Happiness for Your Life

About Those Resolutions…

Do you rebel against resolutions? Or do you implement them as a mandatory marker for January 1st? As the New Year dawns on us, we often note our failures from the past year rather than celebrate our big and small victories. For example, we tell ourselves that to be successful and happy in 2016, we should attempt the following:

  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Exercise every day
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat healthier
  • Drink less

 

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While there may be some merit to these goals, both for our physical and mental wellbeing, ultimately, it is one more way of punishing ourselves for not living up to expectations. Inevitably, resolutions are notorious for often failing regardless of our intentions.

Why?

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Because no one wants to be punished—especially not by themselves. When a day on a calendar is telling us that we should refrain from this or that, we cannot help but resent it. We rebel. Not to mention, we experience the added failure of one more goal that went unmet. We disappoint ourselves and setting a new goal for the future becomes that much more challenging. It is not until our hearts our truly set on accomplishing a goal, whether that comes May 30th or July 8th or December 31st, that we can work towards honest success.

Rather than write out your resolutions for the year, of what you think you should do, what do you want to gain from this year? What are your dreams instead of your limitations? How can you add joy to your life rather than set parameters and constraints?

Do you hope for any of the following?

  • Strengthen your marriage
  • Learn some new information
  • Travel to a new place, whether that’s a new restaurant, town, or country
  • Laugh a little more
  • Explore your faith and spirituality

This year, I am hoping for the following:

  • Publish a new book
  • Read more: both nonfiction and fiction
  • Strengthen my friendships: spend more time just having fun
  • Explore a new country that I’ve never visited before
  • Begin a doctoral program
  • Continue speaking around the country

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This list can be limitless—which is the exact opposite of a resolution list. Be generous and good to yourself this year. Give yourself credit for all that you do and know that whether you meet the goals that you set or not—know that you are enough.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Come Sail Away

As summer has been in full swing, I’ve finally had a chance to breathe. I’ve begun working as a therapist at La Vie Counseling Center in Pasadena but the course load at USC has been lightening up. You would think I would feel relieved. And sure, that lasted about a day.

Now, I feel guilty.

Any spare time I have should be spent toward my next book to write, fitness class, marketing for speaking engagements—(fill in the blank with your own tasks). Instead of just being happy to relax, I have been burdening myself with unnecessary worries. Sure, these tasks are important goals but what good are they if I am not feeling well rested and spiritually nourished?

I think this is something we punish ourselves with all the time. Any chance we have to watch a movie, read a book for pleasure, or just sit and do nothing—we worry and fret over it. We think of other excuses that diminish this very much needed time, so that even when we do have an opportunity to enjoy, we judge ourselves for it.

We have to remind ourselves that it is okay to rest. It is not a bad thing to not be productive every waking hour of the day. It’s okay to not be productive for an entire week! Part of why I write this is because I need to remind myself to accept this free time openly. I need to embrace these days of unscheduled time and for once, not write a to-do list. Be okay with the unknown of the day. And if I just read a book, instead of write my next one? So be it. It is not in vain.

The other day I visited our family beach house and began painting. As an avid Lilly Pulitzer lover, I painted the nautical print with sailboats breezing by. It seemed fitting as I listened to the waves. In that solid hour of painting, I did not feel burdened to talk, plan, or prepare. I could just be. We call this concept “flow” where you can lose track of time and truly be present in the moment. It was such an enriching experience that I can’t wait to paint more prints next week.

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As I wrap up this post, I want to leave you with a quote that I heard a therapist say the other day:

“Too much of the time, we are human doings. We scurry around, busying ourselves with tasks. Instead, let us focus on simply existing as a human BEING.”

So, as we move through this week, are you a human doing, going through the motions? Or are you present, living and breathing as a human being?

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Positive Praise Binder

While I’m traveling I meet a lot of young adults who struggle to take ownership of their lives. Somewhere along the way they learned they weren’t smart enough, funny enough, clever enough—GOOD ENOUGH—to go after their dreams. Some of them don’t know what those dreams are because they’ve been doused with more reality than they can handle. I’m all for realism but not when it cripples imaginative thinking; that’s where I set my limit. Unfortunately I see that all too often.

Many of us tell ourselves “no” before anyone else ever gets the chance to say it. We think—why bother? Why humiliate, embarrass, and make myself vulnerable for something that will never work out? Because it could work out. And even if it doesn’t—so what—the lessons we learn through failure are often that much more valuable. Hearing “no” is not the end of the world; in fact it usually opens our eyes to a whole new world of opportunity.

Whether or not you have been beating yourself down with this negative self-talk, I have a challenge for you today. I recently heard in my practicum class about the value of having a positive praise binder. In this binder, you keep all the nice cards, comments, emails, and compliments that you’ve received. It can be tremendously healing when you’re having a bad day to look at this binder. And when someone does tell you “no” and you feel brokenhearted—you can turn to this book and remember that you are loved.

I have done a virtual form of this binder by keeping every kind word and email that has been sent to me. I look at it every now and then when I’m feeling defeated. My spirits are lifted when I read it and I am reminded of my resilience. After I read these words, I know that I can go on and do more.

There are a few key times when these kind words were particularly helpful. For instance when I was writing my first book and I really doubted my ability and worth as a writer, people sent me messages like these:

“Hey Lauren its nice to hear that you are still an extremely creative, inspirational, and involved girl… Sounds like this project could do a lot of good, especially in a time when there is so much pressure put on teens that they easily forget the most important part of life… being happy.”

Or when one of my mentors, Lisa Bloom, saw something in me:

Lisa Bloom: @TheSunnyGirl5 Note to world: The Sunny Girl is going places. You heard it here first. You look like my long lost daughter, Lauren! Thanks for being game for vegan lunch, and keep shining

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It takes just a few minutes to say something thoughtful to someone. But it may carry them through the darkest nights, weeks, or months of their life. We often don’t know what a gift these words can be, and so we hesitate to give them. We feel awkward, clumsy, and once again, vulnerable to say something meaningful to a person. We stick to small talk and keep it superficial. It’s safer that way. But not sweeter.

On the flip side, if you tend to shun compliments or they make you feel comfortable, work towards acceptance. Let the words sink in and sit with them. Don’t push them away or ignore them. Don’t belittle the words or deny them. Nurture them with gratitude and don’t be ashamed to savor them. You never know when they will carry you through your night.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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