Happiness for Your Life

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


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

A New Kind of Gift Giving


Don’t you just love this time of year? The word that always comes to mind is nostalgia. I’m reminded of my youth and the magic I found not only in Christmas, but in my life when I was a little girl. As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that while the magic may still be there, I’m not always present to experience it. We get so caught up in the receipts, the RSVPs, and the deadlines that we forget what it feels like to stand in the nippy air on a wintry night or the wonder of staring at a Christmas tree. I miss those little joys.

This Christmas I am trying to be more present for the moments that lately I’ve been missing. It’s been a challenge. For whatever reason, I find more than ever that I can’t seem to settle down. Perhaps the hustle and bustle of shoppers is taking a toll on my brain as I try to cram every last to-do before the New Year rings. But just as mom and pop settle down for a “long winter’s nap,” so should I. This is the time to relax and enjoy: to eat the cookie(s), to watch a movie(s), and to cozy up for an hour(s) without guilt or concern.

I hope you’ll do the same and remember that it’s about the people and not the presents you’re getting them. This year I am working on a new form of gift giving. Rather than a snow globe (which bombed) or a candle piece (the 23rd my mom owns), I’m trying to get experience gifts. I know I can say it here because my dad doesn’t always frequent my blog but I got him tickets to an Eagles concert with me. This will be a father-daughter night that we’ll always remember and will never get dusty on a shelf. I gave my boyfriend tickets to the Nutcracker and it was a great date night (which also instilled some cultural awareness on his part!).

I challenge you to get experience gifts this year. Create memories with someone; it’s a worthy investment. Buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room at a unique hotel, or make reservations at the restaurant you want to try. You can still wrap it up. The Christmas spirit can continue on because these experience gifts express a central idea: investment. When you give a gift such as this, you are showing how you see a future with this family member or friend. Their love cannot be bought; time together is all it takes to foster a bond.

So rather than hit the mall (where you may actually get hit by a bundle of bags), think outside of the present box and use your shopping time to buy more time with the ones you love.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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