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Empower yourself: Happiness is an inside job



Personal empowerment is not about having power over others, but rather understanding that you are in charge of your own life. There are many ways that can be done, but here are five of them.

1. Face Your Fears. Most of us are afraid of something ó public speaking, flying in an airplane, interacting in social situations. This year may be the year you face that fear. It just takes some mental preparation, says Dr. Heidi Christensen, a psychologist with the Medical College of Wisconsin. "Fear has power over our minds; it takes control. If it is a fear that is irrational, I suggest exposure to the fear and cognitive restructuring. In other words, do the thing that makes you fearful. Start out by trying to relax, take some deep breaths. Then, use some positive self-talk," she says. "If you fail, try again. Just be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge what you did right."

2. Never Stop Learning. "There are two reasons why people take continuing education classes: for professional development or personal enrichment. They either want to develop some new competency that will help differentiate them in the workplace, or they want to learn about something theyíve always wanted to know," says Dr. Patricia Arredondo, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and interim dean, UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education. She points out that some of UWMís most popular continuing education courses are in photography and languages. "People may have never had a chance to study French or Italian and now they have that time. We also are seeing an increase in people attending certificate programs in business and companies sending employees to a class that we have customized for them," Arredondo says. The bottom line: Itís never too late to satisfy your love of learning.

3. Elevate Your Style. Itís the start of a new season, how about a new look? The most important thing to consider is your lifestyle, according to Faye Wetzel of Fayeís in Mequon. "How do you spend your time? How much leisure time do you have? What do you do? And, are you someone who likes a classic or contemporary look? Once we figure that out, we like to try to push the envelope just a little," she says. "A big color for spring is coral. Try to include that color in some way ó a dress, a scarf, a bracelet, depending on your personality. When you think you look good, it gives your self-esteem a boost. I always tell clients never to wear anything they donít love."

4. Defend Yourself. If youíve ever wished that you could stand up to a violent attacker, consider learning some self-defense techniques. Wes Manko is a self-defense instructor who has been studying and teaching martial arts to men and women for more than 30 years, and he conducts regular training in martial arts. "This is not the Ďsportí martial arts that most people are familiar with. It isnít competitive; it is based on self-defense techniques used by Russian special forces," Manko says. "I teach in the classroom setting and I have done classes for corporations that want to empower their employees. Recently, Iíve also been conducting private classes for mothers and daughters and for families who have a daughter going off to college. The primary focus is how to be safe," he says.

5. Lend a Helping Hand. Itís been said that when you help someone else you elevate yourself. "There is so much need in so many different sectors. The types of volunteers most requested are those looking to use their technical or professional skills as mentors, homework helpers, hospice volunteers and assistants in homes for the elderly," says Laurel Turner of the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee. But there is no limit on the choices available to those with hearts big enough to give of themselves. "The first step to volunteering is to ask yourself what you are passionate about, what type of skills you want to use, and how many hours you can commit," Turner says. To find an opportunity, check