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Happier this Holiday Season

They say it’s the happiest time of the year and I have to agree. Some people say that Christmas is for children…maybe it is. But I think we all have a little bit of that child-like spirit in each of us that we rekindle around this time of year. The nostalgia of the holiday season—baking cookies, wrapping presents, and spending time with loved ones is emboldened each year as we add new memories to the season. There’s a catch though. Going home for the holidays sounds dreamy in definition, but it could be disappointing if we’re not careful. As much of those memories of our youth may mean to us, as we grow up our plans and relationships change. The season of joy can quickly turn into a season of stress if we’re not careful. After experiencing independence, it can be challenging to go back to living under your parent’s roof, if only for a few days. The town you grew up in can suddenly seem like a ghost of the past. It doesn’t feel the same. The key: don’t compare. I know I have such high expectations of the holiday season because they were some of my happiest memories of my childhood. But the meaning of the holidays changes as we change. It’s not something to miss or resent, it’s something to embrace. Rather than pine for the Christmases past, we can find the happiness in our current Christmas. Life was simple when we were young and our happiness was a well. A new bike or doll was good enough. We maintained the magic of the season and truly believed that anything was possible, including Santa visiting every child in the world all in one night. Ignorance was truly bliss. Yet now we can gain a deeper happiness this holiday season. While it might still be fun to wrap and unwrap presents or to go look at Christmas lights, it’s about so much more. More than the music, the food, the movies (as much as I love it all). It’s about the people we have in our lives. This is our best time to cherish those friendships and express our love for them. My grandma passed away this past year and it’s always different when a relative is no longer around to share in the holiday spirit. The traditions change throughout the years and we should welcome it rather than wish for the past. While it will be different without her this year, it reminds me to give thanks for another year with so many special friends and family to share life with. Each new holiday season is a gift. May we be a blessing to one another this time of year. May we remember that this season is more than the stores may say—it’s about love, laughter, and celebration instead. The boxes of presents will make us smile, but the bonds we build with the people who matter will give us a lasting happiness that goes beyond Christmas. I hope you have the happiest of holidays. Keep shining, The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Happiness in Helping

In the past I’ve written about the importance of seeking mentors. But what about being a mentor to others? You might say we’re too young to offer help or advice but the time has come! There is always someone younger who is looking up to someone older, even if just by a few years. When people knock on your door, asking for suggestions, it’s time to open up and share your experience. It takes courage to ask for help and when someone seeks you out, don’t deny them. Help them however you can, even if it’s just a few minutes of your time.

If you want to truly give someone the gift of happiness, help others, especially when they’ve asked for it. In an era of low expectations, exceed someone’s hopes by supporting them. Some of my happiest memories have been getting that email response back from someone who I thought would never write back to me. But they did, because they cared.

It’s your turn to be the one who cares. You may think that your ideas don’t matter much yet to those who are younger—you’re young yourself! But if you keep a keen eye, you’ll quickly see that others are looking up to you just as you are looking up to those above you. As you learn from others, there is someone who wants to learn from you.

Don’t hoard the information you’ve gathered. Just as someone was willing to share their secrets of success with you, the chain will only continue if you do not selfishly prize up your knowledge from others. Give back the gifts you’ve been given from those before you. No progress would ever be made if we didn’t collaborate. Work with the wise and the innocent.

You may not think that others are reaching out, but they are. When someone sends you a message on Facebook, asking how you prepared for an interview or how you got a certain job, respond. When someone asks you how to do well in a certain class, give them your best advice. Be honest. Don’t keep others blind to what you have seen. Be a friend and help show them the way, just as someone generously did with you (if you were brave enough to ask for help).

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There is something wrong when you can help, but you choose not to. Life is not an endless competition. Despite curved classes and a cut-throat job market, when we learn that we can learn from each other rather than on our own, our personal progress won’t plateau, it will accelerate. Don’t be afraid to help, chances are, you’ll learn something as you teach.

I hope that this week you’ll be open to not only asking for help but offering it as well when others are brave enough to ask for it. Helping never hurt anyone, it only makes both parties happier.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Power of a Compliment

If there’s anything that brings a genuine smile to our faces, it’s a compliment. There’s nothing like it, especially when it’s unexpected. When you’re walking to class and someone tells you they like your earrings, or you shoes, or your shirt—whatever it may be, it always brings a smile. Ding.

We’re even happier when the compliments go beyond our clothes to our character. When someone tells us we are kind, funny, compassionate—whatever it may be, it gives us an extra spark. What’s important is that we really listen to those wonderful words and use them wisely. When someone sees something in us that we may not see in ourselves, we can learn something entirely new about who we are. We can start to see ourselves in a new light and find direction when we may be feeling lost.

Sometimes our minds can get cluttered with what to do, what to pursue, and where to go with our lives. Hearing someone offer a token of wisdom from the outside in is a precious gift that we shouldn’t take lightly. When we’re seeking direction in life, our friends and family may be the first to offer it through the words they share with us.

Now while we are often told to not care what people think about us, in the case of compliments, we should care. We shouldn’t just brush them off and not take them seriously. (Of course you don’t want to take them so seriously that your head grows to the size of the Good Year Blimp). But compliments aren’t meant to be words that come and go. People say them because they want to affect you in a positive way—to give you more confidence and to further the compliment to a new level. Someone tells you that you’re kind—perhaps now it will propel you to be even kinder. Start to see yourself in the positive way that people see you.

When you’re given a compliment, it’s because someone wants to give you the gift of happiness. Accept it and let it radiate within. On that note, spread that light by giving genuine compliments to others on a regular basis. Go beyond the small talk and get real with people. Tell them what you really think about them—at least all of the positive qualities you see in them.

And even if you’re thinking—“What would I say to the people I’m not a big fan of?” Well, even they have qualities that you can admire. And yes, you should share your compliments with them. Silence isn’t the answer when it comes to the people we’re not best friends with—it only separates us further. Close the gap and find the good. It’s there within everyone.

This week I hope you’ll keep an ear out for the kind words that come your way. Make note of them and let them make you happy. Remember that’s why people say them in the first place. Also, be sure to spread the joy as well. Watch your words bring a smile to someone’s face. Chances are, it will bring a smile to yours as well.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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