Perspective and Gardening

Dr. C’s Journey with PD – a column by Dr. C from: Parkinson’

I hate exercise! Both my pain and fatigue increase when I exercise. These are disabling Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and both trigger the fight-or-flight response that often manifests as “the grouch.” I have not found an easy way of exercising with Parkinson’s pain and fatigue, but I have found ways to shift my perspective. Shifting perspective opens up the possibility of experiencing enjoyment from exercise.

One of the most important parts of a Parkinson’s wellness map is exercise. But here’s the catch: It’s difficult to do with regularity. We know it works! Yet, knowing what is good for wellness is not the same as doing it. The doing part of exercise — showing up three to four times a week — is difficult with all the chronic disease barriers. It’s easy to feel defeated before even starting.

The way around this apparent Catch-22 is to shift one’s perspective on exercise. I mentioned the idea of shifting perspective in connection to wellness in a column about moments of well-being. The shift I need with regard to exercise is one that will get me off the sofa and into exercising. I am not getting off the sofa to do something I hate, but rather to do an enjoyable, creative project that involves exercise: landscaping to produce gardens. It’s a good exercise to keep the trunk strong, which helps prevent falls.

It takes a bit of perseverance to get into my work clothes, strap on the heavy work boots, find the hat and sunglasses, and then head out the door. Surveying the work ahead — which is sometimes a bit daunting — I start with light work to warm up. Walk, then shovel, and maybe rake, before getting behind the wheelbarrow to move gravel or dirt from one location to another. Pause to hear the birds sing, marvel at the variety of flower blooms and fragrances. Pretty quickly, the world slips away, replaced by the Zen of gardening.

My Fitbit reminds me when a time for medication is coming up and keeps track of my heart rate. I take lots of water breaks! By the time two hours have passed, my work shirt is drenched with sweat — as much as, if not more than, the amount of water I’ve consumed. In the Zen garden moments, the mind is free of the worries of Parkinson’s and vision problems. That feeling remains with me, not as a false euphoria, but as a deep-rooted sense of well-being.

There are many ways that shifting perspective can open wellness possibilities. A nurse shared a wonderful example. She was a smoker from her early teen years, and now in her 30s, she decided to quit. Six months without a smoke and she says, “I had this memory of how much I enjoyed smoking.” So, she bummed a cigarette and immediately got sick from smoking it. Recounting the event, she says, “I can remember the horrid feeling as clear today as if it just happened. I never had the urge to smoke again after that.” She shifted her perspective from enjoying smoking to thinking of it as a horrid, sickening experience. Shifting perspective opened up the possibility of wellness.

The ability to shift perspective may also improve our ability to adapt to stressful times and to become more resilient, and therefore more open to new possibilities. The shifting of perspective causes us to shift our focus to a new intention, a new possibility. I hated exercise, and my intention was to avoid it. The shift in perspective offered the new intention of enjoyment and the possibility of a beautiful garden, along with a healthier body, in spite of the chronic disease limitations.


I shared the YouTube video, with a fellow participant in the clinical trial, where a lady cheerfully proclaims she has her life back after faithfully doing Qigong for three hours a day. She indicates the decision to put in the time was a no brainer. Should she choose to remain on the couch for twenty hours a day, taking two medications and knowing the progressive degeneration would continue… Or, commit to three hours of each day, with hope.

My friend seemed interested when we viewed the YouTube interview where she proclaimed her success. But I was saddened with my friends attitude yesterday. He feared her claims must be generated out of some other motive… and were just that. unfounded claims. Said he: “She offered no evidence to substantiate her claims. How are we to know if she really was previously on medication? Or that she was previously so impaired as she stated?” Challenging her creditability, he continued. “I’m not buying it.”

I, frankly, was bothered by his attitude. Although he has personally experienced a reversal of numerous symptoms during this clinical trial, he strives to be realistic in his expectations for his future. In less than a week, he will no longer have access to the trial medication. With the FDA guidelines, and requirements… “It will be too late” for him,…once it is made available to the public. So, my friend prepares for the worst. He expects his symptoms to return and for the disease to continue to progress, depriving him of his mobility. Thus, it has been arranged. A chair lift has been ordered, to be installed in his home this next week, in anticipation of a return to his former (pre-trial self) and a downward spiral.

