By Alanna Hilbink
Holidays, family get-togethers, and social gatherings tend to revolve around food. This is a way a lot of us show love and community. But when you or a loved one struggles with an eating disorder, it can also be the cause of a lot of stress. One way to navigate these tricky situations is with mindfulness and gratitude. Noticing the little things and appreciating what’s around you can go a long way toward making holidays and every day richer, healthier, and happier.
What Is Mindfulness?
Using mindfulness to improve your mental health begins with understanding what mindfulness is. Clinical Psychology Review defines mindfulness as, “awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance of one’s moment-to-moment experience.” In other words, practicing mindfulness involves taking a moment to just be where you are, doing what you’re doing, and seeing what or who is around you.
And is this mindfulness valuable to mental health and recovery? Absolutely. Mindfulness has been studied in and applied to many mental health treatment settings. It is a proven method of managing eating disorders and other mental health symptoms. Clinical Psychology Review explains that mindfulness creates real, measurable changes in brain activity. It improves well-being by increasing emotional and behavioral regulation while reducing psychological symptoms like negative thought loops, rumination, and emotional fear.
How Do You Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness sounds great, right? So how do you add it to your recovery toolkit? Practicing mindfulness begins with simply paying attention. Take a moment to note what you are doing and the environment immediately around you: the sights, the smells, the sounds. Don’t add values or opinions to these experiences. Step outside of your own thoughts to just be in the moment.
It seems so simple, but mindfulness really is an evidence-based mental health treatment tool. It is so helpful that it is now an integral part of proven therapy options such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). These and other therapy methods form the basis of treatment at The Meadows Ranch. When you choose us or any treatment program with integrated mindfulness, you will learn how to deepen your practice and fully apply it to your specific mental health and recovery needs.
Connecting Mindfulness and Gratitude
Once you’ve started your mindfulness practice, it’s time to add gratitude to the mix. Like mindfulness, gratitude involves looking at and stepping away from your usual thought patterns. Mindfulness allows you to halt negative thoughts and behaviors. Gratitude lets you replace those actions with positivity. Gratitude involves noticing and appreciating what you have and what’s around you.
Mindfulness and gratitude can go hand in hand as part of your overall wellness and recovery. Harvard Health Publishing says, “Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Harvard shares that you can be thankful for good memories of the past, positive hope for the future, or — most relevant to our current discussion of mindfulness — what’s around you in the present.
How to Practice Gratitude
If you don’t know how to practice gratitude, this is again something your treatment team will be more than happy to guide you through. But essentially, it’s as simple as being thankful for all those little things mindfulness helps you notice. Mindfulness asks us to take away judgment. Gratitude lets us add in positivity and appreciation.
And like mindfulness, gratitude has proven positive effects on your mental health. Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine reports that “practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief.” As with mindfulness, there are real and measurable changes in brain activity and function accompanied by real and measurable changes in how we think and feel. Greater Good explains that gratitude increases joy and optimism while decreasing anxiety and depression. It even makes us physically healthier and encourages us to take care of our bodies, a great benefit for those recovering from eating disorders, addiction, and other mental health conditions that can take a toll on our bodies as well as our minds.
As with mindfulness, gratitude is often a part of an evidence-based treatment plan. Both are useful tools for navigating everything from holidays and big events to the little moments of everyday life. Here at The Meadows Ranch, we will help you add gratitude to your recovery so that you can be aware of the moments and world around you, and appreciate them for what they are. Recovery is a wonderful, positive place to be. We are here to help you start the journey to eating disorder recovery for yourself or a loved one today.