A New Study on Fear

Hello friends! I’m so excited to announce that I am starting to work on my next book. This time around I’m focusing on how fear can wreak havoc on our happiness and more importantly–how we can overcome that fear to cultivate our full potential and ultimate joy.

Before I write I want to get an accurate read on where we’re at with fear. I’ve developed a short survey and my goal is to get 500 participants. I am offering five $100 scholarships which I will raffle off for every 100 participants.

I’m looking for anyone between the ages of 12-24 to take the survey. If you’re in this age bracket, please take the survey! More than anything, please SHARE this survey on your page to help me reach my goal.

Here is the link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1QkUDVdmyagmLvEULZZmfhBZyXdv6j0kVR_jfqsE8To0/viewform?usp=send_form

Thank you, thank you!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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How to Actually Have a GREAT Summer

Graduation season has been upon us! I’ve seen a lot of high schoolers around my hometown carrying their shiny yearbooks diligently under the arms—inevitably holding phrases like, “Have a great summer!” or “Good luck in college!” Well wishes like these have been passed down through the years, as I’ve witnessed through my mom’s yearbook: “Have a bitchin’ summer!” The lingo changes but the message stays the same.

So, how does one ACTUALLY have a great summer?

I was thinking about this last week as I sat browsing over Facebook and Pinterest, wishing for graduate school to start. How ironic. When we’re in school, we wish for summer. When we’re bored at home, we wish for a change then, too. I knew that in September I’d be wishing for this sweet summertime once again so I decided to shake my life up a bit and figure out how I’d truly make this summer a great one. I wanted to share some of my favorites so that this can be a “bitchin’” summer for you as well.

10 Sunny Suggestions for Summer:

10372834_529365803835181_8673758965050495393_o1. Take a painting class with friends: This is THE thing to do this summer. These group painting classes are so fun—challenging enough that you focus on the task but easy enough that you can socialize with your group. I’ve done two of these this summer and I can’t wait to do it again. Here’s the Paint Nite website I recommend.

2. Do something creative: We often look at many forms of creativity in a given day—someone makes an inspirational YouTube video, another makes a parody of a Top 40 song. Why can’t you do that as well? This summer I’m collaborating to make a video about happiness. It’s a bit of a daunting challenge but we all need that.

3. Exercise daily: During summer we finally have some free time. Pick up a tennis racket, swim some laps—heck, start running! You’ll be amazed to see the progress you’ll make in a few months. I’m training for a Color Run with my friend, Alexis—you can find one in your local area, too.

4. READ: And by read I don’t mean textbooks. Read books that you’ve had on your shelf for months. Reading can be so relaxing but I believe peaceful reading is an art that takes practice. If reading feels like the last thing you want to do, try reading 20 minutes every day and see what happens. Lately I’m loving this Goodreads website to see what my friends are reading as well.

I can't wait to see the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit!

I can’t wait to see the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit!

5. Plan an adventure: I’m going to Seattle for the first time this summer to celebrate my four-year anniversary with my boyfriend. I’m loving learning about the restaurants, history and sights of the Emerald City. Your trip doesn’t have to be elaborate—just a weekend getaway is enough to pique your interest. TripAdvisor is my favorite way to plan.

6. Try new eateries: I love eating my way through LA. Last weekend I tried The Pie Hole (yes, that’s the name of the sweet shop) and Wurstkuche (a bratwurst joint)—both were amazing. Go outside of your comfort zone and try something new to spark your interest.

7. Take a new class: I love websites like CourseHorse that introduce you to so many possibilities. For me, I NEED to learn how to cook. I’ve burned one too many Betty Crocker recipes (and that’s the box cake mix we’re talking about). Grab a friend and stir away.

8. Dance: I’m all about zumba this summer. A lot of us think dancing is either for four year olds wearing tutus or going to “da club” in mini skirts. Not the case. It’s never too late to go to a lyrical class or play around with tap dancing. We all need to get over ourselves and just have fun.

9. Get some sun: I’m not one to endorse laying out to the point of looking like an over-baked potato chip but I do think a little Vitamin D does the body good.

10. Write: whether you’re journaling, blogging or working on a book, writing is so therapeutic for our souls. I’m trying to write more this summer…in fact, I’m starting my next book! A lot of us worry about judgment when it comes to writing. But a hard-learned lesson I’ve picked up along the way? Write for yourself.

