The Applied Neuroscience Institute

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

Hope: Celebrate The Good
How Big Is Your “In Between?”
The Performance Boost Of Your Strengths
The Power Of An Emotional Pulse
The “Mirror” Of Your Mind
Aren’t All Emotions Good?
Build Your “Gratitude Brain”
The Gratitude Brain
Slow Down Your Brain…

Hope: Celebrate The Good

Hope NEW

Love, peace, gratitude and joy have always comprised the basic building blocks of the Emotional Gym. Not too long ago, I added a 5th feeling to those basic 4. And it is HOPE. As the research emerges, the construct of hope continually pushes forth as a major and robust predictor of happiness and joy.

Working with the first four, I began to believe that I had a hold on getting people to experience the emotions of hope. What I learned was that hope depends upon the experience of the other four emotions.

As you feel gratitude, peace, love, and joy, your capacity for hope increases. When any one of the previous four emotions is blocked, then feeling hope is affected.

“Feeling ourselves” into the future is very delicate. Consider this: getting people to dream, visualize, imagine, and to vision their future can also be very challenging.

Sacred texts describe faith as “the hope of things unseen.” And that is what we especially need right now. Hope is that which we cannot yet see, yet know will come into being. Hope is definitely a feeling and a significant issue in dealing with doubt, worry, anxiety, and fortune-telling (that’s imagining and projecting negativity into the future.)

So begin to pulse hope. Find a few cues that will remind you to feel hope and “pulse” it. Every time you hear negative economic news from another “talking head,” pulse hope.

Hope Inside

Suffice it to say that there is enough research indicating that hope is a very significant indicator of living in an UpSpiral. It is also a very difficult emotion to feel if you are clutching and afraid on almost any level.

It is much easier to feel hope if you can feel gratitude, peace, joy, and love first.

Let me say it again-the very best way to feel hope is to feel all of the other emotions first, and to get good at them. Then go to hope and you will find that it is there already. It has sneaked its way into your emotional repertoire. You can find it and you can practice it and grow it, just like you have all of the others.

Your brain is designed to be more hopeful than less; it’s just built that way.

One very basic rule is to celebrate the good, make it last, and spread it around. When something is negative, don’t make it so permanent or lasting, and don’t let it affect everything in your life. We have a great deal more difficulty experiencing hope when we pass over the good too quickly, and dwell on the negative.

Whenever your mind wanders and begins to worry about what will happen, pulse hope and let it build, even more strongly.

Hope is the foundation of the State of Mind of Certitude.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

How Big Is Your “In Between?”



This is not a reference to your physical body.

It’s a reference to the swing and sway of your everyday moods or states of mind.

The top of our Emotional Scale is feeling very good, resilient, optimistic, grateful, and that is at a score of 100. The bottom is feeling oppressed, overwhelmed and despairing, and that is a score at 0. The mid-point is 50. The in-between, where most people are, is a range between 35 and 70.

So on a scale of 1-100, where are you?

If you are, in part of your life, in this “in-between” state, yo-yoing up and down and back and forth, or just fixed at a 60, then consider moving that mid-range to over 70 –to the “feel-good” range.

This in-between state is where many folks live, thinking that it’s just them, just their life as it is. But we guarantee that you can live at a higher point on this scale and experience feeling good more and more and more often.

We even guarantee that you can get to feeling very good 95% of the time.

It starts with feeling positive emotion. We are heading into the holiday season, which can be a good test. There are folks for whom this season raises their mood, but there are others who dread it and feel it as an imposition.

Every time you think of the holiday season, and perhaps feel dread or overwhelm, and even if you don’t, turn to the feeling of gratitude.

Think of something you’re grateful for and pulse the feeling of gratitude 25 times.

And while you’re at it, find some more cues that you can use to feel grateful, both for this holiday season and beyond.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The Performance Boost Of Your Strengths

Boost Strengths

Are you too optimistic?

Can you be?

Some studies claim that too much optimism can be dangerous and cause too risky behavior.

You can always find a study somewhere that will take the air out of your balloon.

So is the answer to be more pessimistic or more effectively optimistic?

How’s this?

Is it better to DownSpiral until you feel more negatively, find things wrong with most everything else in the process, and narrow your focus and your options?

Or claim that positive energy, and be more effectively and efficiently optimistic?

Pessimism or more negativity is not the answer. Your brain is more naturally optimistic than pessimistic; it’s necessary for evolution.

The answer to the research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you can be more effectively positive. You don’t have to check your optimism at the door in favor digging for a little pessimism.

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

If you are building castles in the air, use the same creativity and imagination to put foundations underneath the ones that mean the most to you.

Pessimism narrows your options and full access to your strengths.

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.

And you can be sure they are there if you know your scientifically tested strengths.

Your strengths are your performance tools. You use them when you encounter challenges. They are like the fuel in your car. In certain situations, you may need to accelerate and use more fuel to increase your speed.


Your strengths provide you with that “performance boost” in any and every situation of your life.

How you regard your strengths and what you are willing to do with them is like the decision to eat or not eat good food. You can get by on the junk food of your weaknesses, but what builds your sense of self and very directly the happiness you experience, is your decision to flex the muscles of your strengths, to use them more and more, and to put yourself in situations where they are used.

Strengths move you toward life and aliveness. Playing to weaknesses moves you toