#1 Creating Happiness with Lauren Cook

Updated: May 11

Let's talk about goal setting through a bucket list & the happiness that comes with it - with Author, Speaker & Therapist Lauren Cook. Lauren is an amazing woman with an optimistic attitude and who is clearly passionate about all of her endeavors.

Content Discussed:


Lauren's Speaking Schedule

Book Lauren for Coaching

Book Lauren for a Speaking Event

Lauren's Books:

The Sunny Side Up

Name Your Story 

Social Media: 







Amy Riordan "So many of us are desperately afraid of failure, but failure is actually an indication that you are setting goals for yourself and learning along the way. Don't be the one who tells yourself know before anyone else gets the chance to." -  Lauren Cook. 

Amy Riordan Welcome to the Amy Riordan podcast. They say owning a business is a journey in self development, so I decided to explore just that. Whether you're an entrepreneur or looking for fulfillment in your day to day life, get inspired here through interviews, life stories and proven self help techniques. What you do with the information received in this podcast is completely up to you. But if you act, you will alter the course of your life in ways you never could have possibly imagined. I'm Amy Riordan. Let's do this.

   Amy Riordan The interview today is all about happiness, and that's why I reached out to my friend Lauren Cook, who is a therapist, a blogger, an author of two amazing books and an incredible person. I really do believe you guys will benefit from this interview, and if you have any questions, of course, you can email me or you can email Lauren by reaching her blog at thesunnygirl.com. 

Amy Riordan Lauren, go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Lauren Cook Hey, everybody. Thanks so much for joining in, and Amy, I'm so excited to get to be on your podcast today. We have been friends for several years now, so this is just so awesome to get to share this space with you. My name is Lauren Cook; I also go by The Sunny Girl for short, and I work as a therapist. I'm in the process of getting my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology right now, and I also get to travel the country speaking about happiness and mental health and well being. It's something that I love to get to do. And then I'm also the author of two books; The Sunny Side Up, Celebrating Happiness and Name Your Story: How to talk openly about mental health while embracing well being. So that's just a little bit about me.

Amy Riordan Wow, that's incredible. There's so much I don't know about you, but two books. That is a huge accomplishment. So tell me a little bit about those books and what made you pursue them.

Lauren Cook Absolutely. Yes. So the first book started for me, actually at UCLA in my dorm room bunk bed; Go Bruins for anybody tuning in that's a Bruins fan, but I was given this book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and it's a New York Times bestselling book. And, for me, it was just a game changer in how I wanted to live my life in terms of happiness. So I reached out to Gretchen and I said, hey, I would love to write a teen edition of the Happiness Project with you and, you can probably imagine what she said. She wrote me back, actually, like, within an hour, and she said, you know, thanks, but no thanks. And I thought, you know, that hurts a little bit, but I'll write, my own book. And so I really became impassioned about asking young adults, what is it that brings them happiness? I was finding that so many people weren't actually asking themselves that question, and so I really wanted to create an intentional space for people to find out not only what brings them joy, but how to actually pursue that. And then my second book Name Your Story really stemmed from me being on the road and meeting so many people who were really struggling to find happiness in their lives; who weren't feeling okay. I really wanted to create a book for people who were having a harder time feeling anxiety, stress, depression, sadness, and giving them a tool to cope through those experiences and on the flip side to, to be able to help their peers, their loved ones, who maybe you're going through a hard time; how to support them through that journey. So that's just a bit about the two books.

Amy Riordan That's great. That's incredible. Actually, I envy that very much. I want to put together a book here in near future. I'm not going to say soon.

Lauren Cook Well, it's only a matter of time. You can totally do it.

Amy Riordan Well, thank you very much. Okay. So really quick, before we dive into your speeches, I feel like that's a huge, huge point, obviously, of this because you talk all about happiness and those but, as a therapist, what is your focus? Do you have a specific therapy that you do for people?

