When it comes to describing his goal for The Lift Project, founder Darren Morton has three words.

“It’s a big, hairy, audacious goal,” the associate professor and lead researcher in the Lifestyle Research Centre in Australia says.

His big, hairy, audacious goal for the project is to reach 10 million lives with his positive-mental-approach to life.

Or more.

Schools in the Fingers Lakes Area School Health Plan (FLASHP) consortium may have a hand in reaching that 10-million person goal.

FLASHP is on board with implementing The Lift Project, which has programs running in Australia and the United States with plans to branch into China, India, New Zealand and islands in the South Pacific.

Morton’s group targets education, health care, corporate settings and community settings. While a couple of universities in North America have come aboard, the Finger Lakes group will be the first school-based initiative in the United States.

To date, Morton estimates that in a little over a year of this program hitting its stride, it has reached 10,000 people.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he says.

Victor Central School Health and Wellness Coordinator Doug Schmidt is retiring from the district and as sort of a going-away gift, he helped bring Lift and the Fingers Lake consortium together. He says he has dealt with Morton on projects in the past and likes Morton’s energy, as well as the message of the Lift Project. With what 2020 has brought to the world, Schmidt thinks this is a good time to bring some of Morton’s principles to life in Finger Lakes.

“Stress is an overwhelming thing in our nation and especially our schools,” Schmidt says. “And it’s especially overwhelming right now. The Lift program is able to help with that and give people the tools to manage their stress better.”

The program expands on 10 themes.

Your Limbo Is Listening concentrates on speaking positively. Motion Creates Emotion is about exercise and moving dynamically.

Blue and Green Should Often Be Seen centers on immersing in an uplifting physical environment. Together Feels Better highlights building an uplifting social environment.

Feelings Follow Your Focus focuses in on looking to the positive. Food Feeds Your Mood is about nutrition and sensible eating.

Rest To Feel Your Best is about getting proper sleep. Stress Less is about de-stressing.

Giving Is Living centers around service. The final theme tries to answer the question What Does It Take To Flourish?

The Flourish theme is a favorite of some Finger Lakes officials.

“It helped bring all of the lessons together,” North Rose-Wolcott Central School District Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Robyn Roberts-Grant says. “[The project is] a new, refreshing and insightful way to view the world, those around you and your overall well-being.

“With all the stressful events in the world today, the strategies and activities surrounding the Lift principals guide people to step aside from these exterior inhibitors and remind you how to enjoy the little things that can uplift your mind, body and soul.”

Kristen Seyfried, a wellness coordinator in the Clyde-Savannah Central School District, appreciates the simplicity of the 10 themes.

“The concepts the Lift Project teaches are not new for many people, but the way this program discusses their importance and implementing them into your daily life is done in a way that makes it so approachable,” she says. “I also think the connection between emotion and overall wellness that this program applies is very poignant, especially at a time like this. Emotional health is so important to a person’s well-being and the Lift Project centers around that connection.”

“One of the elements of the Lift Project that separates it from other sources of wellness info is the well-organized combination of science/data, anecdotes and suggestions for putting it into practice,” Kiki Seago adds. She has been a physical education teacher for 18 years at Penn Yan Academy, and she also teaches yoga. “It is easy for the layperson to read. I do think that all educators and staff would benefit from the lessons. For some folks who are tuned into wellness practices, these lessons are friendly reminders. For some, though, the lessons could have a profound impact on their lives.”

Cathie Abdunnasir is a Williamson Central School teaching assistant and is on the Intervention Supports MTSS Tier 1 Acknowledgements and Communications Team. She has been with the district for 18 years and came out of participating in the 10-week course marveling at the variety of topics covered via the Lift Project.

“Lessons showcased in the program, including but not limited to speaking positively, immersion in uplifting social environments, service to others and what it takes to flourish, would be a benefit to students and staff alike from grades [kindergarten through senior in high school,” she says. “All 10 of the project’s lessons, provides information in user friendly ways that directly speaks to our district’s PRIDE initiative — Perseverance, Responsibility, Integrity, Dignity and Excellence.”

Daisy Fantauzzi an English teacher, wellness coordinator and yearbook advisor heading into her 14th year at Marion Central School, says the Lift Project is valuable in all walks of life.

“[It is a] full program targeting all aspects of our health: physical, emotional, mental and social,” she says. “What it can bring to any district is giving participants information for better health in all parts of their lives. The challenges Dr. Morton engages people in are easy enough for people to make small changes in their lives. People can learn that these small changes can make big differences.”

Morton says this was a concept that was 20 years in a making and thus far, he is pleased with what the program has accomplished.

“We get incredible stories,” he says. “We conducted several studies on it and published them in academic journals. On average we see 30-to-40 percent reductions in depression, anxiety and stress.

“Statistics are statistics but what’s touching is the stories we get from people who say it’s helped with a new level of vitality, sense of controlling how they feel and take charge of their emotional well-being. It’s really heart-warming. It’s what gets me up in the morning.”

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