Want to Slow Down Your ALS? Try Smiling!

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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What does smiling have to do with ALS? Or happiness, contentment, or feeling positive? These expressions of our sense of well-being are important to those of us living with ALS.

According to a study of 224 ALS patients, participants who had good emotional well-being experienced a slower progression of their disease.

I know, I know. The words “emotional well-being” and “ALS” don’t usually show up in the same sentence. And we don’t often read about things we can do to slow the progression of our ALS symptoms. This IS big news.

What is well-being?

My professional career included nearly 30 years of running a hospital-based wellness center. In 2010, when I was diagnosed with ALS, I intuitively tapped into the wellness principles I had taught others and applied them to my new situation.

I began with managing my stress by practicing mindfulness, meditating, reading motivational books, and starting each day with a positive mantra. I scrutinized my meals, increasing healthy foods and nutrients that would help maintain my energy.

I continue to exercise daily, but have made changes in what I do and the time of day I do it. Add in quality sleep, proper medication, and finding a new life purpose. All contributed to my sense of well-being.

Nine years later, I feel validated by a study that shows I was on the right track. I’m also motivated to help you learn how to boost your own emotional well-being.

How to improve your well-being

I invite you to read through my past columns. A few to begin with are:

In addition, these habits have been shown to manage ALS symptoms and improve quality of life:

  • Follow your doctor’s advice: Take the recommended medications.
  • Attend an ALS clinic: Ask questions and follow the advice offered by the medical team.
  • Use assistive devices: Look ahead to what devices might be helpful.
  • Stay informed: Learn about medical advances by keeping in touch with online ALS groups, and attend an ALS support group.
  • Discuss concerns and options: Be open to the advice and suggestions of your caregiver, family, and friends.

Happiness, contentment, and feeling positive contribute to our well-being. I know I’ll keep smiling. It might slow things down and give me more time to live well while living with ALS.


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.




This is what I do, we have to stay positive!

James Warren avatar

James Warren

My mother was extremely positive. Always smiling. Always laughing. Always having fun. She lived 333 days after she was diagnosed. Nice try though...

john r mcglade avatar

john r mcglade

Hi Dagmar, like your articles and I suspected this article reinforces my own case and is indicative of my life long propensity as always a glass half full person. Actually I don't need your article today because I'm already there and have been for years! (I blame my mother!) However my ALS (MND) helped this attitude come to the surface because of my bulbar effect. I have to take medication to partially suppress my default position of laughter. Still, I notice in my MND social group many people take it hard and need this sort of advice. Whereas, from my first diagnosis I first thought, how interesting and realised I could now concentrate on my REAL work (I'm a professional artist and poet) and won't be expected to do "man jobs" all the time. I will attach below a form I carry with me to fill people in that I'm not mentally deficient even though I can't walk or talk.I'm too busy every day to ever worry about my MND. I take the attitude, nature wll do as it pleases, I can't and won't fight it, but, in the meantime, I don't intend going anywhere! My blog is
Cheers, john

(MND> Motor Neuron Disease and can’t talk or walk but still think sometimes after dark)
SHORT BIO> I have a PhD in Architecture applying my fine art to architecture, have a Masters degree in Design, a degree in sculpture, studied and taught Industrial Design, was accepted into postgraduate studies at Slade School at London University, I am a published and award winning poet but can’t remember any, I write every day, was a lecturer at various universities in fine art and design, I am a sculptor, painter, photographer, conceptual artist, life drawing teacher and flew hang gliders for ten years (Crashed a few times), built custom motorcycles and rode with a few scruffy blokes, worked in car design as a clay sculptor and co-set up a course of the same at RMIT, married in Paris, divorced because I wasn’t famous, was a single father of 3 kids in a bloody hot and freezing shearing shed, lived in my truck on a mountain for a while, have very good parents and now have a wonderful partner smarter than me, I am a welder, blacksmith, ceramicist in slip casting and plaster turner, composed electronic music in the 70’s, had a design and fabrication business in Melbourne, selling through exhibitions and on commission, worked in photo-processing in very dark rooms, at 13 I made and sold photo enlargers, made and installed crystal sets in 1950’s, delivered for a florist but met too many dangerous women in nightwear, worked in hardware stores and fiberglass fabrication, (Poisoned my Grandmother once with resin) like reading philosophy and formally studied it for a while, I buy too many books, have repaired too many cars, (Including Citroens and tractors) worked for auto/industrial electrician in Tasmania (Tend to do my own wiring, have been electrocuted a few times and constantly blew fuses in my parent’s home), have built and renovated too many houses and sheds, designed and made too many shop fittings, lighting and furniture, have carried out the dead as a hospital orderly, cleaned too many toilets, done fencing and farm work, can fix most things, owned a few properties, lost one of 115 acres in a bushfire at Clunes in 84, done a lot of therapy prompted by women, have been shot at, been threatened with knives, fallen from the sky, nearly drowned at sea, crashed motorcycles, fell in the fields Normandy, fell out of train in Paris, rode motorcycles around London, Bali and Tassie, usually barrack for Collingwood, bumped into Miro a few times in a basement in Paris in 1980 but didn’t realize who he was, For now, I suspect I am an agnostic, humanist, existentialist, Jungian, pantheist, romantic modulated by Christian ethics and skepticism, have had a good life so far, I enjoy roast dinners, Tiger Moth planes, sex and the sound of Harley Davidsons, like the rain and the night, don’t need much sleep, take drugs to suppress my laughter, lived and worked in Paris, exhibited in Melbourne, Paris, China and Korea, wandered Ireland, England and Scotland, my grandfather was feared by the writer James Joyce as portrayed in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, I grew up in country Gippsland, milked a few cows, can’t abide sheep or third wave feminists, my Wordpress Blog is banned in China, I am generally an insufferable fool because I am so full of myself and it’s lucky for you that I can no longer talk the leg off your chair.
(Dr.) John Ross McGlade.

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Thank you Dr. McGlade - - and congratulations on maintaining your excellent well-being! You also have a very impressive life resume' - - may you have many more years ahead!

Susan Smith avatar

Susan Smith

I am/was a high school guidance counselor. About 25 years ago, some student, somewhere, sent a college essay out that is similar to this, however that student said, at the end, "however, I have not yet been to college." It made the rounds of our professional organization to lots of hoots and hollers and was so darn cute. I expected a similar ending to yours!
Thanks for being so positive and reflective of your life. Glad you have a partner with whom to share this next adventure, as I'm sure it won't make the top ten! Good luck - we all need it!

Ben avatar


Thank you for your article and your contribution.
Sometimes being younger like in your early 30s and being diagnose with ALS is even harder to stay positive or happy when your that young and diagnose with a death sentence. The best time of your life, the time to have a family and kids, the time to have strength and energy, the time for life.. And then ALS happens.
We need more progress in medicine and treatments. Such a waste to go out like this, I don't need a self driving Tesla or a new IPhone, Please come out with new treatments for ALS

Sheila avatar


Well said Ben, I agree one hundred percent! Where are their priorities?

merra avatar


Thank Dagmar!
You are an encouragement for many of us
I am in my 13th year with such a trouble disease and have only one chose... stay positive as much as I can
love, joy, and peace to all of out there

be positive


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