you may be standing still as that is easier than making changes to your life, there may be a fear of failure and of not being good enough, or perhaps you are just drifting through life whilst waiting for the arrival of death?

Many of us will have been through some tough times last year, it may not have been an easy year and in no way do I want to dismiss anyone’s pain; but I would imagine that you are a lot stronger and abler to handle whatever else is thrown at you, and you will have certainly learned some valuable lessons along the way. Every setback gives us an opportunity to grow and develop.

If you are discontented with your life, then that is a sign that something needs to change. The New Year is a time to explore what needs to stay and what needs to go. There are things that can’t be changed, but there are many parts of your life where you have choices and options. Change causes us fear, but does that mean that we should stay in a situation that is soul-destroying? Are you still going to be held hostage this time next year?  Perhaps it’s time to reflect on what’s important to you and build a life around that?

One way that I start the New Year is by doing a vision board; this is a visible reminder of my goals for the year ahead, it can be done on a cork board, a page, or on your phone, the options are endless. The important thing about creating a vision board, is that it should be somewhere where you can check in with it regularly to assess your progress; most resolutions are broken by the end of January, but a vision board is a good way to keep up the momentum and prevent us being stagnant. List all of the things that you want in your life and the things that make you truly happy, use positive words or images from magazines, have an optimistic mindset, feel the emotion of achieving those targets and plan a life that you today would be jealous of. If fear didn’t exist, then what would you do? Vision boards are positive and less about ‘giving up’ things and more about welcoming in what you desire. Think of your vision board as a prescription for happiness and a visible reminder of your goals.

Don’t forget to follow creating a vision board with action though! Why not give it a go? It has worked for me. Plant that seed of hope and possibility today, then buckle up; by this time next year you might be amazed at what has happened …

Happy New Year!  

Medicine or Poison?

I love food, and there is no denying that it is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The role of a healthy diet in our lives cannot be overstated; the food that we eat has a direct impact on our physical, mental and emotional health, and if we eat correctly, we can enable our bodies to work to their optimum. Good food can keep us balanced, improve brain function, reduce our chances of being diagnosed with so many illnesses, help us to have healthy immune systems, and help our bodies to regenerate and rejuvenate; it is a natural healer with the power to transform health and wellbeing. 

I am in no way a nutritionist, but I have been eating low quality food recently and have noticed a significant dip in my health, but after just two weeks of eating well again, my symptoms have improved greatly. I spend a lot of time researching the impact of food on our health and I am in no doubt that, ‘We are what we eat’. Good food is the essential ingredient in building new neurotransmitters in my brain, and a diet lacking in nutrition will exacerbate many of my symptoms, there is a direct correlation between the health of my gut and the health of my brain. I am not about to lecture you on the health benefits of a vegan diet, but I am just asking you to reflect on the food that you eat and how much of your diet is plant-based (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses). How much processed food do you eat? How much food do you eat in its natural state? How kind are you to your body? Are you eating for the health that you want?

‘Let food be thy medicine’. Hippocrates.

Before diagnosis, my eating habits, like my whole life, were unbalanced; it was either a famine or a feast. I varied between meticulous ‘clean eating’ and the other extreme of mindlessly inhaling processed and ‘yellow food’, with very little fruit and vegetables. When I don’t eat enough plant-based foods, I am tired and lethargic as my body is not getting the nutrition that it is craving.  When we eat a lot of chemically enhanced food, we are increasing our chances of being diagnosed with an array of cancers, strokes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and coronary problems; we are literally poisoning our bodies. The World Health Organisation has even classified processed meat as a carcinogen, yet we give this to children…

Repetitive poor eating catches up with us eventually, it did with me.  Ill health doesn’t happen overnight, modern life has normalised junk food and we ride the sugar rollercoaster daily, but a poor diet is impeding good health. A bad diet is one of the main culprits linked to poor health and chronic illness.  This blog is not asking you to cut out junk food completely, or asking you to starve yourself, but rather to keep it as a treat in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.  It is not about calorie counting or fad diets, it is just an attempt to use my experience to nudge you to use food to nourish and cleanse your body, rather than creating inflammation and toxicity.

