Today is Valentine’s Day, which means that half the country is angry and the other half is stressing about what they should get their partner or if they can make dinner reservations for that new restaurant (you can’t, they are booked up already).

We all know the haters that say things like, “It’s a holiday made up by the greeting card industry!”

That’s probably true.

But there are plenty of people that will gladly take the opportunity to show their significant others how much they love them. They will shout it from a mountaintop of heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.

If we boycott, it may be because there’s some other feeling going on inside us and we’re just taking it out on poor ol’ Cupid. On the flip side, we may just be going through the motions and giving some meaningless clearance-rack gift to someone we we are dating, but haven’t ever had an honest conversation with.

For a long time, I was stuck somewhere in the middle.

I thought I wouldn’t find the type of love I wanted or that I was too picky when it came to choosing a partner. Everyone I dated had great qualities, but it just wouldn’t be enough for me to commit. Yet each year, I treated Valentine’s Day as a chance to conjure up cool date ideas for some girl that I was seeing. I was a romantic, so the date would be awesome. But I was also insecure, so it never held any real value except to boost my ego.

Something was flawed in me.

Before we can truly give part of our hearts to someone else, our hearts must be whole and we must know what makes them tick. We have to figure out who we really are and what we stand for. We must face the things we’re scared of and operate out of love, not fear. Only then can we begin to love ourselves, flaws and all.

What helped me reach that point was simply focusing on gratitude.

I started every morning with a list of three things that I was truly grateful for, large or small. The small, mundane things were just as important as the big, exciting wins. It’s easy to be grateful for a promotion, but you have to dig a little bit deeper to truly feel grateful for that warm cup of coffee you hold in your hands and the energy it will send you.

I ended my list with a mantra of what I wanted to focus on that day. The mantras would be something like “lose the ego,” “give people the benefit of the doubt,” “smile,” or “stay focused.” That daily gratitude allowed me to see the proverbial glass half-full and have a positive outlook on my life and what I was doing, even during challenging times.

It’s amazing what they say about something as simple as having a positive outlook. I don’t know if visualization actually works, but I believe the power of positive thinking does.

Sometimes it’s hard to thinking positively, especially if you don’t have a pattern of it. Life is hard and there are times when it feels like it’s getting the best of us. When someone tells you, “Just think positively, and things will work out!” you don’t believe them.

But it’s not just saying some combination of words that magically helps. It’s the feeling that regular practice of positive thinking gives you. It makes you whole and complete. In that state of wholeness you can see what makes your heart beat grow stronger. Then, you are operating out of love, not fear.

So for this Valentine’s Day, check in with yourself. Make sure that love and appreciation for all that you are is alive and intact. Then, truly be grateful for anyone in your life that adds to your wholeness.

Picture via Rain Bennett

Rain Bennett is a two time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, fitness professional, public speaker, and writer. His mission is simple: to help people realize that they too can be great, no matter where they come from or what they start with. It just takes passion, persistence, and a plan.

Bennett directed and produced his first feature length documentary in true indie fashion by traveling the world with only a backpack and a Canon DSLR camera. That film, Raise Up: The World is Our Gym won “Best of the Fest” at the Hip Hop Film Festival NYC and received global distribution through Red Bull Media House. He’s been featured in publications like Men’s Health and Sports Business Global and is a regular contributor to Breaking Muscle. When he’s not making movies or training clients at Sync Studio in Durham, he’s hosting a new webseries called The Perfect Workout Show.