All my life, I thought I was in excellent health and pretty much bulletproof.
Which made it all the more shocking when, in the summer of 2009, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, I could barely walk around the block and had to pull myself by the banister to get upstairs to my bedroom.
Later that year, my brain started feeling like a wet sponge inside my skull.
The work I was doing as an executive coach and speaker seemed like it might come to a full stop. I was losing thoughts and words. I was afraid to go see clients because I wasn’t making sense to myself.
For most of 2010, I was in a trial for a new MS drug that, while it works for lots of people, almost caused my liver to fail.
That was when my wife, Diane, encouraged me to take a different approach to my health through mindfulness techniques.
My Journey With Yoga and Mindfulness
The mindfulness alternative began for me when I went to my first yoga class. I was apprehensive about attending, because I didn’t know if my body could take it.
The teacher reassured me that yoga could actually help. She told me, “If you come here three times a week, it will change your body. If you come here more than three times a week, it will change your life.”
Related: 9 (Of Many) Amazing Benefits Of Yoga
She was right. I started taking yoga four or five days a week, and it changed both my body and my life.
Four years later, I’ve written my second book and regularly travel around the country and world coaching leaders and giving speeches. I do yoga almost every day, regularly perform handstands and arm balances, and have completed a 200-hour training course last year, making me a Registered Yoga Teacher.
Getting here has been a step-by-step process of learning by doing.
Here are seven mindful routines that are helping me beat MS and love life.
How To Use Mindfulness To Better Your Life
Because of its positive impact on all of the body’s systems—especially the central nervous system—yoga is the perfect routine to help beat MS.
Practicing almost every day keeps me strong, flexible, and balanced (in more ways than one). It helps me to always be mindful of my body, my breathing, and my posture.
2. Eating mindfully
Like a lot of chronic illnesses, MS is a disease of the autoimmune system. If it’s inflamed, the MS flares.
Being mindful about what I eat – whole, natural and gluten free foods – helps me keep my autoimmune system calm and steady.
3. Sleeping well
Having MS has taught me that I need seven good hours of sleep a night. If I get it, I feel good the next day. If I don’t get it, I feel fuzzy, slow and stiff.
One of the mindfulness techniques I’ve tried that has helped me get a good night’s sleep is keeping my iPad out of the bedroom. The blue light from the screen can disrupt your sleep pattern. Once I quit reading it in bed, I started sleeping better.
When I learned a couple of years ago about research that shows that regular mindfulness meditation keeps your chromosomes healthy, I thought, “As someone with MS, why wouldn’t I meditate every day?!”
Since then, I’ve worked my way up to 30 minutes of breathing based meditation several times a week and, on days when appointments start early, 10 to 15 minutes. I can’t believe how much more clear my thought process is, how much more focused I am and how much better I feel.
When you have a chronic disease like MS, it’s incredibly important to manage your stress level.
One of the best mindfulness techniques that has helped me calm down is to connecting with family, friends, clients, and people I meet during the day. Slowing down and really listening has been a great way to do that.
I’ve been an off-and-on journal keeper for years. Over the past few years, I’ve become more consistent with it.
It’s a great place to reflect on what’s going on in my life – seemingly good, or seemingly bad. One of the biggest benefits of journaling for me is occasionally going back and reading what I was writing about a few months or years ago.
It’s a fabulous record of how no situation or condition is permanent. Everything changes. That’s an important thing to be mindful of when you have MS—or really, anything else going on in your life that feels scary.
If MS has taught me anything, it’s to be grateful for all that I can do and how that manifests in my life.
Sure, I have moments, hours, or days when I don’t feel fantastic, but there is so much in my life to be grateful for.
That’s probably true for anyone: no matter what’s going on in your life, there are always things to be grateful for.
A question that I ask myself regularly that might work for you too is: “What’s going right?”
You don’t need to have a chronic illness to benefit from these kind of mindfulness techniques, but what if you lived your life as if you did?
You’d probably pay more attention to what works for you and what doesn’t, and you’d be more intentional about following through on the routines that do. Why wait to try some new mindful routines that can help you love life even more?
Scott Eblin is an executive coach, speaker, and author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.
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