As I have mentioned before, anxiety is one of my PD symptoms that I struggle with the most; my body is always primed for threat, so diet is crucial to keeping my brain and nervous system calm. I am taking control of my health, and so genetically modified foods that are laden with sugar and endless preservatives must be kept to a minimum. Processed foods are brain stimulants, whereas plant-based foods are antioxidants. If you have a neurological condition like myself, then blueberries are one of the best foods to eat for neurological health and getting rid of debris. B- vitamins are essential for the health of your brain as is magnesium (a calming miracle), I have found these to have a great impact on my recovery and I seem to deteriorate when I fail to take these supplements.

Toxins will manifest in some sort of illness and I’m determined to ensure that I don’t have any more devastating news in a doctor’s office.

Food can have a calming and purifying effect on the body, it has the ability to reset our immune systems, it can help us to heal a lot faster or avoid many illnesses. When we start eating good food, our bodies will start to repair themselves and purge any toxins. Research shows that the majority of our diet should be plant-based, that we should keep animal protein to a minimum, eat as much food as you can in the state that it was grown, and check sugar content and preservatives on ingredient lists as these are literally poisoning your body.

If I haven’t convinced you of the importance of eating well, then I would highly recommend that you watch The Game Changers and What the Health on Netflix, also read The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo (all proceeds are donated to charity). Just eat well and listen to your gut. Healthy eating takes motivation and determination, but the pay off in terms of your health is most certainly worth it!

MIND CONTROL

Many of us would agree that our minds can cause us more harm than our worst enemies; the mind can bombard us with racing thoughts and make life a rollercoaster, alternatively, it can uplift us and keep us serene amidst the chaos of modern living. Anxiety is one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s that impacts my life most significantly; and so, I have had to throw myself into facing it head on. I am attempting to step off the merry-go-round of worry, palpitations, dizziness and what is often called ‘monkey-mind’.

There is no question that the mind affects our health, Parkinson’s patients often find that symptoms worsen when they are stressed and under pressure, but that symptoms improve when in a state of calm and relaxation. Holistic practitioners are fully aware of the mind and body connection, and many doctors of conventional medicine would also agree. 

Our health is often a manifestation of what is going on in our minds and our thoughts govern our lives; we can drink all of the juices that we want, do yoga, eat well and get plenty of rest, but if we don’t deal with our toxic and chaotic thoughts, we will never live happy and healthy lives.

As an experiment, think about someone that you love; you may feel a rush of dopamine as you release your happy chemicals. Now, think of someone who upsets you and causes you difficulties; reflect on the physical reaction that you felt in your body. So, are your thoughts helping or harming you?  Are you adding to your own suffering? Are you a prisoner of your mind? If so, then you are putting stress on your immune system and negatively impacting your health. Perhaps it’s time to retrain your mind?

It might sound easier said than done, but it can be achieved through practice. The discovery of mindfulness has been a real turning point for me, and it is used to treat many neurological conditions and other serious illnesses; it decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, and it helps to deal with depression and anxiety. Surely anything that can help you to live a more equilibrious life is worth a try? In our chronically overstimulated lives, taking a break to connect with your mind and soul should be the most important part of your day.

Looking after your mind is as important as food, water, exercise and sleep; it requires some deep inner work, but it helps you to break free from your thoughts and realise that they are not tangible or real, they are merely thoughts. Enstasy is the practice of being able to retreat for a few moments, observe your thoughts and step out of them, rather than joining in with the drama. It takes practice to not give your thoughts power, and we only give them power when we listen to them or believe them.

