Sunny Stars

Sunny Star: Caitlin Gainey

I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful Ticktockers around the country with my National Charity League speaking events. One particular member that I met, Caitlin Gainey, is a seventh grader full of light and love for the world. She shared a new idea with me, called the Warm Fuzzy Jar, and I thought it was too good to keep to myself!

1. You are a Ticktocker with National Charity League. How has this experience brought happiness to your life?

KG: Being a Ticktocker with National Charity League puts a smile on my face everyday! It is a honor to be a part of this program, because it is putting yourself out there to help the community become a better place for the people around us.

2. Tell us about your Warm Fuzzy Jar and how you hope it will bring happiness to those around you.

KG: My idea for this new year was getting a big glass jar and filling it with colorful pieces of paper that have funny or nice things that happen to my group of friends and myself over this next year and open all of these little fuzzy things at the end of 2014 for a fun New Year’s Eve tradition.

3. What brings you happiness in life?

KG: The things that make me happy are my friends and family, and I also LOVE my Santa Barbara Volleyball Club team, they are an amazing group of girls, and we probably have the best team name ever (the Wicked Wheatgrass!). One of the BIGGEST joys that I do is volunteering because every time you finish working you always have a realization that “Wow! I just helped somebody!”

4. What goal are you working toward and how has this increased your happiness?

KG: I am working toward making Varsity Volleyball at my school next year. This is increasing my happiness by like 10000% because when you have a goal and you work hard for it you will always have the biggest smile on your face every time you get one step closer to your goal.

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

Sunny Star: Jordan Brown

If there is any girl that is adding positivity to our lives, it’s Jordan Brown. She and I are actually from the same hometown and we found out recently that we went to all the same schools growing up. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I got connected with Jordan because I was so inspired by her mission to help young women live better lives. For her it’s all about strengthening your self-esteem.

After having met with Jordan, it’s clear how at peace she is with her life. She radiates what she writes about—self-esteem, confidence, and compassion—she has it all. I’m so honored to share her interview with you today and I encourage you to pick up her book to learn more about what she says.

Here is website for more information:


You can also “like” her Facebook page here:

Without further ado, here my interview with Jordan Brown:

1.      You recently wrote and published your first book, The Girl’s Guide to Loving Life. What inspired you to write the book?

A few years ago, I was completely unaware of where true happiness and self-fulfillment came from. I searched for instant gratification in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, fast food drive-thrus, shopping malls, in a romantic partner, etc. Consequently, I became overweight and insecure, in credit card debt, and felt stuck in an unhappy relationship, unsure of how to be happy on my own. It wasn’t until I turned to self-help books for guidance that I got a glimpse of how to create long-lasting happiness for myself and others; I realized that everything I needed or wanted to be happy was already inside of me – I just had to manifest it! I didn’t need to fill a void inside of me with food, buy more ‘stuff’, or depend on another’s praise or opinions for my self-worth. I needed a true love for myself, an attitude of gratitude, and happiness that wasn’t dependent on outside circumstances.

I started reading for hours on end about happiness, self-esteem, and personal fulfillment. All of my reading and soul searching fueled the fire inside of me and I decided to start blogging to share my ideas with others on the web. The positive feedback I received from my ponderings inspired me to pursue an even bigger project: to write a book to share my new-found insight with others. Although it took me a while to get here, I am now I am at a beautiful place in my life and want to help others reach this same point. This is ultimately what inspired me to write a guide on helping other women love themselves and love their lives.

2. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing young women today?

I think the biggest challenge facing young women face today is developing a negative self-image and, in turn, having low self-esteem. Studies show that 70% of girls believe they aren’t good enough and 25% of teenage girls say that they don’t like or hate themselves.  Lack of self-esteem is an underlying cause of many of the challenges young women face including eating disorders, bullying, putting themselves and others down, avoiding new opportunities/setting goals, lack of motivation to do well in school, engaging in negative behavior, and the list could go on and on. I think it’s vital to educate young girls on the importance of, and how to increase, self-esteem so that they can develop into healthy, confident, and determined young women.

3.      What do you hope to achieve by writing and speaking with young women about self-esteem, confidence, and a love for life?

I hope to educate young women on the profound impact attitude and self-esteem can have on their lives, by helping them change the way they see themselves and life at large. I hope to empower young women to find the courage within to unleash their full potential; to embrace who they are and choose to make the most out of their limited time on Earth. Ultimately, I hope to inspire others to make positive changes in their own lives, which in turn can have a positive impact on the lives of those around them.

4.      What has been your happiest memory throughout this whole process?

Two (I can’t share just one) happiest memories come to mind: 1) The moment I held the first copy of my book. I was overflowing with joy – literally, I started crying because I was so happy. I did it!was all that I could think, over and over again. I was incredibly proud of myself for not only starting this project, but for sticking to it and finishing it in just over a years’ time. 2) Receiving positive feedback from readers. Whether it’s a kind comment on the Facebook fan page or a new, positive review on, I can’t help but smile the biggest, cheesiest grin every time I hear that my book has made a positive impact in someone else’s life. Knowing that I am pursuing my greatest passions, while helping and inspiring others in the process, brings me an indescribable amount of joy.

5. What is your best advice for living a happy life, especially for young women?

Be your own best friend and not your own worst enemy; lift yourself up instead of bringing yourself down. May sound silly or fluffy, but that’s what has drastically changed my life for the better! Work toward training your mind to replace discouraging, self-destructive thoughts with encouraging and positive thoughts. You can do this by becoming more self-aware and by recognizing when you’re being pessimistic, too hard on yourself, or full of fear and self-doubt. Thinking positively about yourself and about life in general doesn’t always happen overnight, but it can happen over time if practiced habitually. Ultimately, positive thoughts lead to positive actions which can result in happier, more enjoyable, and more fulfilled life.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook