Danny Lavender MBE, diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s in 2004, says developing a ‘growth mindset’ has helped him stay positive. The Beat Parkinson’s founder explains how others may benefit by following a similar approach
I was diagnosed with young onset idiopathic Parkinson’s disease just over 10 years ago. Being told that you have a chronic neurological degenerative disease, with no known cure, certainly changes your outlook on life.
Fortunately I am a stubborn and determined person with what I refer to as a ‘growth mindset’, and have always sought to overcome adversity. I would rather enjoy life to the full each and every day – and I believe that others can too, if they follow this philosophy.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their inherent talent and ability – regardless of a condition like Parkinson’s – can be developed through determination and positive thinking to increase motivation and productivity. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that can help you beat Parkinson’s, as I have discovered.
I’ve always been a competitive person and I found fitness training and physical challenges to be even more rewarding after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Indeed, my diagnosis triggered my growth mindset, and I hope you too can take similar action by using the following tips. I would like to emphasise that not all patients with Parkinson’s have the ability to carry out independent daily tasks that we all take for granted. However, everyone can do something.
1. Choose your friends carefully
I have chosen to surround myself with the best people who inspire me and enrich my life. Who you decide to surround yourself with can make a huge difference to your experience of the disease, so it’s very important you trust them and feel safe around them. Your friends should add value to your life and help you through the daily battle as they can positively influence your ability to reach a growth mindset.
2. Be prepared to change your habits
To improve your quality of life you have to be aware of what you can change and what you can’t change. If you don’t change your habits, you will not change your life. After I retired, I had more free time to structure my daily routine and I began exercising to a high level, which helps eradicate stress and minimise the symptoms of Parkinson’s. It made me learn to appreciate the importance of rest, recovery and sleep. I also began learning about new things, expanding my knowledge aside from my work, which helped me move towards a growth mindset.
3. Appreciate the little things in life
I try to take three positive thoughts from my experiences each day. Learning to notice the little positive experiences from every day and savouring them will help get you through the tough times and achieve a growth mindset. It’s about appreciating what you’re actually doing, the simple things you’d miss if you didn’t think about them, such as watering plants, gardening in nice weather and listening to the birds sing outside. Appreciate the environment, in the moment.
4. Routine and structure is important
Having a routine means you don’t have to think so much about what you’re doing. It automatically becomes a normal process, embedded in muscle memory, allowing you to concentrate on the things you enjoy. In many ways, the growth mindset is similar to a sports mentality – having the discipline to stick to a training regime, no matter what.
5. Make the choice to be positive
Every day when you wake up, make the choice to be positive and you will determine what you get out of the day. Being positive is a choice we all have. Train your mind to be positive for a better quality of wellbeing and take charge of your mindset.
Have you tried developing a growth mindset, or other approaches to staying positive after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s? Leave a comment below or email us with your thoughts and experiences.
Next year, Danny hopes to set a new world record by climbing more than 100,000 stairs in seven European countries in seven days, and raise £250,000.
Danny will use the money raised from the climb to conduct a clinical trial over a three-year period looking at sleep and wake patterns in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. Working with Dr Roland Brandstaetter – a neuroscientist and lecturer at Birmingham University – Danny hopes the research will shed new light on the impact of disrupted sleep patterns and help develop ways to stabilise sleep rhythmicity for patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
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