We are all busy and don’t have the time to spend the day in lotus pose listening to panpipes (my idea of pure bliss though), but there are ways that we can train our brains to be calm throughout the day, and meditation is one such tool. Purists might disagree with me, but I believe that meditation can happen whilst doing mundane tasks, taking a shower, as you do the dishes, cleaning your teeth, sitting in traffic, walking the dog and so on; these can be moments to become aware of our breathing and thoughts, and in doing so, detox the mind.   Some sceptics may dismiss this as hippy mumbo-jumbo, but there is a vast amount of research showing the benefits of meditation to our health; it is backed up by the science.

This one small change can have a ripple effect on the rest of your day, and the more you do it, the more it will become second nature, just start by being conscious throughout the day. Meditation helps you to release anger and resentment, it makes you feel calmer and more appreciative; and it can consequently make you a much nicer person, rather than a snappy adrenaline filled maniac!

So, try to set some time aside for yourself; your anxiety is a sign that some need is not being met and must be dealt with. Prioritise yourself and take some time out to check in with your mind. Spend some time each day in meditation, even if you start with just 5 minutes. There are lots of excellent apps and resources to help you: Insight Timer is free, or try out Buddhify, Calm or Headspace.   

Why not give it a go? I sincerely hope that by this time next year at least one of you might even be running your very own ashram J .

Try to MAKE time to look after your health before you are FORCED to make time for illness…

STRESS

Are you run ragged? Do you never have a minute? Are you always on high alert? Do you feel burnt out most of the time? Do you overreact? Are you always angry? If you are answering ‘No’ to these questions, then you are the exception rather than the rule. If you answered ‘yes’, then it’s time for an intervention. Your body is sending you a distress flare, listen to it; it is telling you in no uncertain terms that you have lost control of your life and you are not living correctly. Shut it down or your body will do it for you.

I am certain that dealing with stress and disharmony is a key factor in recovering myself from Parkinson’s. For years I didn’t look after my nervous system; my body was bombarded with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and my immune system was left exhausted. My body and brain were in chaos; and so here I am, living with a chronic illness. No amount of money, no job, no clean house and no to-do list is worth your health. Read that again!

Stress is just accepted as part of everyday living, it seems to be acceptable to work people to the point of burn out, and we feel under pressure to be all things to all people. We use caffeine to function and alcohol to relax, we crave sugar, we are sleep deprived and snappy, we have no alone time, we have palpitations, we are exhausted and full of bitterness and resentment.  It’s time to start making choices that are a right for our health and not those choices that are easier; these issues will not go away until they have taught us what we need to know.

If you continue to live a lifestyle that is burning you out, then it is likely that you are creating a series of health problems for yourself; stress is linked to so many conditions; a few of which include cancer, heart problems, MS, arthritis, alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, depression and obesity. Our bodies are not designed to be under constant stress, if we don’t give them a chance to recover, then they quite simply will not do so. Our health is very often a result of choices that we have made along the way, it’s time to stop and reflect on the choices that we are making.

It is also important to reflect on whether or not we cause others to be stressed. Are you a pushy parent? Are you an aggressive manager? Do you create conflict regularly? Do you bring negative or positive energy into people’s lives? If so, stop!

Equally, are you someone who needs to try to be more resilient and get your stressors into perspective? Are you a perfectionist? Do you compare yourself to others? Are you competitive? If so, stop!

So, what can you do? I would advise making a list of your causes of stress; list those that you can address and those that you can’t. Take responsibility for changing what you can, then decide to change your reaction to what you cannot eradicate from your life; as the saying goes, ‘It’s not the load that weighs you down but how you carry it’. Have ‘me-time’ every day, stop everything and be selfish, exercise, eat well, sleep, cut down alcohol and caffeine, meditate, laugh, dance, sing, surround yourself with positive people, do things that you love, and let go of all guilt! Basically, give your body time to rest and recover.

Doing all of these things will make your life happier. You will be a better partner, parent, friend and employee, but most importantly, these changes may save your life. It’s time to take responsibility for your health, take accountability and be your own health advocate and physician. You are not a passive victim in your life, you need to connect to the messages that your body is giving to you.

