Food, water, shelter and… Why not? Joy should be viewed as a necessary part of any wellness plan. Joy is especially crucial in the case of someone with Parkinson’s. The disease is characterized by a loss of dopamine, so any steps you can take to seek out joy to increase that feel-good hormone is effort that won’t go to waste. 

In addition to joy, people with Parkinson’s will also reap rewards from laughter. Both joy and laughter have mental and physical health benefits but you’ll find that one does not necessarily automatically accompany the other and the path to each may look very different.  

In this blog, we’ll discuss how to infuse joy and laughter into your Parkinsons’ wellness routine and why it’s necessary for your physical and mental health. This will help you face the challenges of PD and help you maintain your relationships that otherwise face increased strain. 


Why Do Parkinson’s Disease Patients Need Joy? 

As you’re likely aware, there is no definitive test to diagnose Parkinson’s Disease. But there is overall consensus from researchers that a characteristic of the disease is a lack of dopamine in the body’s nervous system. When brain neurons are affected, there are noticeable changes in balance and stiffness of movement. Thankfully, feel-good hormones like dopamine can be hacked through conscious effort and a bit of ingenuity. The resulting increase in dopamine, and the other feel-good hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and pheromones, can help people with Parkinson’s face daily and long term challenges of this disease. 

Think about it like this example from Cedar Sinai hospital: 

“Love, motivation, and movement all begin in the brain as dopamine hopping from one neuron to another. Dopamine leaves one neuron and slips through the synapse, the space between the nerve cells. Then it collides with a receptor on the neighboring neuron, sending a signal to the cell and igniting a chain of events that results in a movement, a feeling, or an action.”

When this process is disrupted like it is with Parkinson’s, you may need more than medicine and well wishes to reintroduce dopamine into your system. You need JOY and you need it now! 


What Brings You Joy? 

It’s important to do some self-reflection and understand the moments, pre-PD, that brought you joy. Remember, joy is more of a state of mind, rather than the fleeting feeling of being happy. Look for relationships and activities that bring on a sustained uplift in our mindset, not a quick fix like a milkshake. Although, milkshakes are delicious and can still be enjoyed of course! 

Human beings are complex, but in studies about joy, there are some commonalities of people who would describe themselves as joyous. 

  • Being physically active. You feel an uptick in your mood when your brain releases endorphins during exercise. Plus, the effects can usually linger for a few hours afterwards. If you start your day with movement, you set the tone. If you wait until later, you may be delaying that release. Don’t deprive yourself of having a great day vs. just having a great evening. 
  • Finding something larger than yourself to be involved with. You may find spirituality in nature or within the walls of a faith based church. Or you may wish to spend time organizing volunteers for a cause you feel strongly about. It’s hard to dwell on your daily challenges when your dedication to someone or something is needed and appreciated. 
  • Novelty is notable. Our brain’s wiring embraces new ways of thinking and new experiences. The time to try x,y or z is right now. Even the anticipation of the experience will bring a rush of feel good hormones. 
  • Acknowledging what makes us joyous. If you’re not spending time reflecting on what lifts you up, that time will be filled with ruminating over what is bringing you down. When you’re diagnosed with a life-altering disease like Parkinson’s it’s important to retain as much choice as you can and while we can’t change the outward impacts of the disease, we can seek ways to uplift our inward perception. 

Relationship between Laughter and Parkinson’s Disease

Laughter has many health benefits that are similar to the effects of movement and exercise, so it’s another must-have in your wellness routine. 

Laughter can: 

  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Boost your mood
  • Diminish pain
  • Protect you from the damaging effects of stress


Laughter boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones, and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. You already have enough to face with Parkinson’s Disease, so warding off other health conditions allows you to focus on what you need to do for your Parkinson’s wellness routine. 

Did you skip a workout? Are you recovering from an injury? Give yourself a dose of laughter instead, which triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart with increased blood flow, protecting you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems as well.

Laughter also lightens anger’s effects and can help you and your caretaker or care team weather challenges. Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and bringing about an emotional connection. 

What Brings You Laughter? 

While there is no one size fits all recipe for laughter, there have been enough studies to pinpoint situations and steps that can bring about laughter. 

So feel free to pick from the list below or create your own: 

  • Watch a funny movie, TV show, or YouTube video.
  • Catch a comedian live in person whenever possible. 
  • Read the funny pages.
  • Seek out funny people. If someone makes you laugh, take that as a sign you need to spend more time with them. 
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class or look this up on YouTube. 
  • Do something silly like you did as a child. 
  • Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).

Now that you know why joy and laughter are absolutely integral to your wellness routine for Parkinson’s and you have a few ideas on how to bring them into being, you’re better equipped to handle the inevitable changes that Parkinson’s has had and will continue to have in your life and the life of those around you. 

Parkinson’s Pointe offers classes to increase your dopamine levels with movement. You may also develop friendships with other Parkinson’s Pointe members and it’s always easier to laugh when you’re among friends. So if you’re in need of joy and laughter, you may discover it within the walls of our facility.


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