Hope Springs Eternal: Use fresh starts to support your recovery

Phrases like “hope springs eternal,” “while there is life, there is hope,” or “tomorrow is a new day” are staples in our society because it feels humanity has a unique capability to renew their sense of hope. Nature is a constant reminder of ebb and flow, death and birth, light and dark, so we come by this hope renewal naturally. 

Our predilection for “fresh starts” and “new beginnings” is often used by diet culture to reinforce their sales pitch to start a new diet, fast, or exercise program. Anyone who has dieted is familiar with Monday start dates for such things. However, this natural inclination to begin again is very helpful to those of us in recovery or just beginning our recovery. 

Recovery is not linear. Meaning it can be full of fits and starts, loops and spirals, and sometimes it feels like you’re on a treadmill. All of this can be incredibly discouraging, but leveraging our desire for renewal can be very supportive. 

To start, utilize natural “new starts” to your advantage. The 1st of the month, the 1st day of the week, a new season (like the onset of spring) are great places to start hope renewals for recovery. 

For example, you could use a new month to reaffirm goals you’ve set or build in new ones. The beginning of a new week to write new affirmations or start a new self-care practice. The start of a new season is a great time to think about clearing out old things, clothing, habits, and bringing in new things to support the new life you’re cultivating. 

Next, find a way to record/track your progress using renewals. Because recovery can feel like a maze, journaling or note-taking can be helpful to demonstrate our growth. Documenting this process allows you to look back and remind yourself of just how far you’ve come. You can journal at the start of a new day, have a monthly check-in chart for your goals, or use a mood chart or graph your emotions throughout the day or week. Pairing natural new starts with journaling or recording thoughts on your phone is the next step to facilitate recovery. 

Finally, develop a practice of seeing “new starts” everywhere. Every day is a new day, so every day is a good time to start caring for yourself better. Just as every moment is a new moment to nourish yourself fully or remember that thoughts are just thoughts. Every inhale is a new start. You don’t have to wait for a Monday to begin. You don’t have to wait for a moment more. You are capable of taking the next recovery step whenever. Life is now.

Something good this way comes: the arrival of autumn and the gratitude it brings

As I sit near the window in my office, I feel the first fall breeze of the year.  Yes, I know it is not yet technically autumn, but it sure is on its way.  September just began, and to me this signifies the blossoming of my favorite season — full of rich smells, pumpkin pies, cinnamon lattes, crunchy auburn leaves, and an array of aspen trees shimmering in color.  I welcome this time of year because it signifies a new chapter…almost a slowing down and relaxing time after a hot and hectic summer.

I am a believer in the visceral and powerful impact of scents.  Have you ever smelled something and were immediately taken back to a childhood memory coupled with an intense emotional feeling?  That is not all in your head; there is evidence that our noses can be directly linked to our memory bank and when we smell a certain scent, we might recollect a memory or an experience that had been long forgotten.  This power is ever-present for me during autumn.  Autumn boasts the richest, most soothing, most affecting smells of all year round.  As the earth prepares for the winter, it offers us in its cool breeze the opportunity to churn our own soil and see what comes up.

What does the arrival of fall signify to you?  To me, autumn produces an abundance of gratitude.  Just one year ago, I was working hard to get my business off the ground.  Now, one year later, my practice is blooming and blossoming and has so much promise still to offer.  I am grateful for the work I have been able to do in the field of eating disorder recovery and counseling with other issues, and cannot wait to experience what this coming year has to offer.  It truly shows me that when you put your heart into something, truly dedicate your passion to your dream, that there is nothing you cannot accomplish.

I came across a quote that aptly described my experience with gratitude this past year:

“Praise the bridge that carried you over.”  ~George Colman

I like this quote because it speaks to building bridges that get you to the destination that you are searching for.  It also reminds us to not forget the steps and trials we have endured to get to that side.  I would like to add that there will always be another bridge to cross and by acknowledging and praising the prior bridges, we can feel empowered to continue building and climbing — even if upcoming bridges are more daunting in structure.

What bridges have you built and crossed in the past year?  Which part of your bridge are you standing on right now?  There is no “should”s in this concept; you are at the point in your journey where you are meant to be.  For me, I have crossed the bridge I built over the first year of starting my practice.  Though I am on the other side of that bridge, I have more designs in my mind that will be built into bridges: workshops, groups, classes, speaking events, seminars — all things that I want to produce or take part in over the next year.  I also know about myself that I can get overwhelmed easily, so I must take care not to build too many bridges at once (or else one might get burned down!).

Another aspect of the quote that speaks out to me is that perhaps, you crossed a bridge that was challenging, in some ways painful, or perhaps damaging.  Can you still praise a bridge such as this?  Perhaps an example of this would be healing from a loss that you experienced over the past year.  Do you wish that you had to endure that loss? Probably not.  But it happened, and what can you take with you about that experience — what did you learn, how did you grow, what can you praise about it?  As difficult as it is to praise painful things, I think that looking at all events in a constructive way (how did they benefit/impact your identity? your life experience?) can be very empowering and healing it is own way.

So, fall arrives, and washes away the heat that has beat down on us for so many days.  With it, autumn brings a new chapter — school starting again, perhaps moving away to college or starting a new job.  While a certain level of anxiety is natural with change, we also are invited to create the new chapter that we desire to enter.  I am looking at this autumn with gratitude for what I have built, and for what I have presently in my life.  I also am using those bridges to reinforce the hard work I still yet have to do in building new bridges.  This is exciting for us all!

Below is a quote that I try to say everyday as a sort of mantra.  Try it out for yourself.  It is full of renewal and inspiration!

“As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily.  The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.” ~Terri Guillemets