This morning, I challenged his thinking. Rather than question [FEAR] her motives or success, why not give it a try? Document your current status, and experiment on the process for yourself. What do you have to lose?

My friend nodded and indicated he might reconsider and give it a try. Thinking of his self sabotaging gave me cause to include a quote I saved: [blame it on my Parkinson’s] I failed to document who to give credit to.

“A fear is really just an erroneous belief. If we didn’t believe something to be true, we would have no fear. If we didn’t believe the lion was about to devour us, we wouldn’t be afraid. If we didn’t believe that failure was bad, even humiliating, we likely wouldn’t be afraid of failure. Sometimes, we are aware of our fears and we may even understand why we are afraid. But quite often, we are completely unaware of them or how they are sabotaging our best intentions.”

React with gratitude

The staff at the study site are doing their best… When I toured the facility, I asked if there was to be any exercise equipment, since an exercise regiem is considered to be the #1 most proactive thing Parkys should have. The medic said, “I understand they hae been ordered, but haven’t arrived yet.”

After my big data collecting day had passed, I asked, “Where is the exercise equipment.” After inquiring, the medic came to say, “There was a change in plans, and they have contracted with ..” “…. from an exercise gym, and they are supposed to have someone here tomorrow, to work with us in a group exercise class. They were a no show. 3rd time should be the charm, right? When they called to find out what happened? “… the person assigned just left on vacation… they will be here when they return.” REALLY?

I have been standing between two dorm beds. doing squats & leg lifts [ok,,a couple times] Then another study participant took matters in his own hands, saying he would like to organize a stretching exercise class. Today, I accepted an invitation to go out onto the patio for some stretching exercises to the accompanyment of ‘Oldies’ music.

After 12 minutes of exercise, he had us take three laps around the perimeter of the patio. This is where I stepped up, stating they should Swing their arms, while striding. Then, after swinging a little to music, our leader began to snap his fingers, demonstrating his RETURNED skill. Stating he hadn’t been able to snap previous to the start of the study.

Primarily this is done by building tension between the thumb and another (middle, index, or ring) finger and then moving the other finger forcefully downward so it hits the palm of the same hand at a high speed

I’m pleased to report I also have noted improvements. I wrote an address for John yesterday and he commented, “That is the most readable thing you have written for quite a while.” And knowing I had previously been unable to snap my fingers, I was delighted when I also could snap my fingers.. with both hands! This action precipitated conversation, with people telling me my face is more animated than when I arrived, and I smile.

Our exercise leader confided that one of the medics said they had seen a lot of improvement in him over the past week. I’m thinking it has been multiple strokes of good fortune that I learned of this study, that I was accepted to participate and I’m thinking did NOT receive the placebo.

There is the story of the alcoholic father with two sons. One follows in his father’s footsteps and ends up struggling through life as a drunk, and the other becomes a successful, sober businessman. Each are asked: “Why are you the way you are?” The answer for both is the same: “Well, it’s because my father was an alcoholic.” The same event, the same childhood, two different outcomes. This is true for almost all situations — what happens to us is an objective reality, how we respond is a subjective choice. The Stoics would say that we don’t control what happens to us, all we control are our thoughts and reactions to what happens to us. Remember that: You’re defined in this life not by your good luck or your bad luck, but your reaction to those strokes of fortune.

My reaction? Be grateful, not just in my heart, but EXPRESS GRATITUDE!


1st… From Out-Thinking Parkinsons

I discovered a sight that addresses symptoms and explanations which I have found nowhere else. I have divided the things I found most interesting to be shared over the next week of posts.

“Dr Gary Sharpe, Phd, is a scientist and engineer by background, diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease in 2009. After six years of dying inside, he started “Out-Thinking Parkinson’s” in January 2016 in order to pursue pragmatic and practical solutions towards progressive symptom reduction for people with Parkinson’s Disease. Today, Out-Thinking Parkinson’s has become a major resource, where Gary and colleagues from around the world, who also have an insider’s perspective of PD, share their knowledge, philosophies and experience of living well with PD, and, also, record their stories of recovery.”

