Would you like to be at least 30 percent happier? That’s the promise of The Lift Project, a 10-week program designed to “lift your mood and your life.”

Lee Health is the first in the nation to offer this unique program, which combines findings from positive psychology, lifestyle medicine and neuroscience. Designed by Dr. Darren Morton, an internationally recognized wellbeing expert with a doctorate in physiology, the curriculum builds on reframing the way a person thinks about all aspects of life with the expectation of increasing happiness.

Using catchy titles like “Your Limbo is Listening” and “Motion Creates Emotion,” the series emphasizes concepts like speaking positively, practicing gratitude, eating and resting well, serving others and creating an uplifting physical environment.

During each session, participants watch a video by Dr. Morton, which always ends in a challenge — something to put into practice and discuss during the next session, explains Jamie Hoover, a Lee Health personal health advocate and facilitator for The Lift Project at the Healthy Life Center-Coconut Point.

“This class is like a pep talk,” said participant Victoria Strickland, who aims to “not get old” by implementing positive practices such as walking 10,000 steps a day.

For Joanne Romano, who is a caretaker for her spouse, The Lift Project was an opportunity for some “me time.” 

“There are lots of support groups, and they’re very important, but I needed something different,” said Romano. “I didn’t need heavy therapy; I was just looking for something that would help me understand me a little better, and this was perfect.”

The session titled, “Blue and Green Should Often Be Seen” reminded Romano to get outside and enjoy the blue skies even when it’s hot and humid. She frequently strolls through the butterfly garden in her community at Bella Terra, where she focuses on being grateful and thinks about things in her life she can look forward to.

“That just added a deeper dimension for me,” said Romano, who currently is looking forward to time with friends once the pandemic has passed.

The combination of lessons learned from The Lift Project and the quiet time forced by COVID-19 have given Romano the opportunity to think about how her social interactions might be different in the future.

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“I love being around people, and now I’m very much aware of my need to spend time with people who build me up,” she said. “I won’t look at all these kinds of social activities as have-to’s. After we are able to go out again, I’ll be more deliberate about how I spend my time and with whom.”

Her marital relationship is also benefitting from The Lift Project. Romano says she had an “aha” moment during the “Together Feels Better” session as the group discussed the concept of “love languages” popularized by author Gary Chapman. She and her husband, Bob, later analyzed their “languages of love” and have implemented ways to foster a feeling of greater togetherness.

“Learning to express needs to others is an important technique for lifting spirits,” Romano adds.

During the “Feelings Follow Focus” session, Dr. Morton talks about brain chemistry and how to correct negative thought patterns, using the illustration of learning to ride a bike that’s built backwards. Over time, the frustrated rider can master the backwards bike. Similarly, he challenges participants to re-train their brains by practicing deliberate acts of gratitude, such as writing a thank-you letter and reading it to a mentor or loved one. 

According to Dr. Morton, old dogs can learn new tricks after all.

“Anything you can do to make your mind a little better and your life a little better, especially now, is important,” said participant Gail Dean, emphasizing the need to stay positive to combat the stressors of the pandemic.

Dean keeps some positive quotes from The Lift Project on her refrigerator as frequent reminders to do the simple things like smile more, stay positive, exercise and eat well.

For Romano, the beauty of the weekly sessions was that each provided simple choices which could be implemented to improve every aspect of life.

 “It was as if you had been walking very briskly and you sat down in a chair and just breathed; it felt very good,” Romano said of her experience with The Lift Project.

Each lesson is like a pebble in a pond, she mused. It makes a ripple that spreads to friends, colleagues and the greater community.

And what of that claim that The Lift Project will make you 30 percent happier? When asked, Romano proclaimed, “75 percent!”

Want to join the next session of The Lift Project?

Because of COVID-19, the next 10-week session of The Lift Project will happen virtually. To register for the series beginning Tuesday, Oct. 6 (ending Dec. 8), visit Lee Health’s website for The Lift Project: www.healthylee.com/the-lift-project.