Lauren Cook So, I currently work at the University of San Diego in the Student Counseling Center, and I have to tell you Amy, like, I love my job. I literally come home, I'm like - I love what I get to do. I love working with college students. It's such a great population, they're so motivated. So I would say I primarily work with college students and young adults in general. But some of my specialties that I really love working with; students that are experiencing anxiety, perfectionism. I love working with women's issues; I'm really passionate about helping other women pursue their ambitions in life. Um, and so every day at USD, it brings its own challenges, and it stretches me as a clinician. But I love the work that I get to do and I really get to see people change through the process of therapy, which is very rewarding.

Amy Riordan You are clearly a people person, which is great. I feel like that's very important when you're talking about happiness, because a lot of people aren't happy with other people and that's definitely something that can hinder their ability to live the way they want to. So, The Sunny Girl, I want to talk about this really bad. You know, it's how I met you, and it's a really big deal to both of us. So what made you come up with that idea? What was the, uh, the lightbulb moment?

Lauren Cook Yeah. You know, when I was starting to think about wanting to write my first book and thinking about how can I get this message out to people? I remember talking with my aunt and she was like, you know, you always have such a sunniness about you, a positivity about you. And then we started kind of brainstorming. We're like, what about the Sunny Girl and that identity just really seemed to kind of stick. Um, and I fully embraced that when I speak on happiness, I wear a yellow dress. I love to play like fun, happy music before I give a talk, I want people who hear me speak to walk away and literally feel happy for getting to be in that space together. I try and bring sunshine with me when I'm up in front of a room full of people. So Sunny Girl's been a part of my identity for five years now. And it's something that it makes me happy, getting to do that work.

Amy Riordan I can totally agree with that. I love all the sunflowers and all of the yellow. It's definitely a website alone that you want to go to. Not only speeches that I've been eyeing for quite some time.

Lauren Cook Aw thank you.  

Amy Riordan Yeah, of course. So let's go into the speaking portion. I know this is gonna be, like, probably a long winded, a big question. But where does that confidence come from? Because I know that you have a big confidence in front of people and you're able to speak not only about happiness, but project it. I know that could be something that maybe is fairly easy for people to do one on one, but in front of everybody. How do you project that?  

Lauren Cook Yeah, I think I really embrace this idea of fearlessness and really just kind of living a bold life, even in the face of people saying no to me. I often say you know, Gretchen Rubin telling me no, I don't want to write a book with you. While that could have been perceived as a failure, I didn't want to be the one to tell myself no just because she told me no. And so that's why I wrote my first book, and I think that very much ties in with why do speaking as well and you know, haters are gonna hate. I think, you know, it can be really intimidating when you're new to speaking to really worry about what people might think about you or what they have to say about you. And yet, at the same time, it's like, if you have something to say, you gotta own it and you gotta lean into it. If nothing else. I'm just really passionate about young women seeing may speak and thinking to themselves, "OK, I'm seeing her get up there and do that. Why can't I?" And so a big part of my talk is what I call Five Seconds of Courage and really just inviting young adults to find their five seconds of courage to ask that soccer coach how they could be more successful on their team; to ask that professor if they can do research for them; to ask that person on a date. I just think it's really important to live life courageously. And I know for me, I try and live that out when I go up and I speak, and it's scary sometimes; I won't tell you that I still don't get nervous, because I do. But to me, it's meaningful work and work that I cherish the opportunity to do.

Amy Riordan That's great. And it seems really, really fulfilling. You really speak passionately about what you do in all aspects.

Lauren Cook Absolutely. It totally feels my tank. And just getting to see people's reactions and hearing --- You can see my little Siamese cat coming in the webcam; for everyone listening, he may make a little cameo with the a meow here. Siamese are notorious. for talking quite a bit. Uh, but anyway, what I was saying with that, what was I saying with that?  

Amy Riordan Kitty distracted you, happiness directed you. You were talking about how you give them their five seconds of courage and yeah, I'll let you love read a little more on that.

  Lauren Cook Yeah, just this notion of five seconds of courage. And my hope is that when people hear me speak, that they will come away with that same courage for their own life; in whatever context that may look like. That's a big goal of mine. When I get up and give a talk.

Amy Riordan I absolutely love that. So let's go a little bit into your speech layout. Do you always do a similar layout to your speech, or do you change it up? And how do you go about changing it up - just based on the location?

Lauren Cook It's a little bit different, depending on who the client is, what the venue is like, the length of time that a client is having me speak. But I have, I would say, you know, 4 to 5 talks that are like my primary bread and butter talks. So, my big one is called Rise to Shine, and that's all about teaching people how to live a happier life. And that's through what I call the three G's of happiness; how goal setting, gratitude, giving back can transform your life. The other talk I give is called Name Your Story and it's all about teaching people how to embrace mental health in their own life and how to help other people who are maybe struggling. And then, we haven't talked about this much, but I'm really passionate about my sorority experience. I had such a great time as a Chi Omega at UCLA. And so I really like to teach other women how to maximize their sorority experience beyond college, and that kind of extends to another talk I do on just teaching women how to find their voice, how to raise their hand in a room full of people, and really be bold in what they have to say. Because I have to tell you, Amy, it's amazing when I'm traveling and I ask people, you know, what do you want for your life? What do you want to experience? Who do you want to meet? Where would you like to go? And sometimes it's like crickets. And you know, these students will literally tell you, I don't know. I don't know what I want for my life, and I really worried that the upcoming generation is kind of letting life happen to them instead of happening to life. I really want people to come away from my talks knowing, what I want for myself. And how can I move towards that in a fearless way, even embracing the failures along the way, and not be afraid to want things for my life. That's important to me.

Amy Riordan It's very important. I love how you said that -  to happen to life. I totally agree, and that's a big part of what this podcast is all about. How goal setting is like the biggest thing you could possibly do for your life, and that it's not just a bucket list travel thing. It's a everybody should do this thing to help yourself, because if you don't know that what you want, how are you gonna get it?

Lauren Cook 100%? I mean, to just have intention for your life and to be mindful of the things that you hope to get out of this time that you're on Earth because I find so many of us; we're kind of sitting in the passenger seat of our own cars and life is just flying by us, and we're not actually putting our hands on the driving wheel and taking some initiative. I really want to help people feel like they can take ownership of their experience. And it's okay to want things for your life.

Amy Riordan And you definitely are doing just that. I've seen your schedule. It looks like it's actually pretty full right now. So go ahead and tell us a little bit about what you have upcoming.

Lauren Cook Yeah, absolutely. I've got a really fun-packed fall that I'm loving. I'm actually going to be in your neck of the woods next week. I'm so excited to speak at Washington State University. Can't wait for that. I'm also going to be speaking in New Jersey later this month, speaking to the women in Alpha Phi sorority about mental health on their campus. Often times college groups will have me come in if there's been something like a suicide on campus or another mental health related event where they're looking for a space to process; a space to heal. That's really meaningful work that I get to do. And you know, I'm in the final year of my Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, so I'm loving getting to live in San Diego this year and working at the student counseling center; that is my Monday through Friday Jam. It has been such an exciting time of life and also just trying to enjoy San Diego. So if anyone listening has any San Diego recommendations, send them my way.  

Amy Riordan I will definitely be putting Lauren's information below in the details so that you can do just that. So I'm curious. Where do you stand with activities to help your well being? Are you into meditation and yoga?

Lauren Cook Yes, I am a huge believer in self care and making that a part of our daily experience. And, you know, right now, self care is one of those buzzwords that I think people throw around a lot, Um, and I often hear people say, you know, well, self care is a bubble bath, or a face mask, right? And I think that can be self care. But also self care can be having a really awesome schedule, where your day is structured and self care can maybe mean staying in; it could mean going out, right. It's different for everybody. If you like, Amy, I can share an awesome self care assessment that I love to give clients if any of your listeners might love that, but I think it's just really important to make self care daily habit. Mindfulness is a big part of that. So, for anyone listening, I highly recommend the Calm app or Headspace. Both two great resources to utilize, and exercise makes a big difference too. I am all about class pass lately, are you familiar with class pass? I am not, actually. Okay, class pass changed my life, and I'm not even getting paid to say that. Essentially, you pay a membership, and you can utilize all these different classes in your community. So, like last night, I took a yoga class. Tomorrow, take a spin class. Um, and you can get all kinds of great exercise that's just so good for your mental and your physical health. Um, but like I said, self care is different for everybody, right? So, just being really intentional about adding it to your to do list and honestly, your bucket list as well.  