“Many of the major and common symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are not very well explained by the “death of dopamine producing cells in the Substantia Nigra” scenario. However, atrophy of the Cranial Nerves in people with Parkinson’s (PwP) does very straightforwardly explain most of these major secondary symptoms, and, I believe, does so in a very common sense way.”

“This conclusion is important, because if correct, it means that no chemical “cure”, which addresses only the dopamine production issue, will, by itself, fix the causes of the other symptoms too. Indeed, undoing atrophy of any kind in the brain and body takes time and the patient application of suitable stimulation, exercises and therapies. I therefore recommend that we PwP do not just sit and wait for “the lure of cure” to ever materialize, but instead to err on the side of caution: I believe we need to begin the process of bringing our atrophied brains and bodies back from the brink, soonest.”

“Below, (i.e. within the week of posts) I also present a number of suggestions for Cranial Nerve stimulation techniques, which should help us in this regard, if we apply them daily, over the long term.”



Cranial Nerve 1 –  “transmits nerve impulses about odours to the central nervous system, where they are perceived by the sense of smell; the olfactory nerve is somewhat unusual among cranial nerves because it is capable of some regeneration if damaged.”

“The loss of sense of smell is one of the earliest manifestations and cardinal symptoms of PD.”

………………………………………..I can’t say how much my sense of smell might be impacted, but I have retained some. 🙂



The brain’s master chemical

This article about the brain’s master chemical, dopamine, is a little lengthy, but pretty informative and also gives ten natural ways to increase a person’s dopamine levels:

Christina Sarich, Guest in Waking Times

“Dopamine is the brain’s master chemical. This single neurotransmitter is responsible for a plethora of mental and physical processes. By learning how to stimulate your own dopamine levels naturally, you can overcome depression, anxiety, apathy, and fear, while boosting feelings of pleasure created by this amazing little neuron.”

“Dopamine is what rewards certain behaviors in us so that we do them again, and why certain drugs are so addictive. Cocaine, heroine and other opiates cause a dopamine “super reward”which makes their use highly desirable, until you experience the dopamine crash that comes once the illicit drug is absent from the physiology.”

“The opiates bind to the opiate receptors in the brain, increasing a dopamine release, but once gone, there is an ever-increasing need for more opiate (or other drug) to induce the same dopamine-high. This is what causes drug addicts to resort to ever increasing, negative behaviors to get their next “fix.” The dopamine high is that desirable.”

“In experiments conducted with mice, when the same nerve bundle that causes an opiate release was stimulated when they pressed a lever, the mice, left to their own devices, would press the lever thousands of times in an hour, due to the pleasurable feelings the dopamine would induce. A later experiment (conducted unethically on a human being) showed a similar response. Over the course of three hours, a person would press a button which triggered a dopamine dump thousands of times to get an immense emotional boost.”

“We get little dopamine dumps in our brains with less destructive behaviors – like making money, having sex, and even winning a video game, but there are dopamine boosting activities that can regularly boost our “pleasure” neurotransmitter, without causing an addictive backlash.”

“We have a certain number of dopamine neurons in the brain, and they are smaller than other neurons, making up less than 0.0006% of the neurons in the human brain, but we can stimulate the powerful nerve bundle in the brain that links dopamine neurons with their targets in the forebrain.”

“Dopamine does more than just boost our happiness quotient, though. It is also responsible for regulating our muscle movement, improving cognitive function, helping keep us focused, make decisions, evaluate problems and solve them, and regulating the secretion of prolactin.”

“Dopamine is undoubtedly, extremely important for our well being and happiness. Without high dopamine levels, we tend to experience depression, sadness, confusion, fear, negative thinking, rumination, and other emotional obstacles.”

“Following are some 100-percent-natural ways to increase your dopamine levels:”


“Exercise elevates dopamine D2 receptors in the brain. It also happens to increase serotonin, and other endorphins in the body as well. Regular exercise can help prevent depression, reduce stress, and strengthen the mind just as much as it strengthens the body.”

