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Weather Report: Week 3

I have to say that I have been exceptionally happy this week. The secret? My friends and family. Not only did I get kidnapped by my friends to take me out for ice cream sundaes, I also got to sit poolside with my friend, Hannah, and go shopping with my best friend, Lauren. Furthermore, it was so nice getting to talk and laugh with my family this week. We went out to dinner a lot (Thai, Japanese, and BBQ- whew!) but sharing food and good conservation is one of my favorite activities. I was reminded this week of how important it is to cherish those that you love and how doing so can bring so much joy to your life.
Also, I’m so excited to say that I was able to accomplish goal #104 on the Sunny Set this week! I went to the shooting range with my dad yesterday and I had the best time. Although I was very nervous to pull the trigger for the first time, it was exhilarating and empowering to stand my ground. I even hit close to a bulls eye! And even better, I got to hold a pink revolver! But best of all was having the opportunity to spend some special time with my dad and have him teach me something new.
So what happened this week at The Sunny Side Up?
  • I was interviewed by Toni Reece for the Get Inspired! Project. Our conversation should be posted online soon. I really enjoyed getting to share with her and I recommend you check out her website to get inspired today at:
  • I met with my Toastmaster mentor, Kathy Wertheim, regarding my first Toastmaster’s Speech and she gave me some great advice about traveling as a motivational speaker.
  • I went shopping with my best friend, Lauren, as we prepare for the Sunny Girl photo shoot. Get ready for some yellow!
I’d especially like to thank Ben White this week for starring as our Sunny Star this week. I’d also like to thank the “cupcake fairy” for delivering a delicious cupcake (cream cheese frosting and all!) on my doorstep. Pleasant surprises are the sun beams of life!
Next week at The Sunny Side Up:
  • Our book of the week is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a true story memoir of a woman venturing to Italy, Indonesia, and India to rediscover herself; I must say that the writing is brilliant. Julia Roberts is starring in the movie coming out soon- I suggest you read it before it hits theaters!
  • I will be giving my first speech in Toastmaster’s on Monday. I will be wearing yellow because I’ve decided that as the Sunny Girl, it is only fitting that I wear something yellow each time I speak! I really hope that I do well as I introduce myself to the club and speak for the first time at the club.
  • I will continue collecting interviews from my peers- this has been one of my favorite parts of the writing process and I really appreciate so many teens sharing their opinions, thoughts, and experiences with me.
I hope you had a sunny week and that this next week is even sunnier!
Keep shining,
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Book of the Week: Happy at Last

As a psychology major, I was eager to read this week’s book: Happy at Last by Dr. Richard O’Conner. It was very interesting to read his perspective on happiness because he is not only a therapist, but he is also a person who is clinically depressed. Even with his condition, he is able to experience happiness on a daily basis and I loved reading his commentary on the subject.
O’Conner makes the point that it is unnatural for humans to be happy. We are victims of the hedonic treadmill, in which we are always wanting more because we are evolved to adapt quickly. He also states that our fast paced Western society is not suitable for cultivating happiness because we are mindlessly going about our day without enjoying the little splendors of life. And the last threat to our happiness that O’Conner makes note of? Consumerism and materialism. Advertising teaches us that buying “the new car” or “that little black dress” will solve all our problems. Yet when the newness wears off, we are left with nothing but buyer’s remorse and an empty wallet.
The good news: our brains can physically change. That’s right. It was previously thought that brain cells cannot be recreated but studies now show that brain cells can develop, change, and form new neural pathways when new behaviors are practiced. This means that every time we try a new behavior, it will get easier as dendritic cells form new connections. Not only does this mean an increase in will power and self esteem, it also means an increase in happiness if we are making a daily attempt to be happier people. The same goes for going to the gym, eating less sweets, or being friendlier- practice becomes habit as the brain becomes more familiar with the behavior.
So what can we do to be happier people? Dr. O’Connor suggests mindfulness. This means that instead of judging and punishing ourselves for our thoughts and behaviors, we care for ourselves with compassionate curiosity. He also admits that while we all will undoubtedly experience pain, it does not mean that we have to suffer by wallowing in our situation. Time heals all wounds and we can choose how we approach a situation.
6 Choices You Can Make to be Happier from Dr. O’Conner:
1. Spend an hour every day for yourself. Spend 30 of those minutes exercising and the other 30 either meditating or reading a good book.
2. Happiness comes in small packages. Use your senses to notice the little things in life that bring you happiness; the melting of frozen yogurt in your mouth or the smell of the salty sea air.
3. Before you go to sleep every night think of three things you are either grateful for, made you happy, or were the best memories of the day.
4. Experience flow with your work. This means being deeply engaged in task in which you lose self-consciousness.
5. Do activities that are out of the house, involve other people, and require physical activity. Staying in the house and being solitary and sedentary will make you feel lethargic and bored; though there are exceptions, of course.
6. Cultivate your friendships and intimate relationships. These bring you the most satisfaction out of life. Give someone a special surprise, hug, or compliment today!
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Ben White

Ben White is currently attending the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. It is an honor to have him as our Sunny Star this week and I personally thank him for his dedication to our country. While life at the Academy may be challenging, Ben has tried to find a way to be happy in his daily life. I appreciate Ben for sharing his experience and I hope you enjoy reading about what a typical day at the base is like- makes you appreciate a homemade dinner! 
1. What is your role in the Merchant Marine Academy and what does the future look like for you?
BW: Well as of now I am simply “Midshipman White 3rd class.” I go to school and study to be a Marine Engineer as well as being involved in small unit leadership. I don’t even have a first name here. The future is all I look to here. Once I graduate is when life gets better and easier. I will eventually be going out to sea and earning a good sum of money. As the years go on, school gets better and more bearable but not easier. Bottom line: “The Merchant Marine Academy is a great place to be from, not a place to be.”
2. Describe a typical day at the Merchant Marine Academy and how happy you typically feel.
BW: Well I have to get up at 0600 everyday and get into uniform and clean my room. Then I go to the dining hall to eat breakfast (worst college food in the nation). After I eat I go back and make sure my room is squared away and then I inspect the Plebes (4th classmen) to make sure they are in correct uniform and ready for the day. Then we have morning colors where we raise the flag and march in formation. After this routine ceremony, I go to classes to morning classes till 1200. Lunch time follows and we have to march again to the dining hall and eat at our assigned tables. Then more classes. When I get out of all my classes at around 1600 I get to work out or go to football practice, shower, eat, then homework till I pass out and do it all again!
So I would say it’s very difficult and tiring but I do have pride in it. I am generally more upbeat then most but I wouldn’t say I am happy here. The best part of my day is going to sleep and working out. But its all for the final result, in the end it will be worth it.
3. What has been the happiest part of your experience?
BW: Probably gaining the friends that I have, getting to play college football, and probably most of all getting to wear my Navy uniform around New York City.
4. What has been the most challenging aspect of your experience and how has this affected your level of happiness?
BW: Grades; hands down. The teachers here are tough and the classes even tougher. So if you fall behind you are screwed. I take on average 7 classes every 14 weeks so it is pretty difficult.
5. What does happiness mean to you? Do you consider yourself to be a happy person?
BW: A tranquil state of mind where I don’t have to worry about school or sports, I can just be me. And overall I would say that I am a happy person, I always try and look for the up side in every scenario.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
Click here to book!