Maintaining a positive attitude and strong interpersonal connections are important strategies for coping with the challenges of multiple sclerosis (MS). Research has shown that a positive outlook can contribute to mental health and a sense of thriving in life, and may improve physical health and longevity. Positive psychological health can benefit many aspects of life, including:
MS is a chronic disease that can cause pain and disability. However, MyMSTeam members frequently take a positive attitude toward the condition. “MS has made me stronger and determined to succeed,” said one member. “I try harder than ever to be the best at ALL I attempt! It's hard to stop determination and persistence!”
For many members, a positive mindset is a key part of managing MS. “I am a believer in being positive and in laughter. I make sure I have both every day, just like a drug,” a member wrote. Another member said, “I've been battling this for 26-plus years and found that when I keep focusing on the positives, I am able to handle this monster better.”
An Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness, and a daily practice of gratitude has been linked to improved emotional well-being and a reduction in stress. Stress is associated with an increase in flare-ups in MS, and reducing stress can help decrease disease activity.
A daily practice of gratitude may include taking a moment in the morning or before sleep to account for what you are thankful for. Some people keep a journal to record the things they are grateful for each day. “I feel great today. I am so blessed,” a MyMSTeam member wrote. “I have discovered that for me it is how I start my day, with prayer and a positive attitude.”
One MyMSTeam member described how gratitude helps him appreciate the simple pleasures of daily life. “The reason I post my gratitudes is to hold MYSELF accountable for realizing what's GOOD despite primary progressive multiple sclerosis: 1. I can look out the window here and see the amazingly beautiful fall colors. 2. I get to see my sweet baby granddaughter this week. 3. I have the best family (including my fur babies)!”
“Giving thanks for the small blessings can elevate your attitude, which raises your altitude!!!” wrote another member. That’s a tip that many other members have taken to heart. Frequently, MyMSTeam members express their gratitude for the things in their lives:
One member described her appreciation for the positivity she sees in other MyMSTeam members: “I see so many of you post how MS has affected you and how strong you all are. I’m grateful to see such positive attitudes.”
Finding Joy in Life
Like gratitude, joy, awe, and curiosity can have positive effects on feelings of well-being and help prevent downward mental health spirals. Joy is the ability to savor life’s pleasures and is associated with increased rates of happiness and self-esteem. Joy is also linked to decreased levels of negative emotions and depression, which is common among people with MS. As one member wrote, “MS can definitely be a sucker punch to your life. Don't let it steal your joy.”
For some people with MS, joy may be experienced in feeling free of symptoms. As one MyMSTeam member wrote, “I have no aches and pains. Although it is not sunny outside today, I feel like I am walking in the sunshine.”
Another member advises others with MS to face the condition head on. Sometimes it takes determination to find joy with MS, but it is worth the struggle even on bad days. “When it comes to MS, you can hold hands with it or run from it. I call it my shadow friend,” she explained. “I've been arguing a lot with it lately, as it wants one thing and I refuse to bend to its will. Hang tough and love life. It makes even the ickiest day beautiful.”
“Happiness is a habit and a choice,” echoed another member. “No matter what your situation, if you can approach it with an attitude of happiness, you will be more successful,” she said.
For some people with MS, feelings of isolation may seem like an obstacle to joy. One member urged others to find ways to enjoy time spent alone. “With this illness, sometimes people are not always around, so you definitely have to learn to enjoy your own company,” she said. “Make sure you do the things you enjoy.”
Talk to your doctor if you are struggling to find moments of joy and happiness. You may be experiencing symptoms of depression. Read more about depression and MS.
The Power of Connection
Social support through family, friends, and supportive communities is associated with improved quality of life for people with MS. A healthy social network is linked to a decrease in anxiety, higher satisfaction with life, and improved adaptation to the condition. Cultivating and maintaining meaningful relationships can be challenging for some people with MS because the condition can limit work and social activities. Diminished social relationships are common among people with MS.
“Many connections are lost to MS, but thanks to this site and others like it, new connections can be made,” wrote a MyMSTeam member. “What a great relief to have a place to blow off steam and know the people reading actually understand where you are really coming from.”
For many MyMSTeam members, support groups — whether online or in person — provide a sense of well-being and a place to make new friends. “Today was a good day. I had my MS support group,” said a member. “Seeing my friends always makes me feel better. We understand each other because we are all dealing with this disease.” As another member wrote, “Remarkably, our chronic illness introduces us to friends we would have never met before.”
For some members, connecting through MyMSTeam has become a vital part of their social support. “YOU ALL are my family. I never met any of you, but we are family, my MS family,” wrote one member. Another member said, “I’m grateful to find an online community to support me and encourage me. I will try to do the same.”
Support groups can be especially positive because they are about giving — as well as receiving — support, as many MyMSTeam members mention. “I learned that I'm not here for myself, I'm here for everyone around me,” a member said. “And without them it would be a very dark and miserable place to live.”
Another member reflected on the importance of giving positive reinforcement through support groups: “I take any opportunity to support others and encourage them or simply validate them.”
For others, close family members are at the core of their support networks. “Family can be so supportive and helpful,” a member wrote. “Thank the heavens for them. We can use all the help we can get.”
Stay Positive by Adapting To Change
MyMSTeam members offer each other advice for staying positive by adapting to the changes MS may bring. “Instead of work, I volunteer with different organizations, which keeps me busy,” wrote one member. “I can't hike or bike, but I can join a yoga class. You just have to do things differently.”
One member said adapting was the key to living with MS. “Adapt your work, your physical activity, your daily chores, your emotional attachments to what was. Adapt, adapt, adapt. You will be surprised just how strong you are. You got this.”
Join a Supportive Community
At MyMSTeam you can join a community of more than 160,000 people who are living with MS and finding ways to be positive. Share tips and experiences. Ask questions about staying positive and staying connected.
What do you do to stay positive? How do you stay connected with other people? Add a comment now, or go to MyMSTeam and start a new conversation.