The Applied Neuroscience Institute

Home of the NeuroPositive Method™
The Neuroscience of the UpSpiral Of Emotion, Health & Optimal Living

1
Thoughts, Feelings, Sleep
2
Looking for “Like Minded” Friends?
3
UpSpiral, DownSpiral?…
4
Positivity…More Than Just A Smiley Face
5
Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?
6
Your Perfect Set Of Strengths
7
Can You Learn Not To Feel Good?
8
Learned Helplessness…The Way Out
9
Too Optimistic?…Really?
10
An Idle Brain, A Focused Brain?

Thoughts, Feelings, Sleep

What’s the connection?

Think about this.

With every thought and feeling, you are affirming something.

What you affirm, what you think and feel,  add up neuron by neuron into the neuropathways of the brain that become an ambient mood than leans in the direction of a way of believing and thinking.

It is not as though we base our thoughts on facts; to the contrary, that is seldom the case unless make that our intention.

Every thought and feeling is affirming something that is a building block upon which you are building your predisposition to mood and thought.

What are you affirming throughout the day?

What is your mood, what are your feelings, what are you thinking?

In our Emotional Gym, you learn to “lift” the weight of a positive emotion.

You start small and then make the feeling heavier, weightier. You can learn to get there in instant, you can learn to nurse a positive feeling in the same way you nurse a negative one, and then you can intensify those feelings.

What are you affirming as you think and feel?

Why feelings and not thoughts?

We think our thoughts are all powerful, but they are very often simply the expressions of patterns of “used to” feelings that have originated in the oldest part of the brain, the amygdala.

There we have learned to associate and feel almost instantaneously the feelings we so subtly and usually feel, that we don’t even know they are driving our moods, our anxieties, and our ups and downs.

And in case you’re skeptical about these thought and feeling patterns you’re creating every day, here’s the research on sleep that you need to know.

You need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

This gives the brain an opportunity to flush out the “clutter” that builds up, like protein plaques and beta amyloid tangles, through an ingenious disposal mechanism called the glymphatic system.

Over the long term, that can buffer you against cognitive decline, dementia, even Alzheimer’s.

What you think and feel, what you habitually “affirm” during your day, MATTERS.

What are you affirming as you enter into sleep?

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Looking for “Like Minded” Friends?

Think again.

Maturity is primarily characterized by mutuality.

Mutuality is the capacity to accurately see and know another person as they are without projecting yourself onto them.

We call this self/other differentiation.

The clearer I see you, the healthier will be my response to you.

The cloudier I see you, based upon my own projection, the more off-base will be my communications with you.

When you are trapped in tight, closed ways of thinking, you have to see others as you need to see them, not as they are.

Consequently you can never really connect with them, or them with you, because you would have to change how you think and know your world to be.

Most people are full of ideas of how other people should be and how they should or should not act.

The crunch comes when you get bent out of shape because others are not acting or being in ways that you think are essential to their relating to you.

Some even talk of wanting to be surrounded by “like-minded” people.

Good luck with that.

If you’re experiencing a shortage of like-minded people in your world, or your like-minded people are just not behaving like you think they should, chances are you’re the problem –at least you’re not in the solution.

Chances are you are walking away from your strengths, or can’t even connect with them.

You’re living in an a more pervasive experience of what’s not working, seeing it even as more a permanent part of you, than temporary and limited in nature.

How permanent and pervasive can you make the good things in you? In your life?

Are you holding on more tightly to your worldview, and your consequent view of others, whether it works or not?

How is that an expression of your UpSpiral, your Emotional Scale, the range of your optimism, or the pervasiveness of your focus on what’s missing or not working?

The more you do try and hold on, even cling, to your view of how others should be, the more others behave less and less like you think they should.

These “others” also have the complete and utter nerve to suggest that you might be the problem, or they just outright tell you that you’re the problem.

Of course, you know that you’re not.

These “others” become more and more wrong, and you hold more and more rigidly to the idea of being right rather than being happy.

Happy with that, are you?

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

UpSpiral, DownSpiral?…

Or Somewhere In Between?

