Back in 2016, my dad received a gift of one of those coloring books, which are very fashionable as aids to relaxation, for his birthday, together with some brightly colored pens. Well, it was actually me who benefitted most from this present, and my dad never got a look in. I immediately had a gut feeling this was likely to be one of those "ah ha!" moments, due to the following reasons:
- visual stimuli are massively important for People with Parkinson's;
- the shrinking of handwriting is a classical symptom of Parkinson's onset and we need to constantly challenge all such symptoms to keep the disease at bay;
- relaxation and escaping ingrained stress response is absolutely key to improving symptoms of Parkinson's;
- continually trying something new and challenging our brains to create new neural pathways is key to pushing the disease back and back.
So it was time for what I refer to as Curiosity and Play therapy, which has been so instrumental in my progress, once more. I went at that coloring book with gusto. Quite remarkably, even as was going down into an "off" state, in which my drugs wear off and I lose a lot of access to movement, I found I could keep coloring in for quite a long time. Remarkable, because normally small motions are the most difficult and are the first to go. Why could I therefore continue to happily color in? It is because, once more, I am engaging the visual cortex as part of this movement, by-passing the damaged part of my brain.
I have since experimented and sometimes I just get a blank piece of paper and scribble random, continuous lines on it. Back and forth, round and round as quick as I can. So I've proven to myself that I can still make small, fast controlled movements even in the grip of the symptoms! Practicing signing my name, I found I could with mindful control, start to write the letters larger too.
The proven, meditative aspect of coloring also works for me, in that it helps to get through some of my "off" period without the fear and anxiety stress responsew which often comes with the sometimes frightening loss of access to movement. It thus helps to sever the vicious circle of physical pain <-> mental anguish.
Then, still curious, I picked up my pens and coloring book when I had bad dyskinesia - that uncontrolled large scale movement which is one of the nastier side effects of PD drugs. What happened was so remarkable, I recorded it in the video below.
Recently, my friend Robert Goeckel came up with the idea of using books of "dot-to-dot" (or "join-the-dots") puzzles for brain training. This also sounded like a very good idea for people with Parkinson's, again due to the relaxational and meditative state such games can instill, together with the hand-eye-coordination and the application to recovering small, quick hand movements. So I've experimented with this media too, and indeed found benefits similar to coloring.
The learning outcomes for People with Parkinson's? Experiment and play our way back to a better Quality of Life! If we don't keep trying new things, we will never discover ourselves again.
If you try coloring as therapy for Parkinson's, please do let us know if it works for you too. And if not, don't give up, keep curious and let us know what you discover about your own quantified self!