Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
A person experiences sparks of joy from inside; his face is affected by hypomimia or a stern expression.

Learning How to Smile Again with Parkinson’s

nephew of the author smilingIf you look at one near-constant in the photographs of our past, it is that the people in them are smiling. Kids learn how to “cheese out” for the camera early on. My nephew is a perfect example. He has been ever since he learned how to do the “monkey.” I guess it’s part of the DNA since my sister always had a smile for the camera.


the author and his wife smilingI could do some goofy smiles, too. In my favorite picture with my wife, I have the biggest smile I’ve ever worn. That was 10 years ago, but I still feel that way when we’re out experiencing life.


Pictures of joy: Our cherished memories

And that’s how it should be for all of us. Think about it; I’m sure you have your cherished nostalgic times. As we age and go back through these photographic memories of life, we tend to find lots of images that capture the spirit of the moment. What were your favorites?

I’ve got a lot. Oh, do I have a lot.

Smiling on the job

My whole office is surrounded by images of places I’ve been and people I’ve been through life with. Looking at them now, everyone has a smile for the camera. There’s something about being able to share these special moments, people, and places. It makes us seem human and genuine. “Someone loves me. I graduated. These are my kids. I was here. I joke around.”

office cubicle with many photos

Wearing the smile accentuates this. It creates a conversation out of thin air. As I said, it makes me more real than just “the guy telling me what classes I need to take, but I still don’t understand why.”

And yes, I want you to think of me as professional, real, and talented, someone with a story beyond just “worker bee,” but I need an in. Beautiful nature pictures can do that, but a smiling occasion does more.

That said, I do love photography, and I want you to like my photography, too! However, I want you to know I want to make a difference in your life. I can’t do that without an “in”.

What do expressive photos tell us?

With my trusty camera, I have captured the last 30 years of my life. Because of this, I have quite a collection of photos. What’s more, I have preserved photos of my family back to 1906. Sure, the black and colors are faded, but so are the pictures, which were taken on my Kodak 110 camera in 1991!

old photo of people smilingFor those only in the cellphone camera world, 110s were the non-disposable disposables. When it comes to film, 35mm was the real deal! In fact, I still have both of my 35mm cameras. It’s not like I’ll ever use them again, but they were expensive at a time before digital was all the rage. They’re not going anywhere. Now, in my time pointing and clicking, I take a lot of pictures of smiles (and never once will I “duck-lip” for the camera!).

Those old smiles still make me happy, as I’m sure mine do for other people.

But then in steps Parkinson’s, and yeah…

After Parkinson’s, a lot of things slow down. It’s called bradykinesia. This leads to hypomimia, or Parkinson’s mask. This equals a straight facial expression, as best described by Peter, who is a cartoonist on Of course, there’s that voice loss stuff with our mouths, too, not to forget what I read somewhere about losing the “joy” in our voice. But the smile…

We can’t lose that, can we?

Looking monotone with Parkinson’s

Recently I was at a pizza-making party with friends. I did that thing where I give a small grin, as opposed to being smiley, ear to ear. Well, this expression was what I got, and I was having a lot of fun (as opposed to rushing for the door)!

friends at a pizza party smiling

Some people think this makes me look “even keel” or “mellow” or unhappy. Yes, I’ve been asked why I don’t smile. I give the typical answer that I have Parkinson’s, and I get apologies, but to me, they aren’t necessary. These people didn’t mean to do damage. They seem to want to know what’s wrong and how could they help, however big or small.

So I’m OK with them and me.

Nevertheless, between the jacked-up action figure, claw hands, and my odd walk, I’m not completely sold on the new identity. It’s not one of those 24/7 worry things, and I know that people are accepting once they know, but I’m not consistently buying.

So all in all, while it’s been said that if people know me, they can see my alternative expressions of joy. However, it still means I have to let them know first. This is just a lowdown thing for a condition to do to someone. I’m just saying.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Anika
    2 months ago

    Hi! I’ve had PD for about 16 years, officially only 13. The difference is something most of us experienced because — in the beginning — our symptoms were invisible to most other people who know us. I can still hear my husband and my family doctor saying, “You don’t have Parkinson’s.”

    My list of PD symptoms is impressive and discouraging, so it’s with a self-congratulatory grin that I can report I can still smile. Several years ago, I noticed a message written in my high school year book by a boy (now an old man!). He wrote the usual “best of luck” then added, “P.S. Keep your cute smile.” I think having been a teacher, I’ve been able to hang onto one of the best ways to encourage both children and adults– with a happy face.

  • Dan Glass moderator author
    2 months ago

    I’m glad to hear that you fulfilled his request. Yes, PD Presents us with a lot of symptoms and obstacles, but every victory is worth smiling – inside and out – about!

    Take care!!!

  • Emma Lawton moderator
    2 months ago

    My smile is the thing I worry the most about losing [2nd place goes to losing my speech] Parkinson’s tries to rob us of our different ways of communicating but it can’t steal that warm fuzzy feeling we get inside when we’re happy. Thank you for writing this.
    Emma [moderator]

  • Dan Glass moderator author
    2 months ago

    You’re right about that warm feeling. At least we have our written voices, though you’re definitely right. Speech will be a big 1. My big fears are creativity and research ability.

  • Packerbacker64
    2 months ago

    Amen brother. As a historically “happy go lucky”/“heart on my sleeve” guy, I get more comments about my missing smile than the shaking hand. Diagnosed at 54 years young, most people don’t put the 2 together unless I tell them about the PD. I now cherish the photos with the old smiling me.

  • Dan Glass moderator author
    2 months ago

    Well said. Keep letting your inner smile show. Never stop enjoying life and educating others.

  • Poll