How Cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness can help you live well with Parkinson’s
Published: October 31, 2022

We know physical exercise is pivotal to the improvement and management of Parkinson’s symptoms, but what about mental health? Depression and anxiety are common in Parkinson’s and can impact quality of life, relationships and your ability to be physically active. There are resources to help with this, including cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a goal-oriented therapy based on two central ideas: our thoughts have a major influence on our emotions and our behaviour, and our behaviours can strongly influence our thoughts and emotions.

CBT teaches practical strategies that can help you more effectively navigate the challenges of living with Parkinson’s, by focusing on examining the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It provides individuals with the skills needed to change thinking patterns (e.g., negative thoughts about self, others and future) and behaviours (e.g., lack of motivation, social isolation, unhelpful habits) so you can live your best with the disease.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present, being aware of where you are and what you’re doing, from a state of peaceful observation.

We all naturally possess mindfulness, which becomes more readily available when practiced on a daily basis. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. The goal of mindfulness is to fully experience and become more aware of our mental, emotional and physical processes.

How can CBT and mindfulness benefit my experience with Parkinson’s?

Practicing CBT and mindfulness offers benefits to people living with Parkinson’s. They will support you to:

Write your own story. 

CBT and mindfulness can offer you the skills needed to write your own story with Parkinson’s, meaning that instead of Parkinson’s defining you, you define Parkinson’s. By first examining your thoughts about the disease and having the tools needed to think intentionally, you become more capable of taking action to help you live your best. CBT therapy teaches these skills, and mindfulness helps you implement them.

Feel more confident. 

It’s common to feel isolated, anxious and depressed living with Parkinson’s disease. When we feel this way, it can become increasingly difficult to take meaningful action toward living well with the disease. CBT therapy and mindfulness practices can teach you how to manage these emotions, recognize the connections between thought and emotion, and give you practical steps to move forward confidently.

Live your best. 

As our founder and executive director Tim Hague Sr. would say, living your best may look different from the person next to you and may look different from day to day. Living your best is simply the ability to ask yourself: “What am I capable of today?” and to follow through.

CBT and mindfulness help you create more awareness around where your thoughts and feelings may be hindering the actions you’d like to be taking, and offer solutions so you can ask yourself the above question and take action.

There are plenty of resources in Manitoba to help you learn more about cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness, such as CBT Manitoba and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s CBTm Education program, designed to help you build resilience and improve your mental health wellness.

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