We can all learn wonderful lessons from those who have health problems; I beg you to address your stress levels now before you don’t have that choice. Trust me, your body, mind and soul will thank you for it …  

Gratitude

We all need a wake-up call every so often; sometimes we need to  remember to appreciate all that we have, and to be grateful for the troubles that we don’t have rather than those that we do. I am truly grateful to have Parkinson’s; I could have been diagnosed with a much more aggressive or terminal condition and so I appreciate the health problems that I am blessed not to have. I am also grateful that Parkinson’s was my own wake-up call to do a complete inventory of my life and to make the changes that needed to be made.

Every day I am so grateful for so many things in my life; I am grateful for the ‘little things’, and I try to remember to never take these things for granted. Gratitude and good mental health go hand in hand. How often do we focus on the things that we do have, rather than those that we don’t? We need to remember that those things that we take for granted will one day come to an end…

There is nothing wrong with desiring to improve your life; but pause to reflect on the blessings that you do already have. If you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge, fresh water, heat and clothing, then you are already better off than so many people throughout the World. If you are living in a peaceful country and do not have to seek asylum, then you are luckier than so many other people. If you have good health, then do all that you can to appreciate it and do nothing at all to jeopardise it. Many people would swap your troubles for theirs in a heartbeat.

Gratitude encourages you to see everything as a gift and you will naturally tend to complain less. When you feel privileged, you tend to realise that there are so many people far worse off than you are and you may get your concerns into perspective. Make gratitude a daily practice, keep a journal, recite your gratitude list on your journey to work or in the shower, make it a habit and it will change your mindset completely.  Gratitude will enhance your mood; so, try to think of those things that you are grateful for when you are faced with problems. Many studies show that those who are grateful are more compassionate, less stressed, happier, more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives. Perhaps it’s worth a try?

I truly believe that if you are grateful, you will receive more to be grateful for, and if you complain, you will attract more to complain about; your thoughts become your reality. So, stop focusing on what you don’t have, and cherish what you do have. Think good thoughts and you will attract more, think thoughts of abundance and you will appreciate how abundant you are. Remember that life is an echo; you get back what you send out.

Your happiness and mental health are a product of your thoughts, so make them good ones. Many of us will know that our lives can be changed forever in a split second, and things can take a downturn at any moment. Most of us can look back to times that we didn’t appreciate blessings that we no longer have. So, take a minute to appreciate how truly blessed your life truly is and start counting your lucky stars…

Letting Go and Saying ‘No’

When you have a chronic illness, you need to learn that self-care is a necessity rather than a luxury; this involves more than getting your nails done or buying yourself some flowers, it is about knowing what your body requires and then delivering on it. You need to carve out some sacred ‘me-time’ every day, set some boundaries, and make your health your top priority. Fatigue, anxiety and a flare-up in your symptoms are all signs that your needs are not being met.

As I write this blog, it is Autumn; a season that teaches us that change and letting go are necessary. Trees know when it is time to let go of their leaves, and we too need to release those parts of our lives that no longer serve us; and if we do this, we can look forward to a rebirth in Spring.  As we watch the leaves flutter to the ground, we are reminded how beautiful and necessary it can be to let some things go.

So, why is it so difficult to step off the merry-go-round, turn down invitations or say no to extra tasks? Why do we so often say ‘Yes’ when we are really screaming out ‘No’? Well, very often we are people pleasers who afraid of appearing lazy, selfish or rude, we don’t want to look like a bad friend, we don’t want pity, and we most certainly can’t face having to defend ourselves yet again. We try to do more than is possible in terms of our homes, families, friends, jobs, fitness and socialising. We say ‘Yes’ to extra tasks at work, commit to attend events that we are too exhausted to go to, and do things that we don’t want to do out of guilt. The end result is that we are frazzled, exhausted, overwhelmed and are creating serious health problems for ourselves.

The reality is that it is not good to be on the go all of the time; our bodies and brains need time to recharge and rest. There is nothing wrong with just retreating from life to ‘just be’. Why are we all so afraid of an ordinary life anyway?

It’s time to prioritise the tasks that you have to do and those that you want to do. My priorities are sleep, rest, cooking healthy meals, exercising and eliminating as much stress from my life as possible; doing this then allows me to be at my best for my partner, family and close friends who are next on my priority list.

You are not the helpless owner of your life; it’s time to make some changes and set some boundaries. So before saying ‘Yes’, ask yourself: Do I have the time? Do I want to do this? Will this add to my life or drain it? We should be kind to others but also to ourselves, you can say ‘No’ when your motivation is self-care. We tell children not to be selfish, but sometimes it is necessary.

Your true friends and colleagues will understand that you are not rejecting them, and that you are not being unkind or lazy, you just need some serenity and tranquillity in your life. Solitude and silence are essential for our mental and emotional health; both of which have become victims of our modern culture’s focus on external gratification.   So, kindly say, ‘I’ll get back to you’, ‘I will look at my diary’, ‘I will think about it’, or ‘I am tired and need to recharge’. You are only human and should not be ashamed of not being able to do everything asked of you. Solitude is a friend of the soul and sometimes we just need to retreat from life for a while.

You will never again get this day or this time back, do you really want to be lying on your death-bed looking back with regrets? I imagine that most of us will regret working so much, not spending enough time with those we love, doing things out of guilt, or being obsessed with money and materialism. Very few of us will be regretting the time that we gave to ourselves and our passions.  We are so privileged to have time left to live a life that we can enjoy, you have one life, don’t spend another day of it unlived…

Dealing with Difficult People

You might be wondering what this issue has to do with a blog on Parkinson’s, but if we believe that many of our physical symptoms are often a reflection of the state of our inner selves, we can see the importance of learning to deal with the areas of our lives that cause us stress, and very often people who treat us badly can be one of the biggest causes of depression, anxiety and anger in our lives. Negative energy manifests itself in illness and internalised anger is linked to trauma, addiction and many chronic illnesses; there is certainly no denying the relationship between stress and disease. So, rather than becoming spiteful victims or martyrs who allow these people to be an authority on our own self-worth, we need to learn how to deal with the oppressive gaze of those who constantly scrutinise or mistreat us. Send your critics and bullies some love, and then thank them for the wonderful lessons that they have taught you.

I need to add that we should not put ourselves on a lofty pedestal as though we are perfect; most of us have been difficult at some stage or another, and many of us will have hurt others, but there are some people who always seem to criticise and hurt others whilst completely ignoring their own flaws and failings, and they seem to have a total disregard for the pain that they inflict on others. It is only through the difficulties in life that we can really grow, and so choose to see difficult people as your teachers, and as a reminder on how not to treat others. Turn your wounds into wisdom…

Resentment is one of the most harmful emotions to harbour inside our bodies; it’s like a virus in a computer that takes over our every thought. So, how do we deal with those people who lie about us, try to shame us, make us feel unworthy or persistently attack us?

Try to recognise that they are not happy, they are struggling with their own worthiness and are merely transferring their issues onto you. Unhappy people project their own pain onto others, and they are actually shining a spotlight on their own insecurities, as do we when we hurt others.  When we judge others, we are not happy in our own lives, we need to feel superior because we actually feel so inferior, and we judge others based on the areas of our lives with which we are most unhappy.

Ask yourself why you are letting them bother you; don’t let them take away your happiness. Are you really going to beat yourself up because you are not perfect? Who is perfect? You should not be ashamed of weakness. Put an invisible energy field around yourself when you know that you have to interact with them, do not allow them to infiltrate it, and then just cut the cord! Also, you need to deal with the fact that they have triggered an insecurity in you that needs resolved, stop being so hard on yourself, you do not need to prove your worthiness to anyone, you are not a victim. No one is sent to you by accident, and maybe this is a sign that something within you needs to be fixed; the buttons that have been pushed need to be looked at.