There are times when we are aware that “this or that” caused the emotions we feel. And very often we are sure that “someone” else caused us to feel like we feel.

While we are the cause of our emotions, it is just as true that long existing emotional patterns are hard to control. Memories that are implicit, or prior to our actually remembering, cause deep-seated emotional reactions.

However, the answer to managing emotions may be much easier than we expected. Instead of undoing negative emotions and their patterns, we are going to focus here only on building positive emotions.

We do not ignore negative emotions, but we just don’t choose to live there.

Here what we do choose is to reverse the cause and effect of positive emotions.

We treat positive emotions as though they are the rewards or the outcomes of living in some sort of way.

Something will make us grateful, an event will give us joy, a relationship will give us love, a goal will give us hope, and a pill will give us some peace.

Positive emotions are treated as though they are the results of things on the outside, happening to us in a certain kind of way, and when the stars line up, or our problems get solved, or people line up in a certain way, then the result will be our joy or our gratitude.

Positive emotions are often results oriented, and we get to have them when something happens on the outside of us that creates that response in us.

What underlies all of this is that you have to have a reason to feel positive emotions, and that reason is almost always on the outside of us.

Outside events can be very significant and some are very negatively impacting. That’s true, some are, but all of them are not.

And even for those that are, you will learn that managing your emotional responses and building up a reservoir will make you much more capable of handling outside events.

The key to being able to do this really lies in where you spend the majority of your time– in an UpSpiral or a DownSpiral, or waffling back and forth in between the two.

Learning to live in an UpSpiral of positivity greatly enhances your ability to experience positivity, and positive emotions greatly increase the probability that you will play less to outside events as the “cause” of your feelings. Life in the UpSpiral also gives you the fullest access to your strengths.

In an UpSpiral, there is a much greater probability that you will feel the positive emotions that you choose to feel.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

Positivity…More Than Just A Smiley Face

Positive emotion and affect have evolved within us because they have been so important for our ongoing survival, especially the great bursts of growth in evolution and culture. If positivity were not so very important, it would by natural selection become less and less as we have evolved.

To the contrary, positive emotion has become increasingly important to the survival of the species. Positive emotion has remained around precisely because it is the creative source of ongoing evolution. Negativity and fight-flight is a warning system that has kept us protected, but it is the positive emotional states that are responsible for unfolding, ongoing creation.

Here is the short case for positivity.

You either live most of the time in an UpSpiral of positivity, in a DownSpiral of negativity, or, like most people, yo-yoing up and down. The goal in our work is very simple. It is to enable you to get you into an UpSpiral and its benefits, and to get you to keep you there, at a high level of “feeling good,” most of the time.

We aren’t aiming for bliss or ecstasy; just “feeling good” most all of the time. You will learn how to manage and have great agility over positivity in such a way that you will develop positive emotional muscle and have a mastery over the use of positive emotion. Do the work and the work will work for you.

Here are just a few of the benefits of positive emotions from the recognizied research in the field.

Positive emotion enlarges the scope of attention. It broadens your personal access to strengths and increases your choice of options and behavior from your own larger repertoire. Negativity creates a sense of being trapped with no choices because it narrows focus and attention. Positive emotion increases intuition and creativity. Positive emotion changes our body systems and increases immune system response.

Positive affect predicts good mental and physical health outcomes. It is predictive of increased happiness, stronger resilience to the negative, psychological growth and lower levels of cortisol, as well as reduced inflammation in response to stress. Positive emotion is correlated with resistance to sinus infections and reductions in stroke. Positivity predicts how long people will live.

Positive affect means that you will solve problems more easily, be more creative, and have greater access to the higher functions of strengths and to their range. People stronger in positive emotion score higher on every test of well-being, every test of life satisfaction, and there is increase of healthy functioning at a cellular level.

And the list could go on and on.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?

Which is it going to be for you?

The power of strengths is the dawning of whole new perspectives in the way that we’re looking at education and personal growth.

The look at strengths inside of you will be the dawning of whole new perspectives. It’s causing whole new perspectives in the way we go about what we’ve called mental health and especially the way in which we’re going about coaching.

