It's no secret that when you have fully recovered from bulimia you are going to find yourself feeling happier, healthier and more alive than ever before - and let me tell you, life after bulimia is going to exceed ALL of your expectations!
But what about your feelings right now in this moment?
Do you wish you were happier in recovery?
If like many people in recovery, you've found yourself trapped in a cycle of unhappiness, simply waiting for that "light at the end of the tunnel" then I need you to know one thing...
You do NOT need to wait for happiness to come to you.
Of course no one is completely happy 100% of the time, and that's okay, we are only human after all.
But by working on increasing your general happiness you're going to:
Today I'm going to share some strategies that will enable you to experience this for yourself.
My own journey to recovery happiness...
I remember when I first joined Bulimia Help.
Like most people I had decided to recover because bulimia was destroying my life.
I knew I had to make a change before it was too late.
I chose recovery because I wanted to be happy, and while I did struggle with my fair share of unhappiness, and countless "I can't do this" moments at first.
As I continued to interact with others in recovery, I started to recognize that there were some very clear (and sometimes shocking) differences between the people who were generally happy in recovery, and the people who were not.
In recognizing these clear differences (what I now like to think of as "Happiness Strategies") I was able to begin incorporating certain actions, behaviors and strategies into my own recovery that ended up changing everything!
Over the course of a few months I ended my cycle of unhappiness and became positive, optimistic and hopeful in recovery and the great news is that you can do this too!
My aim today is to hopefully encourage you to seek out a little more happiness in your own recovery and to know that you deserve to experience happiness at every stage of your life!
Can taking direct action or trying out "happiness strategies" actually make a difference?
Yes, absolutely! But don't just take my word for it....
Researchers have discovered that while around 50% of our overall happiness tends to be down to our genetics, and 10% a direct result of our current circumstances, as much as 40% of our overall happiness can be accounted for by intentional activity (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005).
So here are 5 Happiness Strategies that you can start practicing today...
The science of gratitude is a relatively new area of study, however, a growing pool of evidence continues to support the link between gratitude and happiness.
In a nut shell, the more we openly practice gratitude and acknowledge the things we are thankful for in our lives, the happier we will become.
It's important to understand that practicing gratitude is not the same as trying to become a positive thinker 24/7 - as members of the Bulimia Help Method will already know, we actually have very little control over the content of our thoughts and when we try to suppress negative thoughts we can end up making them more powerful.
One study investigating possible links between gratitude and well-being found that when participants we're actively encouraged to keep regular journals and logs of the things they were grateful for over a ten week period, they experienced a 25% increase in reported happiness and also achieved more of their personal goals. (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
Getting Started Tip: As a first step towards practicing gratitude why not designate ten minutes each day to stop and reflect on the things you are grateful for since starting recovery?
Acceptance is something that almost all of us are going to struggle with at one time or another in recovery.
I think if I tried to list all of the things I originally struggled to accept on my own journey to recovery we would literally be here all day!
But the truth is that when you're constantly at war with recovery and resisting the realities of it you are going to be miserable.
You will find yourself struggling to remain committed and you will most definitely be having way too many of your own, "I can't do this" moments.
It is vital that you realize the fact that resistance will only lead to more misery - while practicing acceptance will have the exact opposite effect.
Getting Started Tip: Understanding leads to acceptance, so as a first step take some time to considers the "recovery realities" that you may have been resisting up until this point.
Remind yourself that it's okay to not like these things, but also understand that the only way to truly move forwards is to accept your recovery journey as it is.
Ever find that no matter how hard you’re trying in recovery there is always someone or something that knocks you off track?
When I first started to relapse in recovery I would find myself becoming furious at others. I was so angry at my friends for triggering me, I was so angry at the world for being obsessed with dieting and I was ready to blame everyone else for my slips.
Of course those things did trigger me, but I quickly learned that the "blame game" only served to fuel further unhappiness.
I found that by learning to replace blame with responsibility, or a better word here may be accountability, I actually became happier.
Now that’s not to say that we should blame ourselves for relapses or blame ourselves for feeling triggered (because I certainly don’t believe there is room for self-blame in recovery either), but simply that we should understand we are accountable for our own recoveries.
We are responsible for working hard to change our reactions to those external triggers.
Getting Started Tip: The next time you find yourself wanting to blame an external trigger for a relapse or challenging day in recovery, instead try to treat it as a learning experience.
Ask yourself, "how could I react to this differently next time?"
For example, if a conversation about weight loss left you feeling incredibly triggered, you might want consider taking one of these steps. This way you are taking control of your own recovery.
Something you may not have realized before is that forgiveness is a choice:
We can choose to start forgiving the people who have hurt us in the past and we can choose to begin forgiving ourselves.
Of course forgiveness may not happen over night, you can't just click your fingers and say "all is forgiven" without meaning it.
But what you can do is begin the process of forgiveness by asking yourself, "who do I need to forgive?" and then by choosing to let go of blame, to accept the past and to make a new future (see how each strategy tends to be linked somehow?)
Perhaps you need to forgive a parent, a relative or a friend? Perhaps, as I did, you need to forgive yourself?
Getting Started Tip: Consider the people who you need to forgive and think about the reasons why.
I needed to forgive myself for so many years "wasted" to bulimia. For lost opportunities, for shattered dreams and for not seeking recovery sooner.
Gradually I was able to do this by embracing the facts, by cherishing the truth that was – I had not chosen to have bulimia. I didn’t know that full recovery existed or that it could be this good.
When you appreciate and fully accept the fact that it’s okay to feel unhappy sometimes, then guess what? It stops being such a big deal and it stops getting you down so much!
Unhappiness stops being something you desperately have to fight to change and starts being a normal emotional state, that as a human, you know to expect from time to time.
Embracing unhappiness is a huge part of the happiness equation!
You can learn more strategies for being happy in recovery in our Bulimia Recovery Program.
But like I've said in my recovery diary:
“Being recovered does not mean that life is “perfect,” It means that I’ve learned how to accept the good with the bad. It means that more than ever I understand that good things can come from seemingly terrible situations.
Yes I’m recovered, I no longer have triggers or urges to binge, purge or restrict. I’m no longer desperately anxious or depressed but I am still human. I still feel vulnerable, weak and upset at times.
Sometimes I worry if I’m making the right decisions, I second guess myself and have major dips in confidence. When facing hard times I can still feel emotionally exhausted and stressed to the max, but my reactions to those feelings are different now. I accept them and embrace them as part of life.”
So to be truly happy, I really do think we need to find that place in our lives where we know it’s okay and completely normal to experience unhappiness.
Maybe this is the secret key to happiness that those "happy people” have been guarding all along?
Here's to your freedom!
Catherine works as a Bulimia Recovery Coach for BulimiaHelp.org.
Catherine has a degree in Applied Psychology BSc (Hons), a Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Social and Community Studies and has extensive practical experience employing several counselling and therapeutic techniques.
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