This year the National MS Society developed its first nationwide wellness program – Everyday Matters
. “This program, based on positive psychology principles, has proven to have life-changing impact and we are eager to make it available to everyone affected by MS, no matter where they live,” says Society President and CEO, Cyndi Zagieboylo.
The Society believes that wellness is a lifelong journey through which people become aware of and make positive choices about their behaviors, lifestyle and activities so they can live their best lives. Through Everyday Matters, participants increase their knowledge of positive psychology principles and receive support to develop personalized, concrete plans for implementing these principles and for achieving greater life satisfaction. While other branches of psychology tend to focus on abnormal behavior, positive psychology is centered on helping people thrive and become happier.
The Society originally piloted Everyday Matters as a five-week, in-person program in 17 locations with over 250 participants. Upon completion of the program, participants reported significant improvements in life satisfaction, confidence with MS symptom management, and improved outlook. Research shows these improvements, which were sustained in a twelve-month follow-up survey, to be strongly correlated with improved mental health and quality of life.
As one participant reported, “Everyday Matters provided me with real-life strategies I can use to handle problems, not only dealing with MS, but in life.”
Sallie and her husband Jeff during an
Everyday Matters program
Through Everyday Matters, participants learn to take practical steps toward happiness, achieving a life goal – making a breakthrough. People like Sallie, a young grade school teacher, overwhelmed by MS, who said, heartbreakingly, that she felt that she “didn’t have a future.” She didn’t know how to live her best life.
Through learning and connecting with others in the Everyday Matters program, Sallie now has a path forward. She’s more confident in her career, happier, less fearful and she has tools to develop a plan to achieve her goals, her best life.
Sallie has also developed a support network. “To me, the critical part was knowing that there are other people facing the very same situation I am facing today. Everyone is there to support you and they want you to succeed. All I have to do is ask for help.”
With the overwhelmingly positive results of the pilot, the Society strives to make the program available to everyone affected by MS. Through the anticipated support of forward-thinking donors in 2017, the Society plans to host 50 one day, in-person programs in addition to launching an online version.
Initial results from the nationwide expansion support the positive impact demonstrated in the pilot: 95% of participants said that the program prepared them to accomplish goals to live their best lives; and 71% reported increased happiness with less fatigue, less pain, and better sleep among many other benefits.