One of these perspectives is what we know about the development of “genius.”

We haven’t paid a lot of attention to the growth of genius. Genius comes from encouraging and growing a strength; it never comes from correcting a weakness or from creating a “balanced” person.

We are a culture who loves balanced people, whatever balanced people are, and really all that being a balanced person means. It is what Tom Rath, in his book Vital Friends, calls “rounding,” and it is a way of making gifted people seem “less than” so they are not so threatening.

That means if we’re going to go making you a balanced person, what we’re going to do is look at your weaknesses, and shore up your weaknesses so they’re more in balance with your strengths.

What we teach you to do is just the opposite of that, and that is find your strengths, go with your strengths, and use your strengths to manage the weaknesses, and don’t ever worry about being a “well balanced” person.

Most people are simply ignorant of what their real strengths are.

Part of the reason we’re just beginning to get comfortable with them is because we have a lifetime of being, at least part of the time, in a DownSpiral, and a lifetime of playing to our weaknesses.

We have little or no access to strengths in a DownSpiral, and the deeper down the spiral we go, the lesser is the felt sense of these strengths.

All of us have a lifetime of being told in some way to correct our weaknesses, be a more well-rounded person, be a more balanced person.

We are taught this from the moment we enter the educational system.

The message is: learn to balance your weaknesses, or even obliterate them, so you can be “well rounded” and “balanced.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Suppose we decided that in our schools, we’re just going to pay attention to what students really do well first.

That what we’re going to discover and nurture is everything students do really well, not the things they do not do well, so we can compensate for those things and “fix” them.

What if that just happened every day? What if every day was simply another day for you to grasp your strengths and live in them?

What if we gave our kids, partners, spouses, co-workers, everyone in our world, this message: here’s another day for you to use your strengths . . . this is what they are, grow them and develop them. Now go try this and see how you succeed using what you are naturally good at doing.

Yes, we want you to go use and try what you are good at.

That’s very hard to get people to do. It’s a challenge to get people to apply that to their life. But not to do so is one of our greatest threats, both personally and to society at large.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

 

 

Your Perfect Set Of Strengths

You will only stay in an UpSpiral of feeling good by using your strengths. Your strengths can take any problem you encounter and give you the skills and answers to work through it, by simply using them.

There is nothing you can encounter that your strengths will not be a match for, bringing you to growth and solutions.

However, it is very easy, especially at first, to forget what your strengths are. In a DownSpiral, your strengths don’t even seem real, if in fact, you can even remember what they are. It is amazing to see a person in a DownSpiral struggle to even name their strengths. And if they do, it is usually reluctantly and disgustedly, as if somehow their strengths don’t work.

There is not a situation in your life that your strengths can’t address. You have a perfect set of them.

If you’ve been through our testing process and you can name your strengths, you are on the path to personal growth.

Instead of concentrating on your weaknesses and trying to change them and getting nowhere, you have learned that by growing your strengths, your weaknesses fall into your ability to manage them effectively.

We have not been conditioned to look to our strengths, but we have been conditioned to remember our weaknesses.

There are even some people who report that they feel guilty when they use their strengths because they were discouraged from doing the things they loved or were good at because it came too easy for them. They were told that they should struggle more. Work didn’t seem like work unless they were doing something that was exhausting, using too much psychic energy, and was an attempt to become good at things that were not their strengths.

Weaknesses are merely the other end of our strengths. In fact, they point to the directions of what our strengths really are.

But from the first red check marks on our school papers, or even before, we have learned what is wrong with us much better than we have learned what is good about us.

Whenever I test a group of people and ask them to write down their strengths, they can usually only list one or two that are actually accurate; they are much better at listing their weaknesses.

Going to a strength, playing to a strength, thinking from a strength is foreign behavior for most people. When we are troubled, stressed and worried or frustrated for very long, it is easy to go to our weaknesses and to play from the opposite end of our strengths. Read the testimonials on our website about people who have learned to play to their strengths.

And then tell us your stories about your encounter with your strengths and how you use them.

