10/24/2013 05:14 EDT | Updated 12/24/2013 05:12 EST

Choose to Surround Yourself With The "Right" People

When I was faced with horrific tragedy as a young teen, and was drowning in a mixture of emotions, my "life jacket" was the belief and faith that somehow, I would survive. I hung on with all my strength to protect myself from being pulled under by the indescribable power of grief and despair.

Fortunately, I seemed to have intuitively understood how important it was for me to surround myself with the "right" people -- people who were positive, happy and optimistic. For me, the "right" people were pleasant and fun to be around, they liked to share good news, to celebrate, to look for and find the good in others, to make the best of things, to solve problems, and . . . they smiled.

Even now, I never underestimate the power of a smile.

Spending time with positive people taught me countless lessons. I learned that if I was able to fake joy, I was able to make joy. When I smiled and acted happy, I felt better. And there was something empowering about a smile that had struggled through tears.

I believe that positivity is contagious, and that happy people are drawn to other happy people. And, I believe that it is the same with negativity.

That is why, as a teen, I chose to stay away, and I continue to choose to stay away from negative, difficult, controlling, grouchy and needy people. These people suck the life and energy out of others, and try to pull them down into their dark and gloomy existence because misery loves company.

That is not to say that I suggest ending a friendship when friends are going through a rough time. I suggest the opposite, for that is when friends need friends more than ever. I'm talking about ending relationships with unhappy, negative people who always complain about everything and everyone -- the people displaying chronic negativity.

I call it weeding the garden.

When people complain to me about their toxic friendships, I tell them to stop watering the weeds in their lives and start watering the flowers. And yes...there are plenty of flowers. The world is filled with many happy, beautiful, positive people who know the meaning of honesty, loyalty and goodness. I believe that we should focus our attention on them.

People can inspire and motivate you, or they can drain you . . . choose wisely.