Amy Riordan So let's talk to the people out there that are wanting to be a therapist. What advice would you give to them?

Lauren Cook I could talk about this all day. I love talking to people who are interested in entering the field of therapy. And, I think one of the biggest fears I hear people saying is, how do you carry all that? How do you come home at night and not let it just take over your life? And that was definitely one of my concerns before entering the field. And what I have really found through the work is that the more experiences you have, the more you learn to leave those things at the office. And that doesn't mean that you're inconsiderate about what you're taking in during the day. But you do get better about yourself care and knowing, you know what, that's going to be there tomorrow when I come back in. And so I've gotten a lot better about setting boundaries in my therapy practice, where I feel like I could be really present in attuned to my clients at work, and then as soon as I leave the office, it's a different mode where I can go into my personal time and my own needs for well being. So in terms of actually entering the field, there's so many different ways you can go with it and this would be a whole other podcast. But I really encourage clients to think about if they want a Master's Degree versus a Doctoral level degree. I think if you just want to practice therapy, a Master's Degree in social work or marriage and family therapy is totally going to fit the bill. But if you know that you want to maybe do assessment or continuous speaking or maybe work in a hospital, prison, college population setting, sometimes that Doctoral level can open some different doors. So, uh, there's so many ways you can go with it, but, it's an incredible field, and I highly recommend it. I love my job. I really do.  

Amy Riordan So what about someone who wants to go into, speaking in some sort?

Lauren Cook I was actually just talking to a young woman from Florida the other day, and she was like, 'Who is gonna listen to what I have to say?' I really believe that for young speakers, I started speaking when I was 23, you know, your age is one of your biggest advantages because just getting up in front of a room full of people and showing that courage; that's inspiring in itself. But I think it's really important to know your story, to know what you value. If you feel like you really have a message that you want to convey with people, by all means, go out there and share it. I often find that there's sometimes, you know, two kinds of speakers; speakers who have lived incredible life experiences, who have overcome great odds and have really, you know, just lived through challenges that in themselves are inspiring. And then I find there are other speakers that work more from maybe an expertise lens, gaining further education in the topic or gaining a specialty practice. I'd say that's more the type of speaker I am from a psychology lens and really providing more psycho educational content for people, rather than pure anecdotal stories about my life experiences. But I really think you know, for anybody that's interested in speaking, it's an incredibly rewarding career. It's an important decision to think about, 'o I want this as my full time career or a side hustle?' But I think you know, I never have regrets about entering speaking. and I hope that it's something that will do for the rest of my life.  

Amy Riordan So, before we get into your new marriage, which I definitely want to cover in the happiness rounds. I did want to ask you what are your goals for your Doctorate? So after you get through all of that, where you going with it?

Lauren Cook Yeah, that is a question I ask myself on a frequent basis. You know, I would love to have a private practice someday. I love what I do, because every day is different. So some days I'll see clients, some days I'll be flying to speak in Ohio, you know, for example, and then some days I'll get to do assessment with clients. Um, maybe like an 80 HD assessment; something like that. Every day is different. So I would love to have a private practice during my week and then keep up with the speaking, keep up with the writing, write more books. If I could be like a Brene' Nrown, that would be like... if I could be like 10% of her, I would totally go for that. I think she's got life pretty well made. I mean, she is living the dream. So, that's kind of what I would hope to envision for my future. But I always try and be open to whatever may come, so we'll see where the road takes.

Amy Riordan It's really great to see you finding that balance and having a confidence in that balance, because I truly believe and I said balance, but I truly believe that life really is what you make it. So there's actually not, like, a perfect balance for, you know, a one-set that rule for everybody with anything, and I really like that you seem to be very, very self assured and focused on what you want, no matter what. Even though you have multiple dreams, which is amazing.

Lauren Cook Well, thank you.  

Amy Riordan Yeah, of course. And I think that's like the epitome of happiness, right there. Alright. Marriage. Let's talk about happiness in a relationship. And, how did you know that he was the one?  