Here’s to that great summer we’ve all been talking about!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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The Secret to Happier Travel

SeattleI’ve been happier the past few days and I know exactly why. I’m going to Seattle! It’s my first time visiting and this will be the perfect summer vacation to explore and go on my own. As much as I loved venturing to Europe last summer, I was so busy preparing for my Chi Omega National Consultant job that I didn’t have nearly enough time to research before I went. It made a difference in the experience and I felt like I was constantly playing catch-up next to my well-studied compadre, Sarah, who had spent months delving into all that Europe offered. Looking back, I think she was that much happier during our trip because she’d done her homework. The architecture, museums and history meant so much more to her because she understand the story behind the statue.

This time around, I’ll be more than ready for all that Seattle has to offer.

That’s the key to a happier travel: RESEARCH. When you take the time to look for the trendiest restaurants, the quaint hotels and obvious-but-altogether-necessary and notable landmarks, the trip becomes that much more meaningful. When we plan for something and invest our time in an adventure, it becomes valuable to us. We don’t take the experience for granted because we know we’ve put in the effort to make it as wonderful as possible. The trip isn’t happenstance, or haphazard for that matter. Not everything has to be planned to every finite detail, but taking the time to familiarize yourself with a destination before going there can make all the difference.

More than anything, I’m loving learning about Seattle. Many people have asked, “Why Seattle?” Well, why not Seattle? After traveling for Chi Omega this past year, I’ve fallen in love with America and I want to see every nook, climb every mountain (cue the nuns singing while Maria prances about) and taste every crawfish, coffee and croissant I can get my hands on. Life is too short to stay in one place forever…even if you do live in southern California!

If you have any recommendations for my adventure, please send them my way. I’m open to anything! Here’s to planes, trains and what lies between!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Raise Your Hand High

o-CLASS-HAND-RAISING-facebookI spoke at my high school today for their annual Career Fair. I gave my presentation on the process of becoming an author, working in the entertainment industry and general interviewing/networking suggestions. When it came time to answer questions, all hands but one stayed down.

I could see it in their faces. Sure, they had questions, but their hand stayed seal-shut glued to the table. I remember being one of those students until a motivational speaker shared how important it is to raise your hand. Staying silent is fear personified; we let the power of judgment, embarrassment, defeat or confusion consume us.

Afterward, we’re left with a dull ache, wishing we had just asked that question or shared our idea. For the times we HAVE overcome our fear and raised our hands, the feeling of bravery and courage is freeing.

I know it’s not easy to make ourselves vulnerable; to offer a potential perception of ignorance when we humble ourselves to ask a question or divulge an opinion. But it is with speaking that connections are formed, interest is expressed and knowledge is gained. There is no harm that can come from it. Often times, the best questions lead to further comments which lead to great discussions which lead to fundamental and perhaps pivotal shifts in thinking.

Raise your hand proudly. Whether you’re asking a question, praising or dancing, don’t let anyone hold you back. This is one of our essential freedoms. Life is too good to not gain as much knowledge and create as many connections as we possibly can.

Next time you’ve got that nagging feeling of a question or thought coming on (oh, no!), just go ahead, and speak. You won’t regret that you did—in fact you’ll be glad. People want to hear what you have to say and chances are, some of them are thinking the same thing but are too afraid to speak up.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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A New Way with Words

6e9676f3f9dd138aeb61791cf36f7bf3My dear friend Hannah was visiting from out of town this week and I always love listening to her talk. She uses words that I haven’t heard since studying for the GRE, like “caustic” or “amalgamate.” I complimented Hannah on her verbose vocabulary, and then I remembered why she has such a great range with words.

Hannah is an avid reader. Even when we were friends in middle school, Hannah was always turning a page and even describes herself as a bookworm. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen what a gift it is—to have the passion to read. It has always been a little humdrum for me…something that I know I’m supposed to do, but hasn’t always been a genuine pleasure. If given the choice, I would pick a movie over a novel any day. And I think it’s a shame.

Movies are fleeting; they offer a few hours of surface level emotions. The hard-hitting movies that grab on to your soul for a few days are few and far between. But books…they build you up in more ways than one. Not only do you come away with a stronger vocabulary, you have a deeper perspective into the human mind. You can momentarily live a thousand different lives if you read a thousand different books.

