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A New Year, A New Happiness

2013 is upon us! Before you start thinking it’s unlucky, prepare for your best year yet. I have a good feeling about it (and not just because my lucky number is 13). It’s all about starting the year with the right intentions and keeping those intentions present at the forefront of your mind throughout the year. Resolutions are only good if you’re resolute about carrying them out and making them a reality.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful 2012 and that you’ve taken time to reflect on it. What were your happiest memories from it? Where can you make some improvements this upcoming year? Make this new year count.

So here are some Sunny Suggestions to start our year off right:

1. Maintain a mindset of gratitude: We have so much to be thankful for on a daily basis—people who love us and support us, friends who make us laugh, and simple joys that add so much richness to our lives. Don’t forget how these people and things make you feel; cherish them while you have them.

2. Plan some adventures: Go beyond your comfort zone this year! No more excuses. If you have something on your bucket list, go out and do it! I have been talking about going to Italy for years and this is the year! I’m not the most adventurous chicken in the coop but even the most timid hens have to go out and fly sometime. This is my time.

3. Keep a kind mouth: It’s time for the gossip to go out and the compassion to come in. Let’s be thoughtful about our words and remember that their impact can last much longer than the when they are said. Give compliments, not cruelty this year.

4. Laugh more: Keep a lighthearted spirit this year. There is plenty enough seriousness in this world. While there is a time and place for that, we need more positivity and laughter in our lives. Let your guard down a little with your friends and live it up.

5. Set some goals: There’s nothing more exciting than making plans for the year and seeing them come true. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish this year and make it visible so that you can see it every day. Even if these goals can seem huge, take baby steps every day to get there.

6. Be selfless: Let’s focus on giving back more than self-gratification. Find a charity you want to work with this year and make your family and friends a bigger priority. If you know someone who is suffering, be there for them. Visit loved ones in the hospital, send thoughtful cards, BE THERE.

7. Shop less, save more: If you’re like me, online shopping may have become a problem in 2012. Instead of browsing the newest styles, let’s save what we’ve earned and use it for a more meaningful happiness. Learn about new investments, donate to charity, or use that money to reach your goals—perhaps to travel?

I hope these ideas spark some inspiration for you. This can be your best year yet, you just have to make it happen!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

2012 In Review

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday season. I had so many moments where I paused and recognized how genuinely happy I felt. I feel simply grateful to have these times with family and friends. I’m glad that I’ve been able to not only live in the moment, but to stop and savor it. I hope you have been able to as well.

This period between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorites because it is a time of reflection. Sure, it’s been a tough year. But there are enough news stations to cover that. This is a place for happiness. Not a place for denial or ignorance, because I think it’s so important that we educate ourselves, no matter how painful the truths of our world may be. Instead, this is a place where we can CHOOSE to find the good—because it is there—and put our focus on that.

So in my traditional ways, let’s take a look back on this year and how happy it’s been. I’d love if you’d share your happiest times as well:

IMG_14371. Visiting Disneyland: I went to the happiest place on Earth a record of FIVE times this year! This is my place of childhood wonder, and I love the innocence and nostalgia that surrounds Disneyland. I went with people I love—my mom, my best friend, my Chi O sisters, and my boyfriend (all at separate times) and I don’t think I’ve ever smiled more.

2. Turning 21: No, it wasn’t the traditional 21st birthday you’d expect. Instead of bar hopping all night, I spent a spa weekend with my best friends in Ojai. Getting massages and sitting by the pool just talking was truly amazing. I also had a great family birthday dinner with only 20 people that I treasure. I feel happy just thinking about it.

3. Working for Disney ABC Television Group: This was truly a dream come true. I worked for the company for nearly a year and I learned so much during that time. I am beyond grateful for the experience. In case you couldn’t tell, I truly love Disney and it was amazing to spend a year working there.

4. Celebrating two years with my boyfriend: There’s been a lot of change for us in the past year: he’s graduated from UCLA, moved to New York and started at Columbia Law School. But we’re still so strong and it’s only gotten better and better. I feel so thankful to be with a person who is so loving, compassionate, and thoughtful. Not to mention, the pinning ceremony he planned for me was so special and unforgettable.

5. Times with my cat: How could I not give thanks for my best animal friend? Kiko has been with me every step of the way with the writing of my book. Even though I think I may be getting allergic to him, I can never pet him enough.

6. My cousins: They are 3 and 5 and they are at such fun ages. Quite frankly, I never was a huge fan of children until they came into my life. I’ve never laughed or smiled so much when I’m in their company. Watching them learn to walk and now read is truly miraculous.

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7. Lisa Bloom: A continual mentor for me. I loved having the opportunity to work for her this summer and she continues to inspire me every day to read more, speak thoughtfully, and go for your dreams.

8. My book: 2013 is the year. This has been my heart and soul for the past three years. I am so excited to see it come to fruition. Shooting the cover a few months ago made it seem more of a reality and I can’t wait!

9. My first magazine publication in The Eleusis: I was thrilled to see my article featured in our Chi Omega national magazine. What an honor.

10. Watching UCLA beat USC: I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest football fan but it was so amazing to be apart of UCLA’s victory. Even though we stood in the pouring rain for hours, I had a blast watching the game. Every minute was worth it.

What were your happiest memories this past year? I hope 2013 is just as amazing!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Importance of Reciprocity

Hallelujah! Finals are over—now that is something to be happy about. Even when I can’t write about what I love because I’m busy writing research papers, my mind is always thinking about what to write about next. There’s been one topic in particular my mind has been stewing over lately:

RECIPROCITY.

I noticed it more this holiday season than ever. Gift giving etiquette can be tricky if you don’t have the right mindset, and I’ve noticed that in my opinion, many people don’t. Now I know we are in tough economic times but I don’t think that’s enough of an excuse to not put the brain power into presents, even if we don’t put our pockets in. Sure, you don’t need to spend all your savings on presents this holiday season, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in any effort this year. I’ve seen a lot of stingy Grinches this Christmas who don’t want to give back and that just doesn’t seem right, plain and simple.

We all have something to be grateful for. It’s all about your perspective. You can see everything that is missing or you can see the one thing that is there. Your health, a positive relationship, your education or job. There is always something. So this is the season to give back. It’s great to receive gifts (I won’t deny it!) but it’s important to give back just as much as we are given.

I’ve seen people accept gifts and just walk away, without an ounce of guilt that they are empty handed for the other person. Now, we’ve all been caught off guard before and the holidays can sometimes reveal an uneven balance in a relationship but it’s never too late!

When you are given a gift, you should return the favor. Give them a plate of cookies, a candle, or even a thoughtful card. Offering a present is a humble offering of sincerity and friendship. Respect that gift and reciprocate. No one should ever feel embarrassed or awkward to give a gift, the only person who should feel that way is the one who never looks back or says thank you! The moment of happiness that comes from gift giving can quickly be flouted by an unappreciative taker. Express your gratitude this holiday season.

So this season, I encourage you to not only reciprocate but to initiate. Don’t think of the baking or the shopping as an inconvenience. See it as another opportunity to express love. Give your gifts to people you know will appreciate them and value their meaning. And of course don’t stress about the spending—you can give small tokens of love that are practically free but still priceless. Words in themselves can be a gift if you mean what you say in a genuine way.

Happy holidays to you all friends!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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