I utilize my own shared recovery experience to provide compassionate recovery care and empower clients to a life of health and wellness.
If you are reading this, chances are you may think I sound crazy. How could anyone be grateful for anything about their eating disorder? How can I begin to practice gratitude in eating disorder recovery? The alternative to gratitude is resentment, fear, negativity, and ultimately for me, the demise of my recovery. I am more connected to the universe and myself than ever before, and I am forever grateful.
The road to recovery is long and winding. No one can promise a specific timeline, or how long it will take to achieve full recovery. Along the way, we experience moments when we choose to become our diagnosis (“anorexic” “bulimic” “binge eater”) OR to recognize that we are more than our illness. Labels are limiting, but we are limitless. Read that again. We are infinitely connected to others and we are never truly alone. We CAN practice gratitude in eating disorder recovery.
It is not your defining moment and it does not need to be your future. Life for every living thing is regenerative. Trees bloom and then lose their leaves only to return stronger. Humans also have the capacity to wholly reset their lives.
Neuroscientists, psychologists, and healers of all faiths have always recognized the power of inward connection long before they could articulate the method by which it is accomplished. Today they can objectively visualize increased blood flow in the brain with enhanced imagery, measure increased electrical conductivity and magnetic vibrations in the heart, and calculate powerful hormone levels in the blood during and immediately after spiritual practices and mindfulness techniques.
There are a number of different ways you can use gratitude to reflect and heal. One of the most popular ways to cultivate a gratitude practice is through the act of journaling. There are a number of gratitude journals you can purchase on Amazon, such as The Five Minute Journal, Gratitude: A Day and Night Reflection Journal, The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal, The 6-Minute Diary, and The One-Minute Gratitude Journal. Choose whichever journal best suits you.
Through meditation or prayer, we devote our entire focus to mentally expressing gratitude for something in our lives. Allowing our minds to experience the complete emotion triggers specific areas in the brain to send out powerful chemical messengers to the body just as if we are experiencing this in real time. These messages of happiness (think love, joy, safety, and security) cause the release of hormones including, but not limited to serotonin, dopamine, and GABA necessary for mood, concentration, immunity, and sleep. Heart rate and respiratory rate change. Oxygen saturation levels increase. Blood flow increases in the brain and the heart begins to send chemical messengers throughout the body along with increasing its own magnetic vibrational field. Yes—we can actually radiate with positivity and enhance our own physical healing. For a deeper dive into how gratitude affects the brain, check out the article “The Neuroscience of Gratitude and Effects on the Brain.” I also talk more about my favorite mindfulness techniques on my friend Meg McCabe’s podcast, Full And Thriving: An Eating Disorder Recovery Podcast. Listen here! I also encourage you to read Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson. Dr. Hanson draws on the latest research to show you how to foster positive psychological growth. Through reading this book, you will learn so much about your brain and gain many new mindfulness techniques. You will learn how to rewire your brain to peace and happiness.
These movements offer us the chance to reconnect with our body in a purposeful appreciative way in contrast to exercise used as punishment. Breathwork is the most ancient form of connecting the mind, body, and spirit. It traces back to the ancient Indian practice of pranayama. Prana means life energy and breath, while yama means to control. However, practices involving breath can be found in many ancient cultures and religions like Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, martial arts, and more. Deep belly breathing activates specific nerves that detect blood pressure. These nerves send messages to the vagus nerve which in turn decreases heart rate and blood pressure. The nervous system is relaxed while mental clarity is improved. Most report feelings of greater connectedness with others and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. As we practice both old and new breathing techniques, we become acutely aware of the power of our breath. We can still the soul or awaken the spirit.
I love to practice breathwork at Breathe Meditation and Wellness. They are a meditation and holistic wellness studio with a multitude of different mindfulness classes, workshops, and more. Check out their studio if you are in Dallas! If you’re not based in Dallas, there is a good chance you have a mindfulness studio in your city. You may have to do some research.
I also recommend downloading the Open app. Open is a digital mindfulness studio with breathwork, meditation, movement, and stretching. Use this link to receive an entire month free. Open has been life-changing for both me and my clients. They have a multitude of different classes that focus solely on gratitude.
How do weekly meetings with someone who is fully recovered and access to 24/7 text support sound? Reach out here for 1:1 private eating disorder recovery coaching. I offer a free 25-minute consultation call-you can ask me all the questions you have about coaching and see if I would be a good fit.