Remove them from your life if possible, and don’t feel any guilt for preserving your sanity. Have minimal contact as much as you can, and mentally prepare yourself each time you have to meet them if this is not possible. You cannot change their behaviour, but you can change how you react to it.

Try not to demonise them; their bad behaviour does not give you a Hall Pass to get personal, you can disagree with someone and still treat them with respect. Exchange lower thoughts for higher ones and don’t mirror their poor behaviour.

Finally, forgive them! Yes, really! Try to understand that their behaviour is a cry for help; recognise that they need love. They may be jealous of your life and happiness, so send them compassion. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that their actions are acceptable, it merely means that you are stopping it controlling and consuming you. Forgive those who you feel don’t deserve it and especially those who haven’t asked for it; it’s easy to love those who treat us well, the real test is loving those who have been callous and cruel.  Hatred will only stand in the way of your own peace and serenity, and ultimately impact your health and wellbeing.

Remember, that learning to ignore things is the key to achieving inner peace, retrain your mind, and anything that costs you your serenity is just not worth it. Let it go…  

Are You Happy?

Are you in love with your life? Are you fulfilled? We all want to be happy, but happiness often seems so hard to obtain.

Parkinson’s Disease develops in a part of the brain that produces dopamine, and as the disease progresses the brain has less and less dopamine; this chemical contributes to our feelings of happiness and pleasure, so it is not surprising that many people with Parkinson’s are often left with poor mental health and depression. Our brains simply do not produce this much sought after and elusive hormone.

I have therefore had to take matters into my own hands; hence the positivity and optimism that I try to carry with me like a campaign banner. As I wave goodbye to my last molecules of dopamine, I am determined to do whatever I can to create a little boost of the good stuff myself. So, what are you doing to make yourself happy? What can you do to make yourself even happier?

Happiness means different things to different people, but to me it is quite simply good health, inner peace and serenity; it is not connected to status symbols, a pay slip or material goods that my ego drives me towards obtaining. Happiness to me is peace of mind and doing what makes my soul happy; I am happiest when I am doing the things that I am enthusiastic and passionate about, those things that light me up, and I find joy in the little things that we so often take for granted.

I am at my unhappiest when I am busy and overwhelmed, when I haven’t had time to produce dopamine by doing the things that I love; and so, this leads to fatigue, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, mood swings, sleep problems and poor mental health.

Those with low dopamine levels tend to engage in addictive and self-destructive behaviours, they crave sugar, they accumulate more than they need due to feelings of lack and not being enough, they worry constantly and live in a state of fear. Your body will tell you when it’s needs are not being met, mine certainly did!

So, if you are not happy, ask yourself why not? Why are you not fulfilled?

It may be that something in your life needs to go, that may be a person, an addictive behaviour, or something on the to-do list that you feel that you ‘should’ be doing but don’t want to. Let something go so that you can make time for the people and things that bring you joy. If something drains you, then why do it? How is that living? It may be that someone in your life needs to go; we all go through bouts of negativity but if someone is always moaning it ends up sucking your energy. You can still be compassionate but distance yourself kindly for your own happiness and serenity. Let go of people and situations that no longer serve you; it is better to feel guilt than resentment.  

Make a vow to yourself to do things every single day to make yourself happy. Be kind to yourself, scale back on things that are standing in the way of your happiness.  Surround yourself with people who boost you, nurture these relationships and consciously move away from those who never stop complaining. Stay in the moment and stop making up future scenarios that haven’t happened. Set realistic goals rather than unattainable ones that will make you feel guilty for not achieving. Be grateful throughout the day and know that sometimes problems are gifts, the things that you take for granted now will not always be here. Do things that you love and look forward to. Learn something new, grow and learn every single day. Stop saying yes and people pleasing; this does not make you lazy or selfish, simply say ‘I’d like to, but I don’t have the time’. Spend time in nature, it is one of the best medicines for the mind and it takes you away from the mundane. Finally, and most importantly, laugh!