Lauren Cook Oh, I love giving a talk about this. So my partner and I, we've been together almost 10 years now. I met Greg on my 19th birthday, actually, so that tells you how old I am. Uh, but marriage has been so much fun. And I love that you and I both were saying, you know, we're almost newlyweds. Like we're just past the year mark. Um, but, you know, marriage has just brought so much joy into my life. And I think, you know, when it comes to finding happiness and our marriages and our relationships more broadly, I think, just making those relationships such a priority, right? Making it a day to day engagement where it's something we get to do rather than something we have to do. And so, getting to do my relationship and engage in that; whether it's a quick text or making dinner together, it's just a part of my day that I always look forward to and something that I'm so grateful for. I mean, something I talk about in general when I'm giving a speech is how important gratitude is. That's honestly probably my favorite part of my talks and to me, my marriage, my relationship is the thing I am probably most grateful on this Earth, and I think having a supportive partner and hopefully, Amy, this is your experience too, as we're go-getter women, having spouses that just are so in our corner cheering us on. I think that's partly where I get my fearlessness from, is that I have such a supportive spouse to saying, go out there, go do it, go get em! So it's something I'm really thankful for.

Amy Riordan Yeah, I can see that. So you want people to go out there and find someone who's supportive and empowers them and is something to look forward each day, which I know a lot of people. I mean, it seems like common sense, but now there's a lot of people out there that don't have that, and I think you're right. They don't like realize that they don't have that, and they need to know that's out there and that they can have happiness in a relationship.

Lauren Cook Absolutely, absolutely. And that's why I really encourage my clients to do a lot of values work when it comes to finding out the right partner for you, because it's so important to be with someone where your values align. You know, the excitement may be there in the beginning, but we know through the research, the honeymoon period lasts about two years. But if you really choose someone where their values fit together, I think that could be a lifelong connection.

Amy Riordan I love the way you say that, because it's so true. And I mean, obviously, no matter what, it's going to require work. But, there's definitely a little something more there than a lot of people realize I think. Alright, well, I think we've covered almost everything. But what I did want to do really quick was have you just kind of, tell our audience a little bit about where they can find your books and where they can find you.

Lauren Cook Sounds good. Sounds good. So, The Sunny Side Up and Name Your Story are both on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. But if you reach out to me through my instagram page, I'm happy to get in touch with you and send you a signed copy if that's something that you would like. And you can always go to thesunnygirl.com website and I have my whole list of events where I'm speaking around the country. And so hopefully that's how Amy and I will get to meet up next week when I'm in Washington. You can reach out that way, through my website, through the contact page. I do offer coaching services for clients its something that I love getting to do. And I get to do that wherever my clients are located. I have clients all over the country, and so supporting people who have different goals that they're working towards is something that is just another daily joy that I get to be a part of, so I'm happy to talk to any of your listeners if they're interested in coaching services and getting that support and then stay in touch on social media. I'm @TheSunnyGirl5. You can also find me on Facebook at Lauren Cook, The Sunny Girl.

Amy Riordan And all of these, again will be posted underneath this podcast so that you guys can just click on them and follow her and follow me, whatever you want to do. Just don't hesitate to reach out to us, because both of us are very eager to talk to you. And I just want to say again, thank you, Lauren. so much for being on the podcast. It's so nice to finally talk. to you over like video. Yeah, after, like, nine years of knowing eachother.

Lauren Cook I know. I know! This seriously makes my day, and it's just been so awesome to watch you on your journey. And I know so many people are gonna get such great things out of your podcast. I mean, bucket listing is something that I think we all need in our lives. So I'm just so thankful to be a guest on your podcast. And I hope that we continue to stay in touch for many years.  

Amy Riordan Alright, well, thank you so much. Have a good day.  

Lauren Cook Bye!

Amy Riordan Amy Riordan is a weekly podcast brought to you by me, Amy Riordan. Love this podcast? Leave me review and share it with friends. You can also find me on social media. Subscribe to this podcast for all new episode notifications. With questions, topic requests or interviewee nominations, visit AmyRiordan.com. Curious about specific content mentioned in each episode? Those details are linked below.

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