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Tips for creating a more joy-filled life while living with multiple sclerosis

(BPT) – Sustaining everyday happiness can be a challenge for anyone, and people with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) may find it especially difficult to maintain a positive attitude. “I have heard from people living with chronic conditions such as MS that happiness can often feel difficult to achieve every day. So why can’t we work toward creating a relationship for MS and happiness?” says happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times best-seller “The Happiness Project” and most recently “Better Than Before,” about how to make lasting change to your habits.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe, ranging from numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision.

“People have varying definitions of ‘happiness,’ but most people agree they could feel happier in their lives,” says Gretchen, program ambassador for Biogen’s MS Blueprint, a creative and unique website designed to help the approximately 400,000 Americans living with MS, as well as their friends and families, achieve a more enjoyable life. “Creating a more joyous life starts with understanding what makes you happy and then making choices that help you fill your life with those happiness-inspiring things.”

For people coping with MS, addressing your challenging circumstances, focusing on what brings you joy, and living in the present can help create a happier life, she adds. Start by considering the things that bring you happiness—perhaps it’s spending time with loved ones, volunteering to help others, or engaging in a favorite sport. Once you’ve identified your sources of happiness, craft happiness goals. Write them down and be specific, review your goals constantly, and hold yourself accountable for making them happen, Gretchen advises.

People living with MS can find ideas, information, help, and inspiration on the MS Blueprint website, which was developed in partnership with the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN), Can Do MS, and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF). The site enables users to create personalized activity plans to help incorporate fun and happiness into their everyday routines. Users can download and print their plans for references or to share with loved ones.

The site encourages people living with MS to regularly set new goals and contribute their suggestions for themes and activities they would like to see added to the site. People can select activities tailored to what interests them from a variety of themes including Mind & Spirit, Community & Friendship, Travel & Leisure, as well as the user-suggestion-driven MS Community Suggestions theme. To further encourage people to branch out and try new activities, MS Blueprint features a rotating trending activities feature, which updates frequently to showcase the most popular activities that visitors chose. 

“Work toward happiness every day,” Gretchen advises. “I believe every small step is a victory toward living a more positive life.”

Gretchen offers tips to help people with MS and their loved ones get the most out of every day:

*Begin the day with meditation or breathing exercises.

*Keep your schedule and workload manageable, and prioritize each task.

*Maintain physical comfort. Make any necessary adjustments at work to ensure you’re comfortable throughout the day, such as moving your workstation closer to an air conditioner or restroom.

*Stick to a nutritious, balanced diet; set aside time for a 20- to 30-minute nap each day; and take a few minutes for light stretching several times throughout the day.

*Call on loved ones to help with daily chores that may be tiring, such as shopping, cleaning, or running errands.

“Everyone should have their own blueprint for happiness,” Gretchen says. “When you feel that every day you’re living is a reflection of how you really want it to be, that’s when you’ll feel happiest.”

To start your MS Blueprint, visit www.MSBlueprint.com.

Gretchen Rubin is a spokesperson for Biogen.

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