Courtesy Recovery Tip from the 18th Century


thankyouCan simple little courtesies to yourself help keep you in eating disorder recovery and out of depression?  Yes. Even writing yourself a little thank you note and mailing it to yourself can remind you of your value.

A quote from Henry Clay, caught my eye tonight and delivered major reverberations as I gave it some thought.  

"Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."

When you suffer from an eating disorder, even if you have substantial recovery of many years, you can hit an emotional low where you feel depression tugging at your toes and pulling you down.  Most people will feel low at times and need to use their personal resources to understand their experience and pull up to solid ground again.

If you've had an eating disorder, or if you are living with an eating disorder right now, you may feel urges to eat or binge or restrict to escape your dark feelings. If you do, you can recognize those urges and call on your support system to help you move through your challenge. You call your therapist. You journal. You call a hot-line. You move into a mindful spiritual practice. You know something needs your attention.

But a low feeling can take an insidious turn that is not as easily identified as actual eating or not eating behaviors.  You feel badly about something someone said or didn't say.  Perhaps you feel slighted or have actually been insulted or deeply disappointed.

If you are not aware, you first feel offended or hurt by what happened.  Then you ruminate about how terrible the other person is.  That phase can be brief.  It takes you to the edge of the real psychological danger, and that's where you stop criticizing the other person and start criticizing yourself.

That criticism can lead you to major negative self judgements.  And that leads you to fear, sorrow, a sense of worthlessness and futility.

When you reach that point you are nearing deeper depression that brings up powerful feelings of abandonment and despair.

An important aspect of recovery work is recognizing this trail of emotional events and catching yourself before you sink to terrible depths.  You don't have the clues that something is amiss because you not acting out your eating disorder with behavior that you recognize.

When you move into the negative self talk that puts you in emotional decline you may not recognize what you are doing.  You don't feel that you are criticizing yourself or judging yourself. You feel like you are stating the truth of who you are, and its pretty bad.

So I invite you to take Henry Clay's words to heart.

"Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."

Make small and trivial courtesies to yourself be a normal part of your day. Let these many tiny kindnesses be your gifts to your own heart. A pattern little courtesies to yourself can build a solid base for your sense of self so you don't slide easily into an emotional decline.  If you notice you are slacking off on being couteous to yourself you can recognize a signal that alerts you to pay attention and be aware.

Small and trivial  courtesies include:

  • making your bed in the morning so it's nice for you at night;
  • eating off pretty plates and putting a napkin on your lap - even when you are eating alone;
  • smiling at your reflection in the mirror;
  • keeping what you need in order and easily accessible whether items are related to bathroom, kitchen, desk, car or garden.
  • smile in gratitude or think to yourself, "thank you" when you give yourself a gift, like a hot cup of tea while you are writing a blog post. :)  That's me.

Can you think of more small and trivial courtesies you can give yourself?


P.S. The concept of courtesy was described by the Sanskrit word, daksinya, which meant "kindness and consideration expressed in a sophisticated and elegant way


0 # Thank you Joanna, I'm just pulling out oKymL 2011-04-10 09:29
Thank you Joanna, I'm just pulling out of a state of depression. I was aware I was being pulled down and I tried to fight it by figuring out what I was feeling. The problem was that I was feeling too many feelings and they were so intense! I didn't use my normal coping mechanisms of restricting (yah for me!!) but I felt like I was pulling out the wrong tools as they weren't helping. I didn't do too many courtesy acts for myself other then reminding myself to be patient, but even that lost it's appeal at one point. I don't think I criticized myself much other then feeling like I was totally unequipped to handle what I was going through and knowing it wasn't anymore then normal “life,” I questioned my recovery progress. A few days ago I finally decided that I wasn't going to identify every feeling but I just needed to feel uncomfortable. I'm feeling better already. Maybe I wouldn't have sunk so far down had I focused more on treating myself to niceties and less on analyzing the problem. I'm sure I will get another opportunity to try that out! Thanks for the wonderfully worded reminder!
0 # Dear Kym, Please put those niceties ipinkjoanna 2011-04-10 12:51
Dear Kym,

Please put those niceties in your life now. When they are routine you'll notice when you are letting them go --- and that's the signal to attend.

Favorite book by your bed;
Clean hair brush;
Made bed;
Clean sink - bathroom and kitchen;
Comfortable slippers;
Fresh flowers or flower or leaf arrangement; somehowhere to cheer you;
Mindfulness practice - could be short but routine

What might be on your list of nicetiess?

Private moment with your hand bells?

0 # My big niceties is 3 days at the beach bKymL 2011-04-10 16:05
My big niceties is 3 days at the beach by myself this week! I use to do these private retreats every 6 months, but got out of the habit about 5 years ago....I really miss that time away to get back in touch with myself. I use to also always have fresh flowers on my desk at work, no matter if I picked them fresh or had to pay for them in the winter....again it's been about 5 years since doing that. Maybe while I'm at the beach I'll come up with a list of things I use to do and miss, and things I'd like to try out. Thanks
0 # Sounds terrific, Kym! I'll be thinking opinkjoanna 2011-04-10 17:31
Sounds terrific, Kym! I'll be thinking of you communing with the sea and discovering treasures around you and in you.

0 # I like this idea of "simple little courtshh 2011-04-11 14:13
I like this idea of "simple little courtesies"...I'm going to try to embrace this concept, as of NOW!

