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The Power of Gratitude in Eating Disorder Recovery

Eating disorders are isolating diseases that can distance people from the experiences in life that truly matter.  Eating disorders typically serve as a coping mechanism for surviving overwhelming situations or painful emotions.  As an individual becomes engulfed in the snares of an eating disorder, they will typically become numb to emotions and disengaged from the circumstances in their lives, both good and bad.  The deeper a person becomes involved in their eating disorder, the more difficult it will be to experience the beautiful things that make life worth living.  Many of the joys in life can be overshadowed by the vicious cycle of an eating disorder.  The lies of an eating disorder can crush the ability to find or believe in anything positive, succumbing life to mere survival instead of flourishing.

If you or a loved one has suffered with an eating disorder, you can likely relate to the daily battles that are all-consuming.  It can be difficult to find anything to appreciate or feel grateful for when your mind is pre-occupied with thoughts about your body, weight, food, calories, and the other distractions.  Similarly, if you are struggling with low self-esteem, it can be challenging to appreciate things about yourself that you can celebrate freely.  These struggles related to eating disorders are a significant part as to why meaningful experiences are lost, often drowned in the background noise of eating disorders.

Gratitude is the key to overcoming the numbness to emotions that often results from having an eating disorder.  Choosing to have an attitude of gratefulness can actually alter your perception in life, allowing you to become a more positive person – one that is able to feel joy and experience true happiness.  What an eating disorder has robbed from your life, gratitude has the ability to give back in profound ways.  Simply giving thanks and incorporating gratitude in your life can give you the power you need to overcome your eating disorder, day by day.

What are practical ways to incorporate gratitude in your life?  Here are some suggestions to help you make practicing gratitude a daily ritual:

  • Make a gratitude list or journal:  Eating disorder recovery inevitably comes with days of struggle and pain.  Taking the time to compose a list of the things you are grateful for can be a powerful tool in transforming a bad day into something for which you are thankful.  Reflect on the things in your life that make you grateful, such as loved ones, shelter, health, even just life itself.  Keep a gratitude journal that you can reflect on when you are having difficult days.
  • Find gratitude for major challenges:  Challenges in life are often perceived as a bad thing, or a time for self-pity.  Transform the way you view obstacles you encounter by viewing them as learning opportunities or a chance to grow as an individual.  Having this mindset can set you free from negativity and transform you into a positive person who is able to make progress through any situation in life.
  • Practice looking at what you do have, not what you do not have:  With the widespread use of social media, it is far too easy to compare yourself to others and hyper-focus on the things that you may be lacking in your own life.  Remind yourself of the aspects of your life that you are grateful for and choose to focus on these instead.
  • Focus on 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 you 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!

In this season of Thanksgiving and throughout our lives, thankfulness will be one of the most influential keys to changing your life for the better.  Learning to practice gratitude can also be an effective means for overcoming your eating disorder, one day at a time, empowering you towards victory in your recovery journey.

 

Page Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 25, 2013
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com, Eating Disorder Resources for Treatment and Information 

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