Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence


Quick Links

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My healthevet badge

Living Your Best Life with Multiple Sclerosis

Debra Frankel, MS, OTR (National MS Society) and Deborah Hertz, MPH (National MS Society)

People with MS want to know what they can do today to feel their best, and if lifestyle interventions such as diet, stress-management, and physical activity, have any benefits in reducing the impact of the disease. Over the years the concept of health has evolved to include a dynamic sense of well-being across multiple dimensions of life, and not just the absence of disease.

Wellness is attainable for everyone, even when living with a chronic illness. Achieving health and wellness is a lifelong process in which people make intentional choices, set personal priorities, and engage in health-promoting activities. Intentional choices include choosing the foods you eat, choosing whether to smoke, choosing to spend time with friends and family, choosing to engage in physical activity, devoting time to intellectual stimulation, and more.

Making healthy choices that promote satisfaction in the various dimensions of wellness can help you attain a sense of well-being and life satisfaction. Here is what we mean by the ‘dimensions of wellness’:

Physical: Making positive lifestyle choices about regular physical activity/exercise (such as walking, swimming, and yoga) geared to one’s abilities, healthy eating, MS care and primary care, and preventive health behaviors (including smoking cessation, limited alcohol use, and attention to personal safety).

Social: Developing positive, healthy relationships that nurture interconnectedness with family, friends, and community.

Emotional: Developing coping strategies to enhance problem solving, manage stress, foster a positive outlook, and develop resilience in the face of unpredictable changes, while paying attention to mood changes, including depression and anxiety, that may require treatment.

Occupational: Engaging in meaningful and rewarding activities that promote a sense of purpose and accomplishment, including opportunities to contribute one’s unique skills, talents, and knowledge to others at home, at work, or in the community.

Spiritual: Developing a world view that provides a sense of peace and harmony, and enables one to cope and adapt throughout life - with the ultimate goal of finding meaning and purpose in the face of one’s personal challenges.

Intellectual: Engaging in mentally stimulating and challenging activities that lead to personal growth, enhanced creativity, and new learning.

As people manage their MS, they want to understand the role of conventional medicine, including disease-modifying therapies and symptom management medications, as well as how they can integrate lifestyle interventions and complementary approaches to maximize their well-being. They may wonder about the impact of a specific diet or exercise regime on MS or about the potential benefit (or harm) of other approaches like vitamin supplements, probiotics, or acupuncture. Many have felt frustrated by a lack of support from health care professionals, who say there is not sufficient scientific evidence to provide guidance, or who may not have the time or expertise to discuss it with their patients.

While many things may feel beyond one’s control when living with an unpredictable and chronic disease like MS, exerting control over your personal lifestyle behaviors can help alleviate feelings of helplessness. Setting your own personal wellness objectives and discussing them with your health care providers are the first steps to maximizing your well-being, even in the context of MS. Some tips for incorporating wellness behaviors into everyday life include:

  • Make time to relax every day, even if only for 10-15 minutes - listen to music, meditate, listen to a guided relaxation on CD
  • Consider making a small healthy change to your diet - replace dessert with a piece of fruit twice per week, use whole grain flour when baking
  • Explore how yoga, tai chi, or another physical activity can be modified for your level of ability and interest
  • Make a plan to enjoy time with friends or family at least once per month - watch a movie together, enjoy a meal together, take a walk together
  • Listen to a book on tape, attend a lecture, take an online course, visit the museum - stimulate your curiosity and enhance your intellectual well-being

Resources about wellness and MS, including information about diets that have been proposed for MS, exercise and physical activity, mindfulness, and other strategies can be found at additional information about MS, please contact the National MS Society at (800) FIGHT-MS.

Disclaimer: Links are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by MSCoE of any of the products, services, or opinions of the organization. MSCoE bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.