The Importance of Gratitude in Eating Disorder Recovery

A woman sits outside at a table with a coffee journaling

Talking about gratitude is generally something we associate with the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, but gratitude can be useful all year round. For someone with an active eating disorder or in recovery from an eating disorder, the already-hectic holiday season can be even more challenging. Because Thanksgiving is centered around food, you might feel like you have no control; this is normal. Practicing self-care, self-acceptance, and gratitude are all great tools for coping with the stress of the holidays. In this article, we will cover the benefits of a gratitude practice in recovery, how to create your own practice, and how to apply that practice to the holiday season.

The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude in Recovery

With the fast-paced nature of Western culture, it can be hard to remember to slow down and easy to push wellness practices aside. Thankfully, wellnesses practices like meditation and gratitude are easy to start and work into your life. In addition to improving your health, happiness, and relationships, practicing gratitude can also promote lasting eating disorder recovery. If you are struggling with recovery, we invite you to write a list of reasons why you chose recovery and refer back to it for positive motivation. If you do relapse, gratitude can help you get back on track as well. 

How to Create Your Own Gratitude Practice

Creating your own gratitude practice can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, but it can be a great way to bring back some joy and remind you of what has meaning in your life. Here are three steps to create your gratitude practice:

1. Identify Your Values

The first step in creating a gratitude practice that will really stick is identifying your values. Identifying your values can be a daunting task in recovery because the eating disorder tends to try to replace what really matters to you. Think about what you value outside of your eating disorder. What strengths or qualities do you want to be known for having? What sort of person do you want to be outside of your eating disorder? What do you want to do with this one life of yours? If you decide to start a gratitude journal, this may be a great place to start brainstorming your values.

2. Make a Gratitude List

Eating disorder recovery comes with many challenging days, and gratitude has the potential to help us put our situation into perspective and see the bigger picture. Every so often, take some time to write a list of what you are grateful for. Reflect on things you may be grateful for, like friends and family, the sun on your face, your favorite show, your support team, etc. After completing this list, keep it to reflect on during the days when you’re struggling. Keeping a journal specifically for these lists may be the perfect way to keep track of it all in an easily accessible way. 

3. Focus on Positive Affirmations

Those struggling with eating disorders or in the recovery process can often experience a rush of negative thoughts and feelings toward themselves. Writing and vocalizing positive affirmations may seem silly at first, but they make a real impact. We have the power to change our perceptions and treatment of ourselves and positive affirmations are a huge part of that. Just being positive and practicing gratitude cannot cure an eating disorder, but it can be an extremely valuable tool in recovery. 

How to Apply Your Gratitude Practice this Holiday Season

Thanksgiving can often be a very triggering holiday for those experiencing or recovering from an eating disorder. Developing your own gratitude practice and then applying it to the holiday season can be a great way to combat stress. Try flipping those negative thoughts around. Instead of thinking, “Thanksgiving is all about food and that triggers me,” try, “I am thankful to be celebrating another Thanksgiving with the people I love.” Don’t forget to recognize all the strides you have made in terms of your mental and physical health. 

Focus your gratitude on the experience around the table instead of focusing all your attention on the food in front of you. Do your best to be present with the people around you. Practicing gratitude is about acknowledging and appreciating where you are in life, as well as treating others with kindness and giving back to your community. On the other hand, if it is truly the best decision for you not to attend events with certain people or activities that trigger you, be grateful for the fact that you know what is best for yourself and your recovery. Focusing on gratitude, in addition to having your support people around you, can aid you in having a successful holiday season!

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to The Emily Program at 1-888-354-5977 or fill out our contact form. We’re here for you.

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