By: Heather Forbes, Family Therapist

When I think of gratitude at Thanksgiving, my mind travels back to the “picture perfect” Thanksgiving dinners from the old Norman Rockwell prints. But, why should we only be grateful at Thanksgiving?

Giving thanks is merely an expression of gratitude. It is the art of actively opening our hearts and minds to give, receive and respond graciously. The ability to find something positive in something negative, empowers us to embrace our lives, our relationships and to appreciate what we have, tangible and intangible. Feelings of gratefulness allow us to send positive energy which promotes a good attitude and healthy mindset.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  
Melody Beattie

Research shows that the those who regularly practice gratitude have an increased blood flow to the area of the brain controlling eating, drinking, sleep, metabolism and stress levels. The heightened stimulation also results in the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that produces the “feel good” sensation.

For those with an eating disorder, gratitude can be vital in helping to overcome numbness and alter your perception of life, allowing you to be a more positive person.  Gratitude can give you back the happiness taken from you by your eating disorder. Practicing gratitude can become part of your daily ritual with these simple suggestions:

  • Make a gratitude list.  Write down what you are grateful for and let it be a powerful tool in transforming a day that you might struggle into one for which you are thankful. Reflect on what you have that makes you grateful – your loved ones, shelter, or just life itself. When you are having a stressful day, look at your list and be thankful.
  • Find opportunity in challenges.  Challenges in life are often perceived as negative, but you can transform them into a learning opportunity. Having a more positive mindset can set you free from negativity and turn you into a more positive person.
  • Focus on what you do have.  With the constant presence of social media, we often compare ourselves to others and the things we may be lacking. Remind yourself of what you do have and be grateful for and focus on these instead.
  • Focus on positive affirmationsEating disorders burden us with a weight of negativity. Practicing gratitude transforms how you perceive and treat yourself. Begin by focusing on one thing you like about yourself and turn it into a positive affirmation.

At Magnolia Creek, we believe gratitude is an important aspect of recovery. Our clients work towards developing gratitude using exercises such as developing a gratitude journal, and discussing specific topics in group sessions. In addition, we help clients develop gratitude through experiential activities.  Clients volunteer at least once a month at various local non-profits and engage in projects to serve the community. Recently, our clients created hats and motivational art work for patients with breast cancer at UAB Hospital.

Through all our hardships, being able to give freely of ourselves with a positive attitude helps us to build patience, stay humble, develop a grateful heart and have hope for the future.