The Importance of Gratitude in Eating Disorder Recovery
The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude can be a powerful thing. Eating disorders can be isolating, robbing those suffering from them from enjoying, engaging with and appreciating life. Eating disorders can serve as a coping mechanism for overwhelming circumstances or emotions, but can also lead to disengagement, numbness and apathy towards life.
What an eating disorder takes from your life can be taken back through practicing gratitude. Giving thanks and incorporating gratitude in life can give you the strength to overcome not just an eating disorder, but also other challenges that life throws your way. Here are five ways to practice gratitude in your daily life.
Appreciate Your Loved Ones
Most people don’t go through recovery alone. Acknowledge the role other people have played in your life, those that have supported you, inspired you, taught you and helped you heal. You can show gratitude for those in your life with a simple thank you, a letter or a phone call.
Sometimes gratitude needs no words, but is felt in a hug, a smile or simple acts of kindness. Actively appreciate the time you’re able to spend with them, cherish your experiences together, be present with them and enjoy their company, conversation and laughter. Make a commitment to support them, inspire them, teach them or help them when they need it.
Start Gratitude Journaling
Having physical reminders of what you’re thankful for, like in a gratitude journal, can be helpful when you struggle to stay steadfast in recovery. Recovery is not linear, and there will be many times where recovery will be difficult, frustrating or feel impossible. Make a list of things you’re grateful for and reflect on it when you need extra inspiration. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, here are a few places to start:
- Loved ones
There is also growing research on gratitude in psychology and people report improved sleep, stress, depression and interpersonal relationships when journaling.
Give Thanks by Giving Back
Another way to express gratitude is to give back to others in your community. When you’re able to use your time and resources to help others, you become increasingly mindful of your own life, the impact you have and the people you affect. In this way, gratitude allows you to appreciate what you have so deeply that it creates a desire to give that to others – whether that is food, shelter, support or opportunity. There are many ways to give back to your community:
- Participating in community clean-ups
- Distributing necessities to the homeless
- Volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter
- Donating toys for children in need
- Participating in community-based mentorship programs
- Donating money to local charities
Use Positive Affirmations
When you are battling an eating disorder day after day, you are likely burdened with a weight of negativity about yourself. Being able to practice gratitude begins with transforming how you perceive and treat yourself. Start by focusing on one thing that you like or appreciate about yourself and turn this into a positive affirmation. If you are having a difficult time finding something about yourself that you like, talk to a loved one or close friend who can help you identify things you can celebrate!
- “I am becoming my best version of myself.”
- “Who I was does not define who I am.”
- “I am not perfect and that’s okay.”
There are also body neutral affirmations you can use:
- “I am grateful to have a body.”
- “I will respect my body.”
- “I appreciate my body and what it does for me.”
Change Your Outlook
Changing your outlook can help you remain positive, cope with life’s difficulties and combat cognitive distortions. It’s very easy, especially with the use of social media, to compare yourself to others and hyperfocus on what you lack. Remind yourself of what you have and what you’re grateful for and choose to focus your attention there. It’s also important to try and change your perspective when met with challenges. Viewing obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn can help you remain positive and productive. Here are some examples:
- “I can’t do this.” ➔ “I can do this, but I just need a moment to prepare.”
- “This is too difficult.” ➔ “I’m having a hard time, but I’m learning and growing.”
- “I’m a failure.” ➔ “I made a mistake, but now I know what to do differently next time.”
Gratitude is one tool of many in your recovery arsenal. Practicing gratitude can change your perspective and remind you of the support system, progress you've made and what you value, which can inspire you to sustain your recovery. Remember what you value and how recovery allows you to live true to yourself — that's something to be truly grateful for.