Make a List and Cross Off the Things You Accomplish

“The brain dumps a little dopamine every time we successfully accomplish a task – no matter how big or small. To get even more dopamine “hits,” then break up big tasks into smaller pieces, and check them off one by one. This habit also has a tendency of keeping you moving toward your goals, and clearing the mental clutter in your mind.”

“The Principles of Self-Management state that if a task represents a change of 25% (or bigger change) in your life routine, you will feel disinclined to finish it, and often end up self-sabotaging or giving up. Conversely, making small changes (around 10%) keep you going in the right direction, and increase your pleasure.”

Eat Dopamine-Increasing Foods

“The essential amino acid, tyrosine is a precursor for dopamine. By eating foods that contain tryrosine, you can naturally boost dopamine levels. Find tryrosine in things like:

  • Eggs
  • Green tea
  • Milk
  • Watermelon
  • Coffee
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Yogurt”

Reduce Your Lipopolysaccharideds

“It’s a big word, but it is basically an endotoxin that causes your immune system to go berserk. Lipopolysaccharides also inhibit the production of dopamine.  By eating foods which protect the gut, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and taking probiotics, you can lower your lipopolysaccharides, and allow dopamine to be created with ease.”


“While we’re on the topic of toxins, it is important to regularly detox. The accumulation of too many toxins in your body can prevent dopamine production. There are a myriad ways of detoxing, from green juicing, to taking activated charcoal, or doing a yogic master cleanse. The less toxic you are, the more super-charged your dopamine levels can get.”

Listen to Uplifting Music

“One of the easiest, and quickest ways to get a beneficial dopamine dump in the brain is from listening to music. Music creates “peak emotional moments” by making our brains “sing.”Music has been helping people feel uplifted since Paleolithic times. It’s that tried, and true.”

Get Creative

“It doesn’t matter if you express your creativity by doing arts and crafts, or writing an entire symphony, any creative activity increases levels of dopamine. Dance, take a figure drawing class, write a poem, cook something new, or even attack an auto-repair project with creative gusto, and you’ll be rewarded with higher dopamine levels.”

Start a Positive Streak

“Not only will this behavior increase dopamine levels, but it also happens to be the foundation for creating new, positive habits. See how many times you can do one new thing (like recycling your plastic or skipping soda) and mark it down on a calendar or tear sheet. See how long you can make the winning streak last.”


“Dopamine levels can also be raised through supplementation. Try:

  • L-theanine increases numerous neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. Green tea is a rich source of this plant compound.
  • Curcumin found prevalently in turmeric, effectively increases dopamine in the brain.
  • Ginkgo Biloba can raise dopamine levels.
  • Acetyl-l-tyrosine is a building block of dopamine, so a healthy dose of it supports the production of dopamine in the brain.”

Meditation and Yoga

“Meditation and yoga can effectively alter brain mechanisms that allow for bigger dopamine dumps. One of the reasons consistent meditators handle stress better, and usually feel good is due to an increase in GABA and dopamine. Meditation also releases us from the conditioned neural pathways which block the release of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters.”

elements #5,,,,6,,,,7

This is from Sarah of Invigorated’s post…

Let’s have some fun, shall we ?

These last 3 elements of a Parkinson’s specific exercise program are so, important!

Our brains need exercise, but we’d wither away and die without a community and a few laughs.

Let’s dive into how that plays out and your exercise program: 

Element # 5: Keep it SOCIAL. 

We’re happier and healthier when we’re part of the tribe. We’re also more likely to reach our goals because we feel connected and supported.

Here are a few ways to add face-to-face time to your exercise routine:
Join a Parkinson’s exercise class in your city. Join a walking or running group. Hire a personal trainer or physical therapist to come see you at your home. Ask your friend or neighbor to join your daily walking routine.

Element # 6: Stay ACCOUNTABLE. 

Apathy can be a strong foe … So it’s crucial to have someone checking in on you that you can answer to. Typically I recommend this person isn’t your spouse or partner because things can get tense.

