Every now and again, an issue re-surfaces in coaching sessions, and I feel the need to write about the issue again. Recently, the power of a compassionate smile has been a topic of conversation.
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 you 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 passed 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!
The difference between people 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 yourself and for 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 and it is the compassionate thing to do for yourself.
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.
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 is how I began to feel joy. The sad part is that it had been so long since I had smiled so much that my face hurt. Imagine, my face hurt because I was using muscles (my smiling muscles) that I had not been using on a regular basis. In the end, this was “good pain” as my smiling helped increase my joy, which opened my dopamine faucet.
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. I will go first. Here is a big smile for each and every one of you.
You can do this. I know you can.
You are worth it!!!
All my best,