How to Be Happy Living With Multiple Sclerosis

Find some joy in every day, despite living with MS

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Living with MS is ripe with challenges and difficulties, but you can be happy. Happiness is a choice, after all, and being happy doesn't mean you're happy that you have MS. Far from it, actually. It means that you're maximizing on what you have and trying to get the most enjoyment out of each day, which is something that you should be proud of.

Here are some tips for becoming a more happy, joyful person, even while living with MS.

Have Your “Happy Place”

Ask yourself some questions: What really makes you happy? Your children? Your dog? Writing poetry? Cooking Indian dinners? Where do you find joy?

Keep two or three of these thoughts in your back pocket  or on your phone to pull out and reflect upon when you are feeling less than wonderful. Expressing gratitude for the people and things you love and enjoy has a multitude of scientifically-proven benefits, including improving your physical and emotion well-being.

Acknowledge When Things Are Bad

If you have MS, there will be times when you feel pretty terrible and find it difficult to locate happiness in your life. Sometimes the best thing to do is to allow yourself to feel sad or angry. Don’t try to force happiness if there is no realistic chance of feeling anything but bad. It will only make you feel frustrated or even in despair of ever feeling happy again in the future.

Overcome these challenging situations by reminding yourself that these bad feelings are temporary, rather than giving in to the negative thoughts that say this is the way life will be forever.

Recognize When You Are Happy

This is even more important than acknowledging when things are bad. Many of us are so busy with life’s little hassles that we don’t stop to think about the good things.

Constantly battling MS symptoms can eat up so much of your time that even when you do get a break, you may forget to think about the positive things that you have in your life. Even worse: when your symptoms are less severe, you might spend much of the time worrying about when they'll return.

Check in with yourself a couple of times a day and see if you can identify times that you can actually say that you are happy. Spend some time thinking about the wonderful things that you have when you get a chance.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It's never really helpful when people tell you things like, "You're lucky. Other people have it so much worse than you. Think about them when you're feeling bad and you'll realize that things are actually pretty good in your life." If you were really that lucky, you wouldn't have MS at all.

Yes, it's important to acknowledge that other people with MS may have it far worse than you do in terms of disability. But how is this comparison supposed to make you feel better?

It might end up making you feel terrible for the people who do have it worse, or guilty that you're better off.

There are going to be times when all you want to do is wallow in self-pity and despair, but don't allow yourself to go down the dreaded path of comparing your life to the lives of people that don't have MS. Suffering is all around us, whether we see it or not, and the level of someone’s disability is but a sliver of their whole picture.

We are all part of the human picture, and ranking our conditions or emotions based on what is happening to other people in the world is not useful. Strive to look within yourself to find the happiness there, even if sometimes it seems to be buried pretty deeply.

Sources:

Bussing, Ardnt, et. al. Experience of gratitude, awe and beauty in life among patients with multiple sclerosis and psychiatric disorders. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2014.

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