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Happiness Outside of the Hemisphere: Seeking Somalia

Sure, it’s great to think about how we can make ourselves happy—but how can we be truly happy knowing that so many people around the world are miserable? Especially when those people are innocent children who have nothing to eat. Does Somalia strike a chord?

I saw an interview with the supermodel Iman on MSNBC today and it reminded me of how we need to speak up. More importantly, we need to have a cause that we can align ourselves with. Iman’s particular cause is Save the Children, which you can access here.

Somalia is facing the worst drought they have experienced in 20 years. Yes, Texas is having a tough time, but they’ve still got enough chicken tenders and beer to go around. This is different. UNICEF has released the statistic that 6 children are dying per day and the general child malnutrition rate has risen to 55%. We need to do something—NOW. Whether it’s donating money, advocating this cause on your Twitter and Facebook pages to create awareness, do whatever you can. 3.7 million people are going to bed hungry tonight in Somalia. It’s hard to be happy hearing that.

I love to advocate happiness on my blog and this is my bold cry out. There are my light hearted days when I suggest a day with friends or going to a movie for some extra joy. But there are also days, like today, when we need to take our happiness out of our hemisphere and bring it to the people that we’ve never met. They need our help—because if we don’t—we will certainly never meet.

To find out more information, you can go to this LA Times article here.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Surfing Beyond the Couch: New Adventures Ahead

One of my favorite parts about my recent road trip was that it actually happened. How much of the time do we say, “Oh, let’s do that!” and then we never actually do? I would be the most experienced world traveller if I actually went to the all the places I talked about. Wouldn’t we all?

It’s such a satisfying feeling when you stick to your guns and go for it. Sure, it’s nice to daydream, but it’s perfection when your plans actually become a reality. Sadly, I’m often surprised when this happens.

I was inspired to create a Sunny Set of adventures to actually complete. With summer in full swing and a potential year of activities, it’s time to plan on not only planning, but doing events. Here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Plan a cruise: Cruises are one of the best ways to force yourself to relax if you have trouble settling down. You’re on a boat—sorry though, no mermaids, you Lonely Island fans. But there will be plenty of buffet food! They say you gain an average of a pound a day. Maybe that’s why the Titanic sunk?

2. Go on a ski trip: It’s a ways away, I know, but it’s never too soon to set your schedules in order. Especially because ski trips are all the better with a bunch of people—so it’s better to have advance notice.

3. Make it to Disneyland: Or Disney World! There’s no better place to go with your pals. With the state of the world, we could all use an extra trip to the happiest place on Earth.

4. Visit another state: There’s 50 of them, chances are, you’re missing at least one. Visit the beauty of our country by experiencing a new culture that sparks your interest. The Carolinas are on my mindset right now!

5. Go to a show: I need to start checking up on Ticketmaster more often. See  your favorites, whether it’s Mamma Mia the musical or Michael Buble. We could all use a little more music for our minds.

We need something to look forward to. Sure, the memories are great, but you won’t have any if you don’t make any in the first place! Get together with your friends, family, and loved ones and shake up life a little. Couch surf if you want, but not your own! It’s time we live a little, as best we can.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Lisa Bloom Gets Us to Think

You never know what a day will bring. You never know what people you will meet in that day. It was certainly a great day when I met the lovely, talented, and brilliant Lisa Bloom. She is a national legal analyst, owner and lawyer of the Bloom Firm, and the recent bestselling author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. This book was the wake-up call I needed and I think every young adult should set their alarm to it. It’s time we take ourselves out of our celebrity comas and realize how desperately we need to care about the real issues of this world—dire situations like sex trafficking, global warming, and a lack of education in our country and abroad. We need to think—and yes, we can be happy while doing it.

Here is Lisa’s interview with me. You can also find out more at her website:

1. As the author of Think, you encourage women to reclaim their time and minds by reading quality work like the New York Times rather than the National Enquirer. Do you think women can be happier when they choose to read a higher caliber of information?

Women’s happiness is significantly down in the last generation.  How can that be, when we’ve achieved so much?  Because true happiness comes only from living a meaningful life.  Study after study shows that we are happiest when we are connected to a cause greater than ourselves.

Tabloids demean women for being too fat, too thin, having too much plastic surgery, or “letting ourselves go.”  The more we read them, the more we come to believe that stars’ sex lives and DUIs cosmically matter.  (They don’t.)  But when we read real news about our communities and our world, we connect.  We learn the battered women’s shelter is closing — what?  Time to engage!  Our ocean is polluted.  How can I help?  Indian girls are child brides?  How can I send them to school?   When we feed our minds, we are on the path to true happiness, action, and connection with what matters.