It’s also important to reflect on whether or not we make others happy. Would people consider you to be a light or a drain? Do people brace themselves for an onslaught of negativity when they see you coming? It’s worth reflecting on the energy that we bring into our workplaces, families and friendship groups…

Finally, remember that unhappiness is a catalyst for change. Release grasp and control and fall into the arms of trust, faith and eternal optimism. Those things that make us unhappy are a mirror showing us what needs to change.

Now it’s over to you…

Can I see the Mocktail List?

So many of us only really pay attention to our health as a reaction to a health scare or diagnosis, and I include myself in this. I am unable to reverse my diagnosis of Parkinson’s, but I am proactively trying to ensure that that’s ‘my lot’ and that I take any steps that I can to avoid any more earth-shattering moments in a doctor’s chair. I don’t want to look back and think, ‘I could have prevented this’.

I decided to stop drinking alcohol 11 weeks ago, but I gave in to FOMO and had a few glasses of wine on two occasions; my symptoms then flared up and I knew that I had to opt for total abstinence; it was time to accept that this little cup of adventure, fun and confidence was keeping me from living my healthiest life, and it was most certainly not aiding my recovery. I want to stress that this is not a judgemental blog about anyone else’s drinking habits, this is about my own healing journey and only mine; I just know that my life is now a lot better without alcohol in it. I firmly believe in letting go of the things in our lives that are not working, and so I had to make a change; alcohol had no place in my wellness regime. My brain is so precious to me and I am trying to create new healthy neural pathways, not destroy those that I already have.

It was time to rethink deeply ingrained habits; most of us know people who drink just like we do and so we can normalise it.  I, like many of you reading this, don’t feel that I have a problem with alcohol, and I am not here to shame anyone, I am just reflecting on the role that alcohol plays in our lives; it is everywhere!  It is perceived as a fast track ticket to a magical experience, an automatic relaxant, it helps us to fit in and come out of our shells, it anaesthetises our pain, it helps us with stage fright  and takes the edge of a tough day or a long week. Our brains are designed to seek out fun and excitement and this bliss inducing magic elixir appears to do provide just that.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s include anxiety and depression, both of which are exacerbated by alcohol. Many Parkinson’s patients take medication that reduces impulse control, so the odds are not in our favour when we use alcohol which is seen to be even more addictive than cocaine. Alcohol destroys brain cells and contracts brain tissues, it interferes with memory and brain receptors; hardly what I need considering that I have a serious neurological condition. Alcohol overstimulates the nervous system, and mine is already on overload. On top of that, it is linked to so many chronic illnesses including cancer, alzheimer’s disease and dementia; all of which I’d prefer to avoid.  

Living an alcohol-free life will initially take some getting used to, there is no denying that; you might feel like an outsider, ostracised, and the odd one out. You might feel that life will be boring and that you are losing out, but taking a drink is only providing temporary relief and external fulfilment.  Let me assure you that you will have more energy, better mental health, improved sleep, more optimism, and you will greatly reduce your chances of being diagnosed with a serious health condition. The positives significantly outweigh the negatives and there are so many non-alcoholic beers and wines out there that provide the taste of alcohol but without the projectile vomit and feelings of jetlag, and you will never regret your decision the next morning!

Cutting down on alcohol was not an option that I chose as I was still putting it on a pedestal, and moderation was just too much of a grey area. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, very often we drink as we have no tolerance for discomfort. Rather than turn to alcohol, we need to work through our feelings, not run from them. We need to feel our pain and not numb it. If you’re not sure that you can do it, maybe that’s a sign that you should try?

‘I didn’t know that I was addicted until I tried to stop’. Anonymous

Now, if only I could deal with my addiction to animal print so easily…    😊