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  • Writer's pictureGreg Custer, MS, LCPC

Positivity: The Key to a Happier Life

“I never met a man who didn’t like a smile” ~ Dorothy Custer


I had the privilege of knowing one of the most positive people in the world - my Grandma. Her name was Dorothy Custer, and if you search for her online, you'll find she was a true inspiration. She made multiple appearances on Jay Leno's show, and even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest base jumper, leaping off a 500-foot bridge with a parachute for her 102nd birthday!

My grandma was a frequent interviewee, and one of her favorite topics was positivity. She once said, "I believe that everyone has a purpose in life. Find your purpose and run with it. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve." Her unwavering belief in me, even when I had doubts, was a gift that I treasure. I try to share this gift of believing in people more than they believe in themselves with my work as a Counselor.

About 10 years ago, I had a client who was struggling with depression and anxiety. She had tried different approaches and treatments, but nothing seemed to work for her. During one of our sessions, we talked about the power of positivity and how it can impact our lives. That conversation ended up being a turning point for her, and she started to see significant improvements in her mental health. Since then, I have seen firsthand the transformative effects that positivity can have on people's lives.

The benefits of positivity are backed up by science. Research has shown that positive emotions can improve our physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. As Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher on positive emotions, writes in her book "Positivity", "Positive emotions broaden our minds and build our resourcefulness, resilience, and relationships." This means that when we experience positive emotions, we are better equipped to handle stress, problem-solve, and connect with others.

In his book "Learned Optimism", psychologist Martin Seligman highlights the importance of positivity in building resilience. He writes, "Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists expect bad things to happen. Optimists are those who see problems as temporary, while pessimists see problems as permanent." By cultivating a positive outlook, we can become more resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks.

So how can we cultivate positivity in our lives? Here are some tips:

1. Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the act of focusing on the good in our lives and appreciating it. Research has shown that practicing gratitude can improve our well-being and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. One way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, where you write down things you are thankful for each day. Another way is to simply take a moment each day to reflect on what you are grateful for.

2. Surround yourself with positivity. The people we surround ourselves with can have a big impact on our mood and outlook. Seek out people who uplift and support you and limit your exposure to negativity.

3. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. By being mindful, we can let go of worries about the past or future and focus on what is happening right now. Research has shown that mindfulness can improve our mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

4. Cultivate positive self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves can have a big impact on our mood and outlook. Practice replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations. For example, instead of thinking "I'm not good enough," try thinking "I am capable and worthy."

5. Engage in activities that bring you joy. Doing things that we enjoy can improve our mood and increase our sense of well-being. Take time to engage in hobbies, spend time in nature, or connect with loved ones.

By incorporating these practices into our lives, we can cultivate positivity and improve our mental health and well-being.

As psychotherapist, and one of my mentors, Jeffrey Zeig writes in his book "The Induction of Hypnosis", "It is difficult to achieve any progress or success when negative attitudes and pessimism dominate one's thinking. On the other hand, when positive attitudes are held and optimism is the dominant characteristic, life is filled with opportunities for growth and development."

When you intentionally focus on positivity, you will find that it can have a powerful impact on your mental health and overall well-being. However, like any worthwhile endeavor, it takes effort and practice. By seeking out positive influences, challenging negative thoughts, practicing gratitude, focusing on the present moment, and practicing self-care, you can cultivate positivity in your life and reap its many benefits.

More about my Grandma:


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