I have to admit that there were days last week where I was starting to wonder if I was "slipping" was the suddenly feeling really low and bursting into tears out of the blue, that kept happening...

...but I feel in a okay place again now (I think).

Now...what can my little courtesies be???
0 # Hmmm...thinking...PTC 2011-04-13 17:46
0 # Great, PTC. Let me know what tiny courtpinkjoanna 2011-04-13 19:39
Great, PTC. Let me know what tiny courtesies you come up with.

0 # I'm still thinking...Nothing is coming tPTC 2011-04-14 14:07
I'm still thinking...Nothing is coming to mind right now.
0 # What is often an inconvenience to you dupinkjoanna 2011-04-14 17:30
What is often an inconvenience to you during a 24 hour period? Is there something you have to look for or clean or unbury? Is there something you trip over or grope for?

Is there something you have to do to make yourself more comfortable at your desk or table or computer or bathroom sink or bathtub or shower or at the wheel of your car?

Find one of those things and arrange the environment so that inconvenience is taken care of in advance.

Then, when you do the ordinary, an ordinary courtesy makes that ordinary action more pleasant. That's the power of courtesy.
0 # I know this is a little thing...but mineshh 2011-04-15 02:37
I know this is a little thing...but mine is to keep fresh flowers in a vase in my window...and replace them every week or so when they need it.

It serves a multitude of purposes
1.) I have to go out and buy them, so I have the pleasure of choosing something beuatiful, that I like, for myself....a little treat
2.) I have tp pay for them, which reinforces that it's okay to spend a little on myself (as I have issues with not feeling worthy & feeling guilty buying things for myself)
3.) I have to trim them and arrange them in the vase, which is quite therapeutic, and I enjoy that.
4.) place the vase on my window ledge and enjoy! And every time I look at them, I think "I bought those for myself out of kindness" and it serves to remind me that I need to remember to be kind to myself.
0 # Beautiful!What a lovely kindness rempinkjoanna 2011-04-15 12:19
Beautiful! What a lovely kindness remembrance. Your flower arrangement reminds you to be kind to yourself while you are being kind to yourself and benefiting from that kindness all the same time. :-)
0 # Just got back from my 3 day retreat. MyKymL 2011-04-15 18:45
Just got back from my 3 day retreat. My focus was on self-care. On the first day I found a large shell. I cut little pieces of paper and each time I did self-care I wrote it down and put it in the shell. By the time I left, the shell was full! Some of the things I came up with were: lighting a candle and incense for me (usually keept for a romanic evening....romanticizing myself), using my special lotion for my feet (usually kept for hands and face), lighting a fire to eat dinner by, tea in the middle of day, not judging myself or my recovery when thoughts of purging came up (& didn't act on them), coloring a picture, dancing to my favorite song......etc. I had a lot of aha moments from the books I brought, but I also had a good time being nice to myself!! Thank you for this's the reason I decided to focus on self-care instead of problem solving (which I do way too much of!!!)
0 # Oh, Kym, Your post is so moving. Youpinkjoanna 2011-04-15 20:03
Oh, Kym,

Your post is so moving. You touch my heart. I'm so glad you are finding ways to genuinely care for yourself. And I'm so glad to know I'm part of your discoveries.

Your shell is full. Perhaps your shell can "runneth over."


0 # Kym Reading about your 3 day retreatshh 2011-04-16 02:23

Reading about your 3 day retreat has brought a smile to my face and I'm actually a little choked's such a wonderful thing to read! I'm so glad that it turned out to be such a fulfilling experience for you...I feel like you were at a time when you really needed something positive to happen, and it seems like it has, and it's all down to you :-)

0 # Thanks Shh and Joanna, I already let myKymL 2011-04-16 07:16
Thanks Shh and Joanna, I already let my partner know that I've made a promise to myself to start doing these retreat every 6 months like I use to. She actually started at places for me(loved the view at the place I stayed at this week, but the house left a little to be desired-like listening to the bats that were living somewhere in the house-couldn't find them but saw them leaving to feed!) It was a good experience that I will carry with me for awhile.
0 # I have a soft spot for bats! Glad youshh 2011-04-16 10:01
I have a soft spot for bats!

Glad your partner is being so sweet and supportive Kym! xx
0 # I can't really think of anything that isPTC 2011-04-16 13:05
I can't really think of anything that is an inconvenience to me. I usually have everything I need right by my side. Getting up to get water or go to the bathroom is annoying because I drink a lot of water and therefore go to the bathroom a lot. I trip over my computer cord sometimes, but that's it. I keep chapstick and water by my bed at night so it's always there.
0 # Dear PTC, Well, why not get a rubberpinkjoanna 2011-04-18 19:22
Dear PTC,

Well, why not get a rubber floor cover for your computer cord so you don't trip? I put one in my office. It makes the world of difference.

0 # Dear Kym and Shh, I had a stereotypicpinkjoanna 2011-04-18 19:26
Dear Kym and Shh,

I had a stereotypic alienation feeling with bats until I went to Bali. There I met a baby giant bat in the moneky forest who had fallen from a skyscraping tree. The Balinese made a tree stand for it so it could hang upsidedown. One of its wings was torn. They taped it, and while it was healing took care of the baby.

I gave it a piece of banana. It took it from my hand so sweetly. I now love bats. The children's award winning book, Stellaluna, is one of my favorites.

But still, they need to live in their caves, not in our attics.



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