Many people with Parkinson’s get extremely self-conscious when going out in public. There is the whole concern of people staring and wondering what is wrong with you. You already are not happy about the way look or move or feel, and this exacerbates the problem. Oftentimes, the sense that people are staring causes symptoms to rage out of control…more tremors, more stiffness, more slowness, more sadness. Instead of staring at the ground as you shuffle through people in public, what if you stood as straight as possible, looked them in the eye, and gave them a great big smile. That’s right, a smile.
I have explained to people that the difference between others having pity for you and them having compassion for you is all in how you view yourself and present yourself in public. If you are self-conscious and stare at the ground making no eye contact, people will pity you. If you hold yourself up, look them in the eye and smile, people will have compassion for you. You control how you will be viewed. Why not make it healing for you and the other people.
Your smile will help with your recovery. One of the things about Parkinson’s is that you lose your ability to feel joy. Mostly, you are consumed with how badly you feel physically, mentally and spiritually. The feeling of joy opens your heart and helps the dopamine flow.
First, you need to know that if you hide Parkinson’s, then Parkinson’s wins. Second, if people are staring at you it probably is because you are moving slowly and walking poorly. They are not thinking bad thoughts about you; they probably are confused. There is an easy fix to this. Look the person in the eye and smile. It is the compassionate thing to do for the other person. It is the compassionate thing to do for you!
And when you smile, make it a big, ear-to-ear smile, the kind of smile that sends a message to the other person that says, “Thank you for your compassion. I am okay.” This act all by itself will help open your dopamine faucet. But wait, it does not stop there — generally, smiles are infectious. Most of the time when you share a smile, you get one back.
This compounds the joy. The other person smiles back and their heart opens and feels joy.
Look at the power of your smile:
1. The way it is now. You are shuffling through the parking lot at the grocery store and sense somebody staring at you. Your tremors rage, you are stiff and slow, you look at the ground and you wish there was a hole you could go into. The other person remains confused by your situation and reaction. They feel pity for you. (This was me as well; it is how I know this scenario takes place).
2. Same scenario, big smile. You are shuffling through the parking lot at the grocery store and sense somebody staring at you. You look them in the eye and smile, your heart opens and you feel joy. They see your smile and smile back, and they feel joy. They have compassion for you as expressed in their smile. You see them smile back, and you feel even more joy than before…and here’s the proof that your joy opens your dopamine faucet a bit — your tremors do not rage, you do not slow down, you do not stiffen up, and you do not look at the ground — instead, you are looking for the next person to smile at because it feels so good. (This was me, too, once I figured out how powerful a smile could be. I have not stopped smiling since this realization).
That is the power of your smile. Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Your smile sends a message to your Parkinson’s, loud and clear, “Parkinson’s, I am not afraid of you, I will not hide you, and I will not hide from you. When you try to shake me up in public, I will fight you with a smile, feel the joy in my heart and let my dopamine flow. I have the power to heal myself, and I am!” And then give your Parkinson’s a smile…it won’t know what to do.
I know this works.
You can do this. I know you can.
You are worth it!!!
All my best,
Note: Don’t forget, 5 days left: I am providing a special offer of a discounted cost for Parkinson’s Coaching if you sign up by the end of June. Click here to learn more about Parkinson’s Coaching, including how to sign up for the One-Month Parkinson’s Coaching Package with the special offer.
Wow, what a confronting blog. Most of my life I majored in “looking good.” I came to see from my PD that underneath the phony veneer, the “story,” the “face” I was putting on was “I’m not good enough.” There was always a low grade worry (tremor) deep below the surface, invisible to others, from childhood through my adult years.
A good friend of mine reminded me of the “gift” of my PD as the physical manifestation of the unacknowledged truth of my inner critique. I was forced to come out of the closet. It’s been a slow coming out. Here is the glimmer of light for me — if I can dwell in “open heartedness,” my fixation on my tremor drops about 85% — my body softens, everything melts away, I melt away, or, maybe the “real me” begins to awaken from an ancient slumber.
My core PD work: gently, compassionately inviting myself into this state of mind (of heart). It’s like learning a new language, being from another planet. And I CAN learn to do this.
