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Storing Up Your Happiness

Grades are coming out soon and it always reminds me of how fragile happiness can be. Of course you recover, but getting a bad grade, especially after you feel you’ve worked really hard, is deflating. It can kill ambition and knock the wind out of your sails—if you let it.

Have you ever noticed how succeeding at something or receiving good news can be very exciting momentarily but getting bad news or doing poorly at a test or a basketball game (whatever it might be) can bring you down for hours, if not days? It’s similar to getting a compliment or a critique. When someone compliments us we often shake it off and disregard it. Or it makes us smile for a second and we move on. But when we hear someone speak ill of us? We can’t get it out our heads—it can be drowning.

I think it’s time for a reverse.

Let the happiness pile up!

Let the happiness pile up!

How bout we take the positive praise in our life—all the kind words, good grades, nice smiles—anything happy that comes our way and magnify it in our lives? Why don’t we make THAT the center of our life? Instead of focusing on someone’s negativity about your appearance, your personality, whatever it may be—reflect it back with all the GREAT things that are going on with your life.

When someone gives you a compliment, don’t forget it. I actually have a file on my computer where I save messages and emails from people who have taken the time to write something thoughtful to me. It may seem silly, but these words of love make a huge difference when you have days that feel completely evaporated of love. Make the compassion you’ve received in the past handy so that you can remember all the good that is in our world. It’s there—give it the attention it deserves.

On that note, just as others have taken the time to send you love, be sure to give it back. Doesn’t it make you smile when someone sends you a thoughtful email, just because? It’s the best kind of surprise. Flatter someone, make their day. There’s no shame in telling someone you admire them. Not to mention, it builds stronger relationships. These thoughtful acts benefit both the recipient and the sender.

Now if you’ve been hurt by someone or something, of course you need to allow yourself time to heal. It’s okay to be sad—it’s healthy. But don’t ever let yourself forget the light left in the world. The longer you stay in darkness the more your eyes will be shocked by the sunshine. Stay familiar with the joy and keep it present in your life.

So next time you get a great grade—celebrate it and let it add to your happiness exponentially. Let all the little successes and celebrations pile up and surmount any sadness you’ve had. Don’t let one negative event bomb away the hundreds of good things you’ve been storing up—protect it with all your might! No one can take your happiness away from you, only you have that right.

Let the good outweigh the bad—simple as that!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Professor Karen Givvin

562907_103445313139198_1856704238_nI’m so excited to introduce the latest Sunny Star, my Psychology of Education Professor, Karen Givvin. As I prepare to graduate in June, taking her class has been one of the highlights of my academic career thus far. After being a student for the past 17 years or so, it has been so interesting learning about learning. We’ve covered how our teachers instruct most effectively, how students retain knowledge best, and how the classroom culture can help us foster a love for learning or a love for merely earning the best grades. This class has been a perfect reminder about how class is not meant to be a competition or a rat race, but rather, an opportunity to learn valuable information for the sheer sake of knowledge.

Thank you so much to Professor Givvin for this interview! I hope you enjoy reading what she has to say and I hope it brings back fond memories of your days in school!

1. You are an Education Psychology Professor at UCLA. You are especially interested in looking at the different teaching styles in America and other countries. What inspired you to pursue this research?

Each of the members in my small family was born on a different continent and we traveled a lot when I was a kid.  I think I’ve had a sense for a long time that different cultures have different ways of doing things.  It’s interesting when you take that approach toward education.  After all, every culture educates its children in some way — most even in some formal way.  To fail to learn from what people are doing elsewhere is a tremendous (inexcusable) loss.

2. Many American students don’t particularly love school. For example, they often wish their time away by saying, “I can’t wait for the weekend,” or “I can’t wait for the school year to end.” What do you think is the reason for this?