Setting goals can be a powerful motivator as well.

Make them meaningful and share them with your support system!

Element # 7: Have FUN!

If you’re not laughing, singing, dancing, or smiling during a workout, you won’t feel its full effect. The feel-good chemicals you release when you’re enjoying yourself have tremendous power to lower your stress, lessen your anxiety, and boost your immune system.

Plus, life is way too short to take exercise too seriously. If you have fun when you’re working out, your much, MUCH more likely to want to do it again.

For example… Here is a link to a drumming routine… creative and fun.


Exercise Element #2

I attended a Zumba class on Saturday. I took my exercise poles with me.. to ensure I didn’t loose my balance. My attempts to follow the routines verified, my coordination is poor… I can’t skip or even do a little hop, but at least I enjoyed the social interaction.

I perceive I need to set aside more segments of time for daily exercise, one to focus on strength, one to focus on hands, one to focus on coordination, one to focus on posture, etc… if I am going to beat the odds.

[But taking a clue from yesterday’s post.. on procastination & baby steps.. I’ll take my time as I build onto my protocol]

Having a program that is physically challenging means that your muscles get tired, you get out of breath. It’s not comfortable. It’s hard but it doesn’t hurt. There’s a difference! Tell me if this is you…

You’re working out and you stop to think: “This is so hard! Can’t it be over yet???”

Sarah, of Invigorated says, “You’re entitled to a few complaints here and there!” But know this: “If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you!”

Element # 2: PHYSICALLY Challenging

“This can be a powerful affirmation if embraced and taken to heart… and is a KEY element to an effective Parkinson’s exercise program.”

“And it requires challenge. After all, why would it need to change if you can already comfortably accomplish the task at hand?”

“Your brain is wired to survive. This means it adapts when you’re trying to do something that you aren’t great at doing. It makes you stronger, faster, more observant of your surroundings. It helps you thrive.”

“This is why a physically challenging program is so important. Most of the time you can tell you’re working hard if your heart rate is up, at you’re slightly out of breath, and you can’t sustain that activity indefinitely.”



*Please Note: Be sure to check with your healthcare team before boosting the intensity of your exercise program. 

Procastination – Baby steps

I like this strategy because it nearly makes it impossible to procrastinate. When I look back at all the times I’ve procrastinated, it was always related to getting overwhelmed. When you haven’t even started something, the end result seems a million miles away.

From the blog of Darius Foroux :

“Forming a new habit is hard. I don’t have to tell you that. We all know how difficult it is to live a … healthy life. If it were easy, everybody would do it.”

“We also know that our chance of succeeding is much higher if we start small, right? It’s common sense. “Don’t take on too much in the beginning — you’ll have more reasons to give up.” So goes the advice, which is solid. I’m not going to argue with that.”

“But far too few people actually start small. In fact, I see more people starting big than starting small.”

“Why is that? I think we can get too excited about making a change or doing new things. When we dream about making a change in our lives and start believing in it, the excitement usually takes over. That’s why we end up doing too much too soon.”

“But how can I prevent myself from getting too excited?”

“To be clear, I don’t think excitement is bad. You need energy to make a change. And it’s great to be fired up about achieving something in your life. Always remind yourself that you want to stay fired up. Because when things get hard, we can lose that fire.”

“So when you start forming a habit (writing, working out, reading, eating healthy) or learning a new skill, remember that it should not feel like a challenge. The activity should be easy. If that’s not the case, we all procrastinate — even the most self-disciplined people do that.”

“When you start something new, it’s not about your results. When I started getting daily exercise, I didn’t care what type of exercise. I just wanted to make sure I did it.”

  • Wrote for 4 minutes? Great — you did it.
  • Went for a 20-minute walk? Great — you did it.
  • Read a book for 2 minutes? Great — you did it.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, which is about changing your life by forming small habits, writes about this idea in his new book. I like how he removes all barriers for starting a habit. He writes:

“A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path.”

“Remember, the action itself is not easy. But as James says, the first two minutes should be easy. And what you’ll find is that you can scale down nearly any habit or activity into a two-minute version.”

