So us Parkinson’s folk all know about how we must exercise daily, eat healthily and get plenty of sleep. Oh, and pop some pills now and then for good luck. But one magical therapy seldom mentioned is the power of laughter to take our minds into a sacred space of mirth, comedy and frivolity, far away from the Parkinson’s mindset.
Speaking of comedy it’s been a great couple of weeks for it recently here in London. I was thrilled to attend Emma ‘The Watch’ Lawton’s comedy debut at the Up the Creek comedy club’s stand-up competition in London’s Greenwich where not only did she deliver a hilarious 5 minutes of stand-up, she then went on to win the competition beating out 15 or so other comedians – how cool is that?!. Emma is a young onset Parkinson’s advocate and was featured last year in a BBC documentary “The Big Life Fix” where Microsoft engineers designed a “watch” for her that minimized her hand tremors. You can see her stand-up routine here:
I also recently attended a laughter yoga workshop in London at one of the local Parkinson’s support groups. The laughter yoga movement was started by a medical doctor from India, Dr. Madan Kataria, in a Mumbai Park in 1995 and there are now clubs and Skype meet up laughter sessions in more than 100 countries. It combines laughter exercises with yoga breathing resulting in more oxygen to the body and brain which makes one more energetic and healthy. The 90 minute workshop was a lot of fun and laughter, and I came away energized as promised!
The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter if done with willingness. And when you’re laughing heartily it sure is hard to feel stressed, depressed and anxious about your Parkinson’s condition! You can get more information here. And not to be outdone, over on the Chinese side, there are Laughing Qigong classes with similar exercises and activities.
So what’s my recommendation? Start trying to get three or more good belly laughs a day and be mindful of how you laugh and breathe. There’s lots of great comedy clips on YouTube to help get you in the zone, with both British and American comedians. Also smile more either with a partner or in the mirror. If you find this difficult, fake it till you make it!
And finally, we’ve all heard of or seen the Parkinson’s mask face. Well, there’s something like 43 muscles in the face, and smiling and laughter gives them a good workout and results in a better facial glow. Now who wouldn’t want that!