2. Some say that “ignorance is bliss,” hence the mind-numbing gossip columns that cover the stands these days. Do you think that we can still be happy, knowing the full truth about the state of the world? Can we read about genocide, sex trafficking, and global warming and still feel happy at the end of the day?

The world’s problems are heavy, no doubt.  We all need a balanced life:  one of awareness and engagement on big issues like these, but also, a life of pleasure, lightness and joy.  That’s why in THINK I advocate reading or watching comedy, listening to music (my fiance and I dance around the kitchen like damn fools nightly after dinner), making cupcakes . . . whatever makes you smile.

In my religion, Judaism, we break a glass at weddings, to remind ourselves of the shattered lives of oppressed people.  Even at a joyous ceremony, we solemnly remember those who are not with us.  At an Irish wake, mourners tell jokes.  Many cultures understand that a full life embraces both sorrow and joy, and that we should strive at all times to balance both.

3. 80% of the American population didn’t read a book last year. This is a massive problem. What books do you recommend for teens specifically so that we can change this statistic?

“Those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot read.”  Chinese proverb.

Most teens are smart enough to read any adult book, in my opinion.  The Life You Can Save, by Peter Singer.  Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See.  (If you read my book or any of these, let me know your reaction on Twitter!  I love to talk about books.  Send me your recommendations!

4. When describing your kids, you say that they “didn’t rebel against me like most American teenagers.” How did you come to the conclusion that most young adults are unruly?

Ha!  Are you saying they aren’t?  I’m open to being wrong about this.

Our culture, at least, sends the message that teenagers “naturally” rebel against their parents, pitch fits, moan and whine, and scream “I hate you!” In many Asian cultures, for example, this is not expected:  teens are presumed to respect their elders.

My teens would tell me that they had a better relationship with me than many of their friends did with their parents.  I didn’t do a survey, but I do know that I raised my kids with love and respect, and they reciprocated.  None of us is perfect, but we forgave each other our imperfections.  I was a lucky Mom, and I still am.

5. You suggest exercise, sex, and friendship for women in order to have a happier life. Do you have any other suggestions for teens specifically to live a happier life?

You’d be surprised what a difference exercise makes.  Any kind:  running, walking, dancing, climbing a hill, playing sports.  Show me a depressed teen and I will show you a couch potato.  I do something to get moving every day.  I may not be in the mood when I start, but it always lifts my mood.

The other guaranteed happiness delivery vehicle:  volunteering.  When I was a teen I visited elderly folks in a convalescent hospital.  Go and read to them, chat with them, even just watch TV with them.  You will see yourself through their eyes:  as the most remarkable, kind, beautiful person on the planet. I’ve also volunteered to run with blind runners, served meals to homeless, conversed with immigrants learning English, planted flower gardens around housing projects.  When you go, resolve to be the friendliest, most outgoing go-getter in the group.  Give it your all.  Go home exhausted but proud of your contribution, with a boost in your self-esteem that you have earned.

Many more happiness tips in my book.  Check ’em out!

6. Many teens are required to “think” in school on a daily basis. What do you recommend so that they think more outside of the classroom? And so that they actually enjoy it?

Lisa contributes regularly on CNN, CBS, NBC, and many other broadcast networks.

7. What would bring you the most hope for the next generation?

I would like to see millions of young people thinking for themselves.  Corporate America wants you to be an underpaid mass of drooling automatons that buys their products and doesn’t challenge the status quo.  The five giant media conglomerates that run almost all American media wants to dumb you down by, say, glamorizing drunken fools on Jersey Shore.  But your brain wants back in the game.  It wants you to challenge this nonsense, to create, to make a difference.

My generation brought you equality for women and people of color.  We’re making progress (too slowly) on gay rights.  We cut the legs out from under the tobacco industry.  We brought you the internet and amazing technology.  (I am writing these answers on my feather-light MacBook Air on a plane.)  But we failed you in other areas:  climate change, the slavery of three million women and girls in brothels worldwide, the incarceration of two million Americans, the Iraq war, the consolidation of corporate power and shredding of your privacy rights, as examples.

We need your minds, your time, your focus, on these and other issues that call to you.  We need your fresh ideas, your energy, your courage.  Try, fail, try again.  But pick up the ball and run with it.  What will you tell your children you did to improve the world?

8. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

I wrote my book, THINK, with young people in mind.  Your generation is so bright, so capable.  You probably don’t see it, but trust me, you are.   Believe in yourselves.  Do your homework, and the extra credit.  When you care about something, learn more about it than anyone else.  Arm yourself with facts and knowledge.  Trust your own brain.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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