Using the power of positive thinking and performing random acts of kindness can result in happiness and improved health, according to many experts. But Lindsey Soto does not need an expert to validate what she believes to be a lifestyle choice that can make the difference in how a person feels, acts and interact with others.
The single-mom who works as a phlebotomist and client representative in Cleveland said part of her optimistic attitude came from her disposition as a child and from learned behavior due to the things she experienced as a child.
“My mom and dad, Vicky and Steve Mangrum, said when I was a kid I always looked at the brighter things in life,” Soto said. “Mom is a very good lady. She’s a giver. She always taught me to treat others well. My dad also drove that into me. When he was young he had what they call ‘a lazy eye’ that would turn out and he was always made fun of. When I was growing up I also had a lazy eye. I wore big, thick glasses and I was always made fun of. It used to hurt me growing up. I use to cry because I felt I was never going to have any friends and never be pretty. I was super sensitive as a child. So I think it came from being sensitive to other people which caused me to learn how to treat other people.”
Soto said her parents would tell her what a good person she was and how pretty she was going to be.
“And I chose to believe them,” she said. “I developed a genuine appreciation for how to treat other people and not make people feel the way I felt when I was growing up. I think true beauty is being comfortable with who you are. It’s not in your face. Who I am is way more than a face.”
After Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver’s published their groundbreaking study, “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies” in Health Psychology in 1985, scientists had a method for seriously studying the healing powers of positive thinking. Since then they have been able to link a positive outlook on life to everything from decreased feelings of loneliness to increased pain tolerance.
The book, “The Healing Power of Doing Good” by Allan Luks and Peggy Payne, listed several benefits of doing good and showing random acts of kindness to others. Among the benefits are a heightened sense of well being, increased energy and longevity, a stronger immune system, a reduction of excessive stomach acid, relief from arthritis and asthma as well as a healthier cardiovascular system with the reduction of high blood pressure, improved circulation and reduced coronary disease.”
Soto agreed, adding, “You wake up in the morning and you can actually choose to be happy. A large part of happiness comes from understanding exactly who you are. I’ve been researching this and finding that our identity is not found in our occupation, our relationships, our name or status — when we find our identity in who it was we were created to be, there is no choice but to be happy! Because if we find our identity in what we do instead of who we are, and who we are created to be, it gives us a sense of failure when we don’t reach whatever goal we had in mind as to who we should be. Once failure is introduced, then you feel like a failure, which induces further failure. So you’re not really happy.”
Soto explained her philosophy in life, saying, “I think everyone deserves to feel appreciated, beautiful and like they are worth something. In the grand scheme of things people just want to be heard. They want to feel like what they have to say is important. If not, they become introverted. When that happens you start to believe your own lies because you don’t have that positive social interaction with other people. Seeking the edification of other people, loving one another and being considerate of others is a great way to live.”
Dr. Larry Dossey In his book “Meaning & Medicine,” said, “Altruism behaves like a miracle drug, and a strange one at that. It has beneficial effects on the person doing the helping — the helper’s high; it benefits the person to whom the help is directed; and it can stimulate healthy responses in persons at a distance who may view it only obliquely.”
“I believe anything the Lord tells us to do is good for us directly,” said Soto, who is on staff as a teacher at North Cleveland Church of God. “A lot of people stop being nice because people are mean to them and they figure it doesn’t matter. But they have allowed someone to take away something worthwhile to society. Be that one person who just might affect someone else with your happiness, and that person may affect another person. It’s contagious. That’s why God loves a cheerful giver.”
Soto said she had been considering the case of wise King Solomon in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes as a lesson to keep in mind.
“Solomon was given a supernatural portion of wisdom and he had everything,” she said. “He had more than any other king in Israel had acquired. He had money, he had women, he had property, he had servants — he was the king. He likened it to a river. A river runs into the ocean but the ocean never fills up. It just goes around and around. So where does happiness come from? It comes from the Lord, knowing who you were created to be.”
Born in Mayfield, Ky., Soto said she loves to sing and write music, and enjoys traveling to Kentucky with her daughter to sing at her aunt’s church.
“I think all music comes from God,” she said. “I learned to play the violin in the fourth grade and played it until my junior year in high school. But I didn’t know I could sing until I was almost 19 years old. Since then I’ve made several demos and sang on TV at the Great Allentown Fair in Pennsylvania. I used to live up there. Out of more than 300 people I was one of the top 15 finalists for the show.”
Regarding her 3-year-old daughter Audrey Liana, Soto said, “She is my reason for keeping a positive attitude. Sometimes being a single mom, paying a mortgage, working a full-time job, teaching a class — it’s constantly go, go, go, go! She gives me a reason to stop and think about what’s really important. She sings also! She comes with me everywhere I perform. My brother has a studio. My nephew plays the drums. My brother plays the guitar. My sister-in-law plays bass. We’re like the Partridge Family.”
According to the optimistic musician, she arrived in Cleveland almost six years ago after an invitation to visit The City with Spirit by her brother, Lee Mercer, automotive shop teacher at Cleveland High School.
“I went through a rough period in my life,” she admits. “At that point I had lost the whole identity thing. I had lost everything. I had put myself in the identity of what I had — therefore I thought I was nothing. My brother welcomed me to Cleveland to start over, and I love it here!”
Soto admits she especially finds pleasure in sharing her joy with others and expressing random acts of kindness whenever she can.
“I feel when I’m happy, I make the world a better place,” she said. “People want to be around something positive. They want to feel cared about. When you’re around people who nag or complain all day — what’s going to happen? Either way it’s contagious. We don’t know what somebody else is going through. If I say something to somebody it could push them off the ledge, or pull them back from it. God’s Word speaks about that.”
Paul Pearsall, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, wrote in his book “The Pleasure Prescription”: “Modern research shows one of the most pleasurable of all human acts is also one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and for others. Gentle, caring selflessness results in significant health benefits.”
Of all the life lessons she has had to learn over three decades, Soto said her most valued one has been putting her trust in the right source.
“I’ve learned that if I put my trust in God, it doesn’t matter what someone else does,” she said. “Instead of expecting people to meet my needs and to be my stability, I trust in the Lord. That way I am not disappointed. Then I can love others unconditionally, which makes me a better person and them a better person. That’s true in marriage, friendships and with co-workers — I really believe that. I believe being positive makes a real difference in life.”