UW-Madison courses reduce stress, increase happiness

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Would you believe you can be happier in only six weeks?

Elizabeth Lewis: 'Happiness isn’t something that just happens. It’s something we have to cultivate.'
Elizabeth Lewis: ‘Happiness isn’t something that just happens. It’s something we have to cultivate.’

According to personal development coach Elizabeth Lewis, research shows that six weeks of happiness-enhancing activities can change the default settings in your brain. You’re on your way to reducing stress, anger, and anxiety, but only if you work at it.

“Happiness isn’t something that just happens,” Lewis says. “It’s something we have to cultivate.”

Lewis has a track record of helping people lead happier lives. She’ll bring her research-based approach to three programs for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Living Well—Today and Tomorrow, each at the UW Pyle Center.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! (February 5, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.) will explore 12 activities identified by scientists that increase happiness. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (February 6, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.) will provide tools for maintaining emotional, mental, and physical balance. And The Second Half of Life: Opening the Gates of Inner Wisdom (April 8-9, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.) will show the way to aging gracefully, with an emphasis on deepening relationships, nurturing creative talents, and cultivating wisdom.

“You’re not lesser because you’re aging,” Lewis says. “You have so much to offer your loved ones, yourself, and the world at large.”

The healing process

Lewis found her calling after a devastating car accident derailed her life as a writer, artist, and musician. She committed herself to the healing process, then discovered a talent for helping others heal themselves. Now she lectures on mind-body-spirit, leads wellness workshops around the world, and teaches at Italy’s Pieve International School.

Lewis’ three upcoming programs at UW-Madison are for people who want something more out of life. As she puts it: Why be miserable when you could be happy?

“With the right tools, you can stay calm and centered in the midst of whatever work or home-life storm is going on,” Lewis says. “You’ve got everything you need to know inside of you to be happier; it’s just a matter of accessing it.”

Inner ease

UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies launched Living Well—Today and Tomorrow last fall to provide expert advice on essential life skills. Instructors include UW-Madison faculty members, leading researchers, and guest speakers who specialize in various stages of life’s journey.

Living Well--Today and Tomorrow provides expert advice on essential life skills.
Living Well–Today and Tomorrow provides expert advice on essential life skills.

Along with Lewis’ courses, the upcoming semester features Color My World: Tools for Creative Communication at Work and Play (February 10-March 16); Beyond Transition: Moving Forward with a Purpose (February 22); Managing Life’s Challenges: From Struggle to Satisfaction (March 14); and Caregiving: Care for Your Loved Ones, Care for Yourself (May 2-23).

Living Well—Today and Tomorrow will have a booth at WellEXPO, which runs Friday (3-8 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m.-4 p.m.), January 15 and 16, at Madison’s Monona Terrace. The booth will offer a drawing for a free registration to Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

People can also get a 25% discount on Living Well courses as part of a “new year, be good to yourself” promotion. The promo code is LIVE252016.

The Living Well courses are a form of lifelong learning, which Lewis identifies as one of the keys to happiness.

“If you’re engaged in life it will keep you stimulated, happy and young,” she says. “Living Well provides tools to navigate the complexities of the modern world and have inner ease as you do it. And that’s a powerful thing.”