Everyday Matters - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Inspirational journeys

Everyone has their own idea of their best life. For people living with multiple sclerosis, the idea of that “best life” can change due to the challenges of having a chronic, unpredictable and lifelong disease. The National MS Society’s Everyday Matters, supported by Genzyme, a Sanofi company, was an interactive national project that uncovered stories of real people facing the everyday challenges that MS can bring on the path to one’s best life.

Chapter 1

The Journey

From personal story submissions, five individuals were selected to be supported by the Everyday Matters team: author of The Happiness Advantage and positive psychology expert Shawn Achor, life coach Michelle Clos, and award-winning video producer Kristen Adams. These individuals represented top-rated topics as voted on by the community, including Brenda (Relationships), Connie (Empowerment), Elizabeth (Wellness), Jim (Family) and Sallie (Work and Education).

Resources

In addition to providing a platform that shared the stories of five participants with MS, the project provided participants and the greater MS community with connections, and access to experts and tools, which they put to use in their own lives — including the development and launch of an in-person workshop curriculum and a self-help group meeting-in-a-box toolkit. The Everyday Matters self-help group toolkit was designed to be a two-part meeting.

  1. The first meeting is about laying the groundwork with a discussion of the findings and tenets of positive psychology — the why.
  2. The second meeting is a deeper dive into the principles themselves — the how — when group members to share how they are or will apply the principles to live their best life with MS. 

View the Facilitator Guide (.pdf), Participant Workbook (.pdf) and follow along in the videos below.

Chapter 2

The Happiness Advantage

  • It is a misconception that success breeds happiness.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Waiting to be happy limits our potential for success.
  • There is no single meaning for happiness. Happiness is relative to the person experiencing it. It’s based on how we each feel about our own lives.
Chapter 3

Social Investment

  • A common mistake: at the time when we need one another most, we let go of our most valuable resource: social support.
  • The most successful people take the exact opposite approach. Instead of turning inward they hold on tighter to their social support.
  • MS can be isolating. It is important to make sure that doesn’t happen.
  • Research shows connections are core to happiness (for coping, friendship and support).
  • Social relationships are the greatest single investment we can make.
Chapter 4

The Fulcrum & the Lever

  • We can’t change reality through sheer force of will alone. We can use our brain to change how we process (think about/react to) the world and that in turn changes how we react to it.
  • Our brains are organized to act on what we predict will happen; you get what you perceive.
  • The fulcrum = mindset = center point. By shifting this center point we can change our perceptions and, therefore, the outcomes.
  • This is the time to call upon your strengths to help move the fulcrum.
Chapter 5

The Tetris Effect

  • Ever played Tetris for a while?  When you’re done, you see shapes everywhere? Why is this? (Note to facilitator: you or a group member may need to explain what the Tetris video game is.)
  • Our brains easily get stuck in repetitious patterns of viewing the world. So when we are always looking for the negative, we get the negative.
  • Think of those “Yes, but…” people you know – they always focus on what won’t work even when presented with positive, viable options.
  • We need to retrain our brain to scan for good things.
  • Instead of creating a pattern that looks for negatives and blocks success, flip the switch and scan the world for opportunities and ideas that allow success to grow.
  • When our brains scan for and focus on the positive, we benefit from three of the most important tools available to us: Happiness  the more your focus on the things that make you happy, the better you feel; Gratitude  the more opportunities for positivity we see, the more grateful we become; Optimism  The more the brain picks up on the positive, the more we expect it will continue.
Chapter 6

Falling Up

  • The human spirit is more resilient than we realize.
  • For many of us we need to go down before we go up, and rebound from negative events.
  • Challenges and setbacks are opportunities for growth (we can use them to our advantage)– all comes down to what we make of the situation.
  • Traumatic experiences can lead to positive growth.
  • Define yourself by what you can make out of what has happened; do not define personal happiness by it.
  • Positive growth can take many forms: An increase in spirituality, An increase in compassion for others, openness.
Chapter 7

The Zorro Circle

  • Often we are very lofty and grand in making goals – I will lose 25 pounds in one month, I will read the great novels over the next six months, etc.– think New Year’s resolutions.
  • The vastness of the goal can be paralyzing, but by chunking out the big, overall goal into smaller, supportive goals, it becomes easier to reach the overall goal. This is kind of manageable goal-setting is ultimately more successful and empowering.
  • Feeling more in control is one of the strongest drivers of well-being and performance.
  • Setting smaller, more manageable goals helps us build our confidence, celebrate our forward progress and keep us committed to the task at hand.
  • Small successes can add up to major achievements. All it takes is drawing that first circle in the sand.
Chapter 8

The 20-Second Rule

  • Lowering the barrier to change (aka the activation energy) by just 20 seconds is all it takes to begin a new habit.
  • The more we lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump start positive change, particularly given the energy demands of MS and common symptom of fatigue.
  • The 20-Second Rule isn’t just about altering the time it takes to do things. Limiting the choices we have to make also helps lower the barrier to positive change.
  • The less energy it takes to kick start a positive habit, the more likely the habit will stick.
  • It takes 21 days to form a habit (you don’t learn to juggle or play guitar overnight). So please be patient.

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