Great post Barry! It adds to Howard’s wonderful comments. Thanks to both! Love, Lohren
Hi Howard, lovely post Howard. Big love to all my fellow warriors.
Great positive blog, Howard.
The first time I attended my grandson’s soccer game I did exactly what you suggested. I had made a comment to my son about not liking people looking at me. He responded “They’re probably thinking what courage you have.” I took my son’s offered arm, looked people in the eye and smiled. We had to pass quite a row of parents/spectators. Now, I’m just part of the ‘cheering parents’ group.
Thank you, Barry, for sharing your insightful, heartfelt thoughts.
Thank you Howard….thank you dear group…these insights are so nurturing and life affirming…I’ve just returned from a morning walk…exchanged at least two smiles and enjoyed two mini conversations…one with a schoolboy who is celebrating that this is his last day of school …and one with a construction worker building a new house in our neighborhood….when I connect from my heart in this way, I realize I’m in touch with my own inner empowerment…I’m authentic…and I’m joyful…and life is a blessing…
Howard, YOU make me smile! So, here’s a big one for you and all my fellow PD journey folk 🙂
Howard, you have just rendered and armed us with the weapon as simple as a smile to deal with the monster.
The amazing part is that you give us solutions every week with your blog to ease our pain and struggle with such ease and simplicity.
Thank you, Howard , you are a God sent gift and we are fortunate to have found you.
Thanks, Howard, for the reminder (and a tough one!); the empowering, healing act of the compassionate smile. I’m practicing by giving myself one, when I slip into fear, self-consciousness & discomfort, which is too often; so i’m smiling more often…There’s always me around to practice :)))))
Thank you all for sharing your smiles.
I like the part about smiling at Mr./Ms. PD. Dissolving him/her in a smiling, dopamine bath of kindness….boggles the mind & thrills the heart!
Your smile is definitely infectious, without a doubt! I have tried the smile on a few people today, and it really works! You are brilliant the way you had figured out so many different ways to help us cope and bring joy into our hearts while working on our recovery. The path is paved with your suggestions and ideas all the way to the finish line! Huge amounts of love and gratitude to you! Melanie
Your smile is one of the best, and I think of it often as I am doing the physical exercise part of the recovery. I can just envision you standing there with that big smile, telling me that I am doing great, and that I am definitely worth it. I then smile big , and I feel better. My exercise time is much more enjoyable and I enthusiastically enjoy the moment as I work towards recovery! Thank you so much for sharing your contagious smile and positive attitude with me!
I have so much to smile about. I am sending out a GREAT BIG SMILE , lots of love , and positive thoughts to all of you . Have a great week.
P.S. I went to a Elvis Presley Burning Love concert with my husband this past weekend. It was really fun. The Elvis Presley look alike came down into the audience and held my hand while singing Love me Tender to me. I smiled big at him, and he smiled big at me…..Then when he finished he said he could feel my heart beating clear down into my hand. I liked that thought.I felt like..”Awe that is so sweet.” From now on when I am feeling extra big tremors, I am just going to think of it as my heart opening up a little bigger and sending out more love.
Thanks to all of you.
Love and blessings
Then, Debbie, there’s the song, ‘whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on’; I like what you do with those ‘extra big tremors’, ‘opening the heart up a little bigger’ with a big smile. What a great idea ! ( : turning lemons into lemonade! : )
Slowing down & smelling the roses today.
Sending smiles your way 🙂 🙂
Thanks Howard. Hugs Barry, so true and hugs brave people. Xxx
Thank you Howard again. I will practice this and enjoy the ride. Big love to everyone
You discussed this in a previous post and it changed my life. I tried the simple smile technique and it really works!
Also, thank you Barry for your sharing.
Blessings to all,
This is such an important message and great idea. I am feeling joyful and empowered just thinking about having a plan of action to take out in public with me; a smile, an ear-to-ear one, like the one I see on your face. So, here’s to doing warfare with my Parkinson’s and here’s to turning on my dopamine faucet. The next time that I see a Big smile on the face of someone who looks as if they might have Parkinson’s, I believe that I just might go up to them and ask them, “Do you know Howard?”