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How to Be Grateful, Even When You Might Not Feel Like It

By Maria Menounos | February 12, 2018 | Rally Health

Gratitude has always been important to me, but until my surgery, I didn’t appreciate how much of an impact it has on how we think and feel. When I sat down and listed my symptoms to my doctor I realized, “Oh my God, I think I have a brain tumor, like my mom.” It seemed almost unbelievable. Having to make huge life changes, take time away from work, and have major surgery was a lot to take in — and if I had focused on the negative, it would have been so much harder.

Five months since I had the tumor removed, I’m even more aware and focused on gratitude. Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a big deal, or mean you need to meditate for hours at a time: It just means appreciating all the positive things in your life.

When I wake up, I try to think about three things I’m grateful for. But more important, throughout the day, when good — even small — things happen, I try to pause for a second and acknowledge those little things. A few months ago, I wrote on Instagram that I used to be the girl with a million plans. Now, I'm the girl excited because I have no plans. I’ve realized that thinking like that makes me feel as if every day is a gift, and I can just be grateful to have another day — even one without plans — ahead of me.

Of course, it’s not always easy to feel gratitude — especially when things aren’t going our way! But I realized that when I am feeling blue, one of the best ways to reverse that feeling is to really embrace being grateful, even if it’s just for something small. If you focus on all the negative stuff in your life, then that's what you will feel: all that negative energy. Focusing on the positive really helps me realign myself and change my attitude. Remember, life is happening for you, not to you.

I’ve mostly stopped writing down a list of things I’m grateful for every day, but when I do find myself slipping into a not-so-great place, I take out a notebook and start making that list again. It’s easy to find things to be grateful for when you start looking for them. Since my surgery, I’ve realized how thankful I am for God, my family, friends, colleagues, my good choices, and, of course, my dogs.

But you don’t need to just focus on the people in your life, or the big-picture things. There are plenty of places to find gratitude, if you sit back and take stock of what you do have right now. For me, there are a few categories I always come back to — when something in one isn’t working, I think about everything else that I am grateful for.

Health

Since my diagnosis, and seeing my mom’s journey with brain cancer as well, I’ve realized how lucky I am to be healthy now. As I’m recovering, I’m focusing on taking it slow to regain my fitness, and I’m not upset about how long it’s taking. I’m enjoying walking more and taking exercise classes here and there, but at my own speed. I’m learning to listen to my body again. I never realized how much pain I was in until I slowed down the train, so this has been a huge reality check for me.

Family and Friends

I'm so blessed to have amazing friends and family members who love and support me. Having my mom, my fiancé, and my amazing friends from around the world supporting me through my surgery meant everything to me, and I’m so grateful to have that support in my life. That doesn’t mean everything is always perfect — my fiancé and I argue all the time! But at the base of it is love. Keven and I know that his strengths and my strengths are in different areas, so we’re like a perfect puzzle coming together. We just realize that the arguing is part of the process!

Work

I’m lucky enough to absolutely love my work — so much so that it had taken over my life! I’ve been hard at work for 17 years, going like a locomotive that can’t slow down. But that's because everything I do — hosting, acting, writing — I love. Even if you don’t love your job, there’s probably something about it that makes you excited: Focus on that if you’re finding it tough to think of one good thing about your boss!

The Hard Times

I always try to remind myself that every bad time has also been a gift. It’s a wake-up call, a chance to learn, to grow, and to make changes in your life. One of the easiest ways to immediately shift a bad day into a good one using gratitude is to see the things that are challenging you as a chance to change and to grow. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, we just don't know why yet —so when you are facing a hard time, try to look at it as a learning experience. Seeing it that way might help you make more positive choices. I wrote on Instagram last month that the more I reflect, the more I see the many gifts I've been given as a result of the obstacles I've endured and overcome. And it’s absolutely true.

Having a tough time staying in your own head long enough to be grateful, rather than thinking about your never-ending to-do list or that fight you had last night with your partner? Here are a few easy ways I’ve found to add a little more gratitude to your life.

  • Think of one simple thing that you’re grateful for before you even open your eyes in the morning.
  • Send a text or comment on a friend’s Instagram to let her know you’re thinking about her and appreciate her being part of your life. 
  • Think about a tough time in your life and how far you’ve come since then.
  • Write a reminder that says “Practice Gratitude” and stick it somewhere you’ll see it regularly, like the bathroom mirror.
  • Get out in nature. If you are having a bad day, shift your focus with a quick walk and enjoy being outside. 
Maria Menounos
Rally Health