The Power of Gratitude in Eating Disorder Recovery
We often think of gratitude as something to practice around the holidays, especially around Thanksgiving, but gratitude isn’t just for the holiday season; a gratitude practice has the power to greatly impact our lives every day of the year.
My eating disorder made it difficult for me to fully engage with my values, which are: connecting with others, freedom, independence, and joy. This was because the daily battles of the disorder were all-consuming. In fact, the eating disorder made it difficult to experience anything positive in my life. I became extremely numb and disengaged from aspects of life that once brought me joy. I spent most of my early 20s in a place where meaningful experiences were lost — often drowned in the background noise of my eating disorder.
The benefits of a gratitude practice in recovery
I believe that, for those suffering from eating disorders, gratitude can be easily overshadowed by the many daily battles the eating disorder brings — distancing individuals from feeling grateful for those they love and for experiences in life that truly matter.
Luckily, I learned the power of gratitude in eating disorder recovery and the transformative qualities gratitude has in a person’s life.
Gratitude had the power to turn darkness into light and allowed me to become more optimistic about my recovery. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present and cultivate positive emotions in moments of daily living.
Try these 3 simple steps to create your gratitude practice
If you are currently in an all-consuming battle with your eating disorder, practicing gratitude is a great way to bring back some joy and connect you back to what you find meaningful in your life.
If you’re not sure how to begin, here are a few steps to guide you:
1. Identify your values
Identifying values can seem like a daunting task while in eating disorder recovery; especially because the eating disorder has the potential to replace what truly matters to you. Think about what matters to you outside of the eating disorder and deep in your heart. What do you want to do with your time on the planet? What sort of person do you want to be apart from the eating disorder? What personal strengths or qualities do you want to be remembered for? Consider journaling or another creative way to help you identify your values. Values are like a compass. They help you stay on track in the direction you want to go. Acting according to your values and being connected to what truly feeds your soul will lead you towards experiencing more gratitude.
2. Make a gratitude list
Eating disorder recovery comes with days of struggle and challenges. Gratitude has the potential to put our situations into perspective. From time to time, take a moment to write down a list of things you are grateful for even in the midst of daily challenges. Reflect on things that you may be grateful for such as family and friends, the warmth from the sun, laughter, your support team, etc. After completing the list, keep it close by to reflect on during the difficult days.
3. Focus on positive affirmations
Those struggling with eating disorders or in the midst of the recovery process often experience a flood of negative thoughts and feelings toward themselves. Proclaiming positive affirmations about and to yourself has the power to transform how you perceive and treat yourself and others and will ultimately lead to more gratitude in one’s life. If finding something positive about yourself seems like an impossible task at the current moment in your process, start by asking a close friend or family member to help you identify parts of yourself to celebrate and feel good about.
Through the recovery process I have learned that practicing gratitude was the antidote to the overshadowing isolation I felt within the vicious cycle of an eating disorder.
The power of gratitude in eating disorder recovery was that it helped me find my joy again — in more profound ways than I had experienced even before the eating disorder took hold of me. I learned that gratitude was a way of overcoming numbness, the key that unlocked more joy, and a tool that paved the way to full recovery. With a little bit of gratitude, I believe you, too, can experience the fullness of life that can be found in recovery.
~Written with gratitude by an ERC alum