Lauren Cook -- or "The Sunny Girl," as she goes by these days -- is the founder of The Sunny Side Up, a project seeking to inspire and share happiness with others. She is currently a student at UCLA where she is majoring in Psychology and Communications, and she enjoys participating in her sorority, Chi Omega, along with Colleges Against Cancer, Campus Crusade, and Toastmasters. Lauren is a former Miss Teen California and she has proudly raised more than $30,000 for the American Cancer Society. In her free time she enjoys zumba, eating gelato, and relaxing with her Siamese cat, Kiko. I am so thrilled to have Lauren join us today!
Tell us about The Sunny Side Up. What was your inspiration/motivation to start this project? How has it grown already?
The Sunny Side Up! is a project studying how, when, and why teens are happy and what we can do to increase, recognize, and appreciate our happiness even more. I am currently writing a book based on this project; but rather than just sharing my thoughts on happiness, I am incorporating the opinions and experiences of more than 250 other teens because happiness is such a personalized topic.
While I have learned that many teens are happy with their lives, I still hear on a daily basis: "I can't wait for the weekend", "I can't wait for finals to be over", or "I can't wait to graduate." How can one be happy when they are wishing their life away? It is my goal to help teens appreciate life's daily offerings of happiness -- from time spent with friends and family to a cup of frozen yogurt. Happiness takes practice; we have to make an effort to notice and appreciate what brings us joy.
The Sunny Side Up! has been very successful already -- and it's only been a month! I have already signed a contract with iUniverse for the book to be published and hundreds of teens have expressed an interest to participate in the project. I am very hopeful for the future, but more than anything, I love hearing how The Sunny Side Up! has made people happier in their everyday lives.
Tell us about "The Sunny Set."
I began writing "The Sunny Set" about two years ago and I have been adding to it ever since; I currently have 261 goals! It is similar to a "Bucket List" but instead of seeing these aspirations as something to do before I die, I see them as something to achieve during my lifetime. Some are colossal, like selling a million copies of my upcoming book, The Sunny Side Up! or seeing the Titanic. And many are much smaller, like hatching a chick (this has actually been quite hard -- I've had two hatch-less batches!) and donating blood. Yet, no matter what the goal is, I have found happiness in every aspect of the process by setting, striving, and accomplishing these dreams.
What have you learned through The Sunny Side Up?
I have learned that everyone has a story. Teens, myself included, often take things personally when someone doesn't say hello or smile back. But in truth, everyone has something that they may be struggling with, whether it is family problems, a disease, or any other personal challenge. While it is not right to be rude, at the same time, everyone is doing the best that they can with their circumstances and we should try to love and accept them for who they are. Through this project, I have learned to never judge others. I have also learned that happiness is contagious so I always try to share a smile with someone that may be going a tough time.
What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?
I have always loved to write but it is a struggle for me to get started. Writing requires all of your time, focus, and energy -- which is not something many of us are used to as hectic multi-taskers. But writing on my blog has given me the perfect excuse to make the time to write daily. Every morning I make a blog post with my cat laying (and snoring) beside me while the sun shines through my window. I'm always happier after I write and I love the sense of achievement I feel after letting my creativity out of my brain and onto paper (or laptop in this century).
In your opinion, why is writing important, in particular in the lives of young people?
Writing is the best gift that we can give to ourselves; it is a time for self-reflection, creativity, and clarity. Writing has the power to heal and inspire, and it is our opportunity to leave a legacy in written form. I highly recommend that young people make an effort to write -- whether they feel thankful, happy, sad, or mad -- whatever emotion they may feel at the time. I believe that you discover who you are through writing.
What is your biggest advice for kids and teens just starting out?
Find many mentors! It can be scary starting out; I will be the first to admit that as a young writer, I have so much to learn. But never be too proud or intimidated to ask questions; there are so many talented authors, teachers, family, and friends who are willing to share their wisdom with you. An infinite amount of knowledge is available to you if you only have the courage to ask.
What steps can people take TODAY to become happier?
I have always been adamant about gratitude. I believe that if we are consciously aware of the blessings in our life -- both the big and the small -- we will be exponentially happier people. Every day before I go to bed, I write down my "5 Daily Gratitudes." I find myself noticing so much more beauty and joy in my life, whether it be the butterfly fluttering outside my window or a family dinner. I suggest you try it today and see how much happier you feel!
Connect with Lauren:
Subscribe to The Sunny Side Up! blog: http://thesunnygirl.wordpress.com/
Facebook page to join and share: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Sunny-Side-Up/141403005875595?ref=ts
You can contact The Sunny Girl at: email@example.com