So I’m setting a challenge for myself. I’m going to read every day…either a novel, a nonfiction, the newspaper…whatever it might be. Rather than just watching movies as my way to wind down, I’m going to attempt to reprogram myself to choose reading rather than watching. I am choosing to keep my mind sharp and active. Maybe I’ll even through in some Sudoku puzzles while I’m at it.

So here’s to more reading and taking the erudite approach…

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Like a Tightrope

I’ve been speaking a lot about the power of vulnerability lately. One thing I’ve noticed when I ask the audience a question, they freeze like they just took the polar bear plunge. I remember being that audience member myself, avoiding attention with all my power. Raising my hand would be like sticking my hand in a bucket of ice: unpleasantly shocking.

I think this is one of the weakest links of my generation. We fear attention. Is this because we worry that our peers will judge us? That we will look uneducated? Maybe it’s the sheer nervousness that comes with the first word you speak and suddenly one hundred heads spin toward you?

We have to be brave though. Brave with our words and our actions. We can’t let fear hold us back from speaking our truth. I love the Sara Bareillis song, “Brave” because she preaches just that, “Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out. I want to see you be brave.”

That’s my wish for our generation as well; that we will be brave. That we will ask questions because we are genuinely curious. That we will apply for things we don’t think we will get…we might. That we will try out for a team we don’t think we will make…we might.

If we never ask, the answer will always be no.

Be brave with your life. Believe in yourself and trust that you will be okay, no matter what the outcome.

TightropeMy dad has used an analogy about parenting that has always stayed in my mind. Parents encourage their children to walk on the tightrope. They encourage them to take those brave steps. But if they fall, and they will as each child practices, the parents are there to catch them as a safety net. They are not a hammock to fall asleep on, rather the safety net springs you back up. And then you walk on the tightrope again, until you come to the other side. Eventually you will make it.

We need to keep taking those bold, brave steps outward and trust that even if we do fall, we will spring back up. We’re all learning.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Sunny Star: Caitlin Gainey

I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful Ticktockers around the country with my National Charity League speaking events. One particular member that I met, Caitlin Gainey, is a seventh grader full of light and love for the world. She shared a new idea with me, called the Warm Fuzzy Jar, and I thought it was too good to keep to myself!

1. You are a Ticktocker with National Charity League. How has this experience brought happiness to your life?

KG: Being a Ticktocker with National Charity League puts a smile on my face everyday! It is a honor to be a part of this program, because it is putting yourself out there to help the community become a better place for the people around us.

2. Tell us about your Warm Fuzzy Jar and how you hope it will bring happiness to those around you.

KG: My idea for this new year was getting a big glass jar and filling it with colorful pieces of paper that have funny or nice things that happen to my group of friends and myself over this next year and open all of these little fuzzy things at the end of 2014 for a fun New Year’s Eve tradition.

3. What brings you happiness in life?

KG: The things that make me happy are my friends and family, and I also LOVE my Santa Barbara Volleyball Club team, they are an amazing group of girls, and we probably have the best team name ever (the Wicked Wheatgrass!). One of the BIGGEST joys that I do is volunteering because every time you finish working you always have a realization that “Wow! I just helped somebody!”

4. What goal are you working toward and how has this increased your happiness?

KG: I am working toward making Varsity Volleyball at my school next year. This is increasing my happiness by like 10000% because when you have a goal and you work hard for it you will always have the biggest smile on your face every time you get one step closer to your goal.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Sacramento National Charity League Keynote

I’ve been traveling in a lot of airports lately and there’s a store I always hope to see. Whenever I see the Life is Good store between Delta Gate 26 and 28, it reminds me to smile. Even in crowded terminals with $5 dollar, 4 ounce water bottles (okay, I’m slightly exaggerating), seeing the motto “Life is Good” reminds me of this truth.

Life has been good and I want to take a moment to appreciate it. Perspective is everything and I think we need to be proud of the good in our lives, not diminish or ignore it. I’m so incredibly thankful for the speaking opportunities I’ve had lately and I’ve met some incredible women around the country. One quote that I particularly love from this gem of a store, Life is Good, is this:

“Do what you love. Love what you do.”

That is what I’ve been doing lately and I haven’t been happier than this. I talk about goal setting in my keynote and it’s incredibly true: striving for goals increases our happiness. I can resolutely attest to this.

I wanted to share some highlights of my Sacramento National Charity League keynote and stay tuned for more from my Phoenix speaking events. Enjoy!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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The Right Resolutions

8a33f836e090281667ffe5464e97473dIt’s January 8, 2014 and probably half of us have given up on our resolutions. The reason being? We knew they were unrealistic when we semi-committed to them on December 31. My resolutions of years past included things like, “no sugar” and “exercising daily.” Cue the chuckles.

I’ve changed my outlook on resolutions this year. We create them with the intention that they will likely make us happier or healthier, no? If I cut out carbs, I’ll lose 10 pounds and then I will be happy. If I run four miles a day I’ll be in shape and then I’ll feel better about myself. These expectations we put on ourselves are well meaning but they might make us more unhappy than when we started if these goals aren’t fulfilled. Setting yourself up to fail is a quick way to begin the year feeling defeated and worse yet, lead to giving up entirely.

They tell us, “Happy New Year.” Well how do we really make ourselves happy? Starving ourselves and slaving away at the gym? Not quite. A happy 2014 for me is quality time with family, less complaining and learning a new skill. These may not be as tangible as losing a few lbs. or burning x calories, but your spirit will feel it all the same. So today I’m thinking about some REAL resolutions that will actually make you happy:

1. Take a walk once a week and take a picture every time of something that makes you smile. You’ll be amazed at what you start noticing. If you see a rose, smell it. If you see a horse (like I did the other day), give it a pet—just make sure it’s friendly!

2. Catch your complaining: Nix the negative. This can be a challenge for me since sometimes I complain subconsciously without even noticing it. Be aware of what you say and truly think before you speak.

3. Designate your time: Using your phone and laptop to work is essential. However, using them at 11:00 pm when it’s time to rest or employing them as devices to avoid social conversation is not necessary. Work hard during the intentional time you set aside and then truly, set your devices aside.

4. Eat sugar: in moderation. For all the sugar addicts out there (ME), you don’t need to cut yourself off. That will make you unhappy in no time. Instead, I’ve decided I’ll have a sweet four days out of the week, once a day. Of course I cheat on this but it helps me become more conscious of what I’m choosing.

5. Watch less, read more: I’ve noticed in 2013 more than ever that many of us are reading less and less. It’s easier to be mindless watching a movie or a show and sure, there’s a time and a place for that. But focus your enjoy toward a story that you can delve in. It’s worth your time.

I hope you all have a very HAPPY New Year and that your resolution lasts all the way through the year, not just the first three days of January.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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A New Kind of Gift Giving

14a6e69ebcd7a2c12f01f60045b4388f

Don’t you just love this time of year? The word that always comes to mind is nostalgia. I’m reminded of my youth and the magic I found not only in Christmas, but in my life when I was a little girl. As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that while the magic may still be there, I’m not always present to experience it. We get so caught up in the receipts, the RSVPs, and the deadlines that we forget what it feels like to stand in the nippy air on a wintry night or the wonder of staring at a Christmas tree. I miss those little joys.

This Christmas I am trying to be more present for the moments that lately I’ve been missing. It’s been a challenge. For whatever reason, I find more than ever that I can’t seem to settle down. Perhaps the hustle and bustle of shoppers is taking a toll on my brain as I try to cram every last to-do before the New Year rings. But just as mom and pop settle down for a “long winter’s nap,” so should I. This is the time to relax and enjoy: to eat the cookie(s), to watch a movie(s), and to cozy up for an hour(s) without guilt or concern.

I hope you’ll do the same and remember that it’s about the people and not the presents you’re getting them. This year I am working on a new form of gift giving. Rather than a snow globe (which bombed) or a candle piece (the 23rd my mom owns), I’m trying to get experience gifts. I know I can say it here because my dad doesn’t always frequent my blog but I got him tickets to an Eagles concert with me. This will be a father-daughter night that we’ll always remember and will never get dusty on a shelf. I gave my boyfriend tickets to the Nutcracker and it was a great date night (which also instilled some cultural awareness on his part!).

I challenge you to get experience gifts this year. Create memories with someone; it’s a worthy investment. Buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room at a unique hotel, or make reservations at the restaurant you want to try. You can still wrap it up. The Christmas spirit can continue on because these experience gifts express a central idea: investment. When you give a gift such as this, you are showing how you see a future with this family member or friend. Their love cannot be bought; time together is all it takes to foster a bond.

So rather than hit the mall (where you may actually get hit by a bundle of bags), think outside of the present box and use your shopping time to buy more time with the ones you love.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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