You never become a well-balanced or a “whole” person, whatever in the world that might be, by trying to correct your weaknesses.

You become more of who you authentically are by playing to your strengths and letting them guide you to your own inner brilliance.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Can You Learn Not To Feel Good?

Pessimism is an overwhelming factor in health-related issues and in personal success and achievement. Being tight with money and time makes you tight at the cellular level of your body.

It really is our number one health problem and the greatest deterrent of well-being and life satisfaction.

The answer to research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you be more effectively positive.

Optimism is a very basic way your perception sees the world. It’s measuring a very elemental thing that started with you genetically and continued with you in your nurturance. It’s a very basic way about the way you see and judge the most elemental events in your world.

Consciousness starts with what we do with the most elemental events in our world.

That’s where we’re going to find out how hopeful we are.

The ego is always going to give itself away, evolve, change and morph and become a “new and different” ego.

But you will recognize when it tells you, “Don’t be proud, be humble, don’t share this with your neighbors, you know, don’t tell everybody about this.” The ego gives itself away when we’re feeling badly.

The ego is giving itself away when we’re feeling negatively. When we’re engaged in believing in the permanence and pervasiveness of bad events, or when we are not giving the good the permanency that it needs or the pervasiveness that it needs, we’re going to experience the ego giving itself away.

We are going to be feeling less than good, or we are going to be feeling the feelings of negativity, feeling the feelings of going into a DownSpiral.

We’re on to one of the central causes of moving into that DownSpiral that is not a fun place and certainly not a healthy place to live.

Pessimism narrows your options and your access to your strengths.

Optimism, on the other hand, is a “force multiplier.” It broadens and builds an UpSpiral mindset.

And here is the key issue: Do you know what your strengths are?

Optimism, especially high levels of optimism that might have a tendency toward impulsiveness, need to be grounded in one of your positive strengths that provide a balance for you in your life.

We learn not to use positive emotion in our lives because of any number of reasons.

I call that “learned-non use of positive emotion.”

We can forget to exercise positive emotion just like we forget to use our muscles or work our bodies.

That’s why we have invented “The Emotional Gym.” It is a way of exercising positive emotion, of keeping it strong and evolving for a life where we are able to feel strong levels of love, peace, gratitude, joy and hope.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

Learned Helplessness…The Way Out

(Source: Dr. Martin Seligman)

The feeling of oppression and not being in control or in charge is the opposite of the top of the UpSpiral which is “feeling good and feeling free.”

These feelings of either the threat or the actual loss of control create DownSpiraling, and then we lean toward one end or the other of either passively internalizing anger and rage or externalizing it.

When we DownSpiral, we do characteristically one or the other.

Some of us internalize and smolder, and others of us “shoot from the hip.”

What do you do when you want to control and can’t, and the only resort is to admit that you are powerless? Even as this significant speck of the Universe, connected to a vast Universal intelligence in some unique and perfect way, the experience is still the same: powerlessness.

Go ahead, you can admit it, there are times when you feel up against the wall, backed into a corner, it’s piled on top of you and a squeak of a pulsing “peace” “peace” “peace” seems to be a million miles away, if you can remember it all.

The truth is that we want it our way, in our time, and like we think it ought to happen.

Why not just begin with admitting that we are powerless and let it unfold? Why not just throw open the whole process of living and just take it as it comes in a resigned acceptance that does not provoke frustration or a sense of oppression?

Why not just give in to the past oppressors, to the past cues and threats that we have so well learned, and be as passive as we have learned to be hostile and rage?

And let the whole thing just unfold as it will…

Why not just move to this place of just generally, as best you can, accept whatever comes down and try to do your best with what you cannot control, never will control, and admit that you are powerless and just let a power beyond yourself do the deal?

What I have just described is “learned helplessness.” And it is a state that happens when you feel that no matter what you do, nothing matters, that you have no control over the outcomes.

The result of learned helplessness exactly matches the state of clinical depression except for one feature, and that is the absence of suicidal tendencies.

Small difference, huh?

When oppression happens we are holding on to a way of exercising our power that doesn’t work.