I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to be eager for the weekend or for summer break.  I always am!  Learning is hard work and it’s natural to look forward to time off and the freedom that brings.  Dreading school is something else, and there are too many students for whom that’s the case.  For those students  who hate hard work, there’s little way around it, either in school or in life thereafter.  For those who hate school because they don’t feel cared about or don’t feel safe, we need to make sure we offer a place in which they feel supported to learn.

3. How do you think we can make the classroom environment a happier experience for students?

I believe firmly that the best motivator is an interesting task.  We know from the TIMSS 1999 Video Study that American teachers often make their classrooms fun at the expense of learning.  Challenge can be fun and deeply rewarding.  If we all wanted to engage in tasks that are easy, the developers of Sudoku puzzles wouldn’t offer varied levels of difficulty.  In fact, there probably wouldn’t be Sudoku developers at all!  Struggling with a task and experiencing success as a result makes us feel competent and happy.

4. What do you think we can learn from other countries so that American students are not only learning more, but enjoying the process of learning as well?

Some other countries value students’ thinking more than we do.  I’m particularly drawn to that.  It has the potential to lead individual students to value their OWN thinking more.  That can result not only in a greater willingness to DO more thinking, but also to put more ideas “out there” for discussion.  We’re all better off when there are more voices in the mix.

5. What is your hope for the state of education in our country in the next 20 years?

Education is an enormous undertaking.  Anything with that kind of mass has a great deal of inertia.  It’s difficult to change.  I hope that there will be some resignation to the fact that there aren’t any easy fixes.  We can’t expect to be on top of world rankings in a short period of time (if, indeed, that’s our goal).  I hope that our K-12 education finds a way to settle on small, continuous, and sustainable improvements.  With respect to higher education, I hope that states increase their support for public universities.  Students shouldn’t be expected to carry the amount of debt they currently do.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Finding Happiness When You Don’t Know What Will Happen

Finding peace no matter what you are.

With June quickly approaching, this year has had plenty of uncertainty. I don’t know what city I’ll be living in or where I’ll be working. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging at time but it’s given me a great lesson in the meantime: how to find happiness even in the most stressful circumstances. Can it be done? Of course it can!

Happiness takes on a new form under conditions like these. Yes, it doesn’t come as naturally but it doesn’t mean those moments of joy aren’t still there. You have to make them matter even more. When you hear some good news or you get to spend time with your friends—revel in it and realize that you have to enjoy these gifts while you have them. Take time to celebrate your success!

Furthermore, it’s okay to lean on others for support and encouragement. As much as our society teaches us to be independent and self-sufficient (which are important qualities) it’s not a bad thing to garner the advice of others and learn from their past experiences. It’s also important to spend quality time with those you love and enjoy the hours when you can just relax and not worry about deadlines.

My mantra this year is that everything that is meant to be will be. Some of you are saying: CLICHÉ. So be it. It works for me and it helps me see the bigger picture. If you see your losses as failures, it’s going to be much harder to recover and find your happiness than if you accept them as learning opportunities. There will definitely be times in our life when we’ll scratch our heads and wonder why things turned out the way the did. But we have to remember that in time, we will know that it was for the best and that we grew from it.

Another key to any stress you’re experiencing? Don’t take it personally. You never know what someone is going through. You can’t judge where someone’s mind or heart is at and you can only be so perceptive. Be confident in your own direction and your own dreams and trust that they will align in time.

I won’t lie: happiness can be harder to come by when life feels tense and uncertain. But instead of shaking in our boots, let’s stand tall in them and revel in the unknown. It will ultimately makes us braver, stronger people. If you ever look back on times in your life where you’ve felt scared, whether it was ziplining or going away to college—ultimately, weren’t you glad you did it? Weren’t you thankful that you took that leap of faith? I’ve always been glad I did.

Don’t ever forget how capable you are. While others may have the power to tell you “yes” or “no” remember that you are the one who ultimately decides your worth. Treat yourself kindly and be patient with yourself as this year carries on. You can and WILL do great things!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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