Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect time to talk about gratitude. It is the one day of the year that we have an entire day set aside for gratitude. Practicing gratitude can be difficult for those who are struggling with an eating disorder, as it can be hard to find anything positive at times. However, gratitude can help to ease the numbness of emotions, and alter the perception of life, allowing you to find joy and happiness.
What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?
Gratitude has some significant benefits, so carrying our attitude of gratitude into the rest of the year might be something to consider.
- Gratitude opens the door to relationships. Besides just improving our chances of meeting and connecting with new people, it provides opportunities to strengthen and improve current relationships. We all learned to “use our manners” as young children, and that lesson was so much more important than we probably realized. When someone has an eating disorder, anxiety, or depression, maintaining strong relationships can be difficult. Negative self-talk can cause withdrawal from relationships and prevent us from reaching out to building new ones. Expressing and sharing gratitude can be a way to get around some of those negative thoughts and connect with others.
- Studies have shown a correlation between gratitude and better physical health. Perhaps grateful people are more likely to care for their health and body.
“One of my favorite meditations, when I’m teaching yoga, is a gratitude practice paired with progressive relaxation. It gives us a moment to pause and be grateful for all the different parts of our body and all the functions they serve for us every day. I’m so glad all the parts work together so well without me having to concentrate on them all the time,” shares Jessica Ward, Director of Therapeutic Services at Selah House.
- Gratitude increases psychological health. Gratitude increases psychological health, and can result in an increase in happiness and a reduction in depression. Our minds so often focus on negative thoughts, fears, and worries; replacing even a few of those with grateful thoughts can start to affect us.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Here we go working on relationships again! Of course, we will get frustrated with others at times; however, when we practice gratitude, we’re more likely to be able to work through our conflicts in a relationship in a healthy way.
- Grateful people sleep better. Good sleep is important to both physical and mental health. Someone with an eating disorder often experiences a lack of quality and adequate quantity of sleep. While gratitude may not solve all your sleep problems, it’s an easy thing to try. Create a gratitude practice just before bed by writing down a few things you’re grateful. How much better would it be to drift off to sleep thinking of good things rather than worries?
- Gratitude improves self-esteem. Perhaps focusing on our blessings helps us feel better about our strengths, talents, and abilities. More time being grateful is less time thinking negatively.
- Gratitude fosters mental resilience and may decrease PTSD. Again, focusing on or finding things we can be grateful for seems to help us better overcome the negatives of life.
How can I practice gratitude?
It is important to understand that gratitude is not just saying you are thankful for something or someone, it is so much more than that. Gratitude is a state of mind and a change in the way you see things; it is an intentional and conscious perspective.
Here are a few exercises for conscious cultivation of gratitude that can help the body and mind come alive.
- Pay Attention: Notice and become aware of things you might normally take for granted. It may be noticing the wind on your face, hot water for your shower, a smile or kind word from a friend, or the sun in the sky.
- Writing: Daily write down what you are grateful for and reflect on the benefits of simple everyday pleasures. Put things in perspective and think about all you have to be grateful for, regardless of how small it may be.
- Mindfulness: Practice daily meditation and relaxation. Focus on how you have given and received, such as “breathing in, I accept loving kindness from myself and breathing out; I release bitterness and resentment.”
- Remind yourself that it’s okay to be happy and that you deserve to be. Intentionally allow yourself to experience gratitude and joy. Consciously being aware of the positive things in your life, however small, can help to break down walls that prevent your heart from feeling full.
Awareness and expression of gratitude are proven effective to impact your mental and physical health positively. As you recover from an eating disorder, learning to cultivate a practice of gratitude can ultimately become a way of being. Experiment and see what type of gratitude practice works best for you. Starting your day with gratitude, ending the day with gratitude, using an app, using a journal, or making it part of the family time are all possibilities.
Eating disorders can negatively affect the mind and the body, but Selah House is here to help. We offer a Christ-centered, clinically excellent program that can help you regain freedom from your eating disorder. Selah House is the only licensed provider offering inpatient, residential, and partial hospitalization care for women and adolescent girls (12+) in the state of Indiana. Call our admissions department today at 866-324-8081 or complete our contact form for more information.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – Psalm 107:1