You are probably being your mother or your father, or reacting as if it were some past situation rupturing your world. That doesn’t mean you need analysis and 60 weeks of insight.

It means that you have to reassess how to use your strengths differently, or for some, just begin to use them at all.

In learned helplessness, some strength isn’t being used, but rather its opposite. Our perception or belief that we are “on top of it,” that we are “in control,” that we are “free” and “feeling good” is always a perception grounded in using our strengths. It emerges from using our strengths, and then learning how to use them even better.

Learned helplessness comes from knowing you have strengths and not using them, which results in believing that you have no power.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

Too Optimistic?…Really?

Optimism is about thinking and feeling in a positive way.

Positivity is a much broader expression in behavior, motivation, creating, and living.

It is about thriving, feeling good, and feeling free.

Why are some so worried about too much optimism and too much positivity? What’s all the hesitancy about?

Not enough research about benefits? There’s plenty.

Scarcity thinking and stinginess, “watching every buck like it will get away” is a significant display of pessimism.

Pessimism is an overwhelming factor in health-related issues and in personal success and achievement.

Being tight with money and time makes you tight at the cellular level of your body.

It really is our number one health problem and the greatest deterrent of well-being and life satisfaction.

The answer to research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you be more effectively positive.

You don’t have to move from safety to feeling threat to manage your optimism.

Optimism is a very basic way your perception sees the world. It’s measuring a very elemental thing that started with you genetically and continued with you in your nurturance. It’s a very basic way about the way you see and judge the most elemental events in your world.

Consciousness starts with what we do with the most elemental events in our world.

The truth is that we are still tripping over the negative and cleaning up its spills more than exercising the fullness of the potential of positivity, not only to heal and integrate, but to create and build new people and new worlds, with a more solid, embodied experience of optimism.

IT’S ALL about A LITTLE MORE, Just a Little EVERY DAY.

What is trending in your feelings?

Your TENDENCY tells your story.

It is your TENDENCY that is most important.

Where are you TRENDING in your feelings? In your experience of open-ended optimism?

The higher you are in the UpSpiral, the better you’re going to feel, the better you’re going to do, the more optimistic you will become, and the more you’re going to get out of life what you want.

The research resources abound.

THE TENDENCY OF OUR FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS TELLS THE STORY.

What is most desirable is not to be always high, high, in this UpSpiral. But it is true that you can live in the 90’s most of the time, if you learn to do so and are consistent in building the NeuroPositive™ plasticity of your brain.

However, what is more important is that each day you are a little higher, a little better, feeling a little more positive, seeing things with a little more optimism, enjoying life a little more, letting a little more light in, feeling a little more joy, a little more peace, a little more love, a little more gratitude, and a little more hope.

Let this process begin to build in you.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

An Idle Brain, A Focused Brain?

The brain is never idle, especially when we sleep.

We think that daydreaming is idle time, but the brain is still working.

Studies show us that idle time, where the brain can wander, can be very creative.

But we need to tell the brain what we want it to do, and to train it to focus and pay attention.

As an example, today I went to the 99 cent store to pick up one thing. I went in without a list and I spent $34.00 on 34 things but I’m happy to report that I did get the one thing I went to get!

It’s a simple story, but the lesson is there – the brain needs a list or a specific goal in focus or it shops everywhere, for everything.

We need to practice focus and attention even during idle time, to avoid letting our thoughts go off in a negative direction – resulting in anxiety, dread, fear or discomfort.

That moves us into the sympathetic nervous system of fight/flight, our cortisol rises and the stress hormones kick in. Thyroxin, which is long-term adrenaline, can stay in the system for as long as four days.

So idle time spent day dreaming that goes in a negative direction is not healthy.

Negative issues that need to be addressed are those that continue to arise in one way or another. If we get everyday needless negative feelings out of the way and build up a positive reservoir, the truly negative things will only come up because you will have a greater sense of security in allowing them to do so.

It is often the negative feelings of an idle brain that create rumination, worrying dreams, and a sense of threat.

Research shows us that we don’t accomplish much when we are threatened on the most basic level.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute