Staying Happy With MS?
Can you find happiness while living with multiple sclerosis? According to members of our Facebook community, the answer is yes. As someone who has never been naturally happy, I didn't expect MS to change that. However, when I was a nurse, I noticed that many MS patients seemed happier than expected. Some co-workers theorized that this positivity was a symptom of the disease, but I now believe we were mistaken.
Personally, MS hasn't made me happy, although there have been some advantages, as I mentioned in my previous article. While happiness may not be the most important thing in life, it is still better to be happy than miserable when everything else is equal. Studies have shown that happier people are healthier and experience less inflammation, which is significant for those with MS. Additionally, happiness positively affects those around us, leading to more support and less loneliness.
To explore the topic of happiness further, I asked our MS Facebook community for their thoughts. I posted a question asking if they were happy and if MS had changed their happiness. The post received numerous fascinating replies, some of which I will share with you.
The responses varied widely, with some expressing how MS had taken away their happiness, while others claimed to experience happiness every day. Many individuals shared their strategies for increasing happiness. There were also strings of short, unhappy comments where some described feeling like prisoners of their own bodies.
However, despite the initial blow of MS, many individuals have managed to find happiness again. They choose to be happy, even though they have down moments. Gratitude seemed to be a common theme among these individuals, and it aligns with my belief that 80% of happiness stems from gratitude. Finding things to be grateful for, such as still being able to work, having supportive friends and family, and maintaining one's health, provides a foundation for happiness.
Others described their efforts to stay positive despite the impact of MS. By taking control over their disease, becoming more self-aware, and facing challenges head-on, these individuals have become happier. They acknowledged that their happiness may look different from others', but they are grateful for every positive aspect of their lives.
Most people with MS experience a mix of happy and sad moments. While some individuals reported feeling overall happy, they also grieved the loss of their previous abilities. Others found strength, determination, and appreciation for their bodies through their journey with MS. The severity of MS symptoms and the quality of relationships seemed to be important factors influencing happiness.
Coping with physical losses can limit one's happiness. Some individuals felt that MS had made them grumpier or taken away the activities and passions they loved. However, focusing on what can still be done and maintaining hope for improvement played a role in their pursuit of happiness.
Having a sense of control over their bodies or the disease itself also affected individuals' happiness. Taking back control and finding support through faith or relationships helped them maintain a positive outlook. Helping others and making a conscious choice to be happy were also mentioned as sources of happiness.
Lastly, there were a few individuals who were extremely happy despite their MS. They recognized the difficulties but chose to approach life positively and with resilience. Happiness was seen as a day-to-day choice, and they emphasized the importance of seizing the present and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
In conclusion, contemplating happiness and its causes, barriers, and impact has been beneficial for me. I have come to understand that there is a distinction between happiness and joy. I cannot be happy all the time, especially in light of challenges faced by myself and loved ones. However, by maintaining a sense of balance, practicing gratitude, and finding inner peace, I can see the beauty in the world and appreciate the blessings in my life despite my damaged body.
Reading the comments of others and writing this article has taught me many lessons. It is important not to isolate oneself, to appreciate the blessings that remain, take time to grieve when necessary, prioritize self-care, be a good person, and truly savor the moments of happiness that come our way. I hope that you, too, will experience happy times in your own journey.
If you would like to connect with others living with multiple sclerosis, I invite you to join our MS Facebook Support Group.