Have you loved yourself today?
Because now there is scientific proof that loving yourself may actually help your multiple sclerosis (MS).
In a 2016 study, researchers concluded that the quality of intimate relationships was strongly associated with self-concept and illness acceptance.
This, they said, suggested that self-concept could be used to contribute to better outcomes for those with MS.
While self-concept, the knowledge one has about themselves, is different than self-esteem, the overall attitude one takes toward themselves can benefit those with MS.
One way to improve both self-esteem and self-concept is to shower yourself with love.
Literally tell yourself how awesome you are, over and over, in a loving, positive way.
In a study that covered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Syrian refugees, patients with MS saw that self-esteem and satisfaction with life were significantly improved after the use of repetitive positive reinforcement.
In general, researchers in the PTSD study said Treatment by Repeating Phrases of Positive Thought, or TRPPT, had a positive effect on people with MS with life factors such as stress and anxiety. TRPPT also shows significant success in helping decrease depressive symptoms.
By thinking positively, people who perceive stress as less threatening are able to cope with it more effectively, while people who think negatively do not expect things to go as planned and tend to anticipate bad outcomes.
In addition, TRPPT is free, has no side effects or limits, and is even accessible in places like war-torn Syria.
Helping people with MS
Strategies like TRPPT could benefit people with MS in particular because studies indicate there are high levels of depression among people with the disease.
One study looked at the first year after an MS diagnosis and the associated psychological impact. Many people with MS chose to avoid the illness, pretending they were not sick.
In addition, the study showed a high prevalence of depression. It also showed a reduction in quality of life as a result of lower self-concept and psychological well-being.
According to one study, there are two questions you need to ask to determine if you need a hug.
- During the past two weeks, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
- During the past two weeks, have you often been bothered by little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Answering “Yes” to one or both of these questions could signify some depression, a common and serious emotion that should be discussed with your doctor.
“When people struggle with physical discomfort, it’s not uncommon to experience feeling depressed or a lack of motivation. Especially with MS, when you don’t know exactly when the next flare-up will occur, it can be hard to keep your head up.” Jennifer Johnston-Jones, PhD, a psychologist in Southern California, told Healthline.
“Often people turn toward Band-Aid treatments such as medication or distractions such as overuse of television, social media, or not committing to the work they are meant to do. Instead, one can focus their efforts on strategies that increase their self-concept and self-worth which will naturally decrease depression.” Jones added. “Some of these strategies include: doing a daily gratitude journal, doing things a little out of your comfort zone, and sharing your vulnerability with others.”
Stress on relationships
Having MS can also affect your relationships — creating situations that may require people to seek professional help.
One program based in Colorado, Relationship Matters (RM), is a relationship enrichment program that integrates information and resources of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with marriage education.
The National MS Society has a variety of tips to help flame the romance.
One is to create rituals and traditions. Make it a habit to acknowledge and celebrate your relationship.
Another is to find ways to express caring and appreciation in your relationship every day. It could be as simple as a gentle stroke on the cheek.
Loving yourself can also help. Being positive can help traditional medicines work better due primarily to better adherence, while depression was associated with a lower likelihood of adherence.
MS takes a lot of self-management, according to a study at the University of Washington, and part of this is the ability to love oneself and to love others.
Editor’s Note: Caroline Craven is a patient expert living with MS. Her award winning blog is GirlwithMS.com, and she can be found @thegirlwithms.