  • Want to read every day? Read one page.
  • Want to meditate every day? Sit in a meditation position.
  • Want to study for an exam? Open your book.

Bite off too much and “you end up saying, “I give up.” So instead of focusing on the BIG outcome, focus on the SMALL start. Look at what you want to achieve in your life. Then, look at what habits will make that happen.”

“And then what?”

“The goal is not only to get started — it’s to keep going. Nobody wants to read one page a day for the rest of their lives. To me, this strategy is all about getting used to doing something every day.”

“Look, changing your lifestyle is not an easy thing. Let’s say you’ve been living in a certain way for 30 years. What do you expect? That you change overnight? You and I both know that it takes time. So we should change our perspective accordingly.”

“Your first priority should always be to form the habit — something you do regularly. And remember: Habits are not about result. You should only care about what you did today .”

“Life is a competition with yourself — not others. And if you want to win, you must make it easy for yourself.”


Exercise Element #1

Sometimes reading through what you should be doing and knowing how to put it Into practice can be two very different things. John just asked me what I was listening to… and I responded “watching someone doing exercises on youtube.” Even if I KNOW exercise is key.. I’m reminded of the saying… ‘I love work, I can watch it all day.’

[I NEEDED THIS pep talk by Sarah of Invigorated.]

It’s as important if not more important than taking your medication. You wouldn’t miss a dose of your medication, and you should prioritize exercise the same way. Medication helps with symptoms in the short-term, but exercise is the only treatment method shown to improve symptoms for the long term.

When you use BIG movements, you’re working specifically to counteract the small, slow movements that come with reduced levels of dopamine. Consciously retraining your brain in large ranges of motion starts to create new movement patterns and changes the way your brain sends signals to your body. This is called neuroplasticity and requires lots of practice, practice, practice!


When you use these types of movements, your working specifically to counteract the small, slow movements that come with reduced levels of dopamine. 

Make your movements big and powerful:

Remember: Information is great, but to get results you have to take action!


Remember: You significantly increase the power of your body’s dopamine when you exercise effectively! So, get out there and get moving! 

If you don’t have your hand up…

Again,,, I found this insightful info on the Invigorated site… . Raise your hand if you’ve ever had this thought:

“I could do all the things I need to do for my Parkinson’s symptoms, if only I had more energy!”

If you don’t have your hand up, it’s probably because you don’t have the energy.

Exhaustion and fatigue are some of the most challenging Parkinson’s symptoms – alongside apathy and lack of motivation – to pinpoint and improve.

)ther areas you can investigate to help you determine what may be draining your energy, sleep, blood pressure, nutrition & social health.

Today I address Movement – her favorite topic!


When you’re not actively using your heart, your lungs, and your muscles to move fluid around your body, it sits inside you like water in a stagnant pond.

On the flip side, when you’re moving around – exercising and being active – your body’s fluids are moving around like a river, rushing from one point to another. As you move fluid around, you also push nutrients to your organs, flush out toxins, and help your body heal.  [Remember??… Stay Hydrated]

This brings fresh life and fresh energy to your entire being.

Get up and move first thing in the morning, if you can.

It can be tough to get moving first thing in the morning, so start with a basic stretching routine. As you gently introduce movement, you’ll notice your energy start to perk up.

Start gentle, then slowly increase your intensity for a minimum of 10 minutes.Stretching is wonderful, but exercise works best when you raise the intensity and your heart rate.

Start with 10 minutes. Set a timer. Tell yourself, “I don’t have to enjoy this 10 minutes, but I’m committed to following through.” If you finish 10 minutes and still want to quit, then you can. On the other hand, if you’re feeling good, see if you can add 5 more minutes.

Add on extra time slowly and soon you’ll be able to workout for 30, 45, or even 60 minutes. It takes time to build endurance, and the important part is to do a little more today than you did yesterday.

Give your new program 3 weeks to kick in. Most people require some time to adjust, but as you become more active, you’ll likely notice you have more endurance throughout the day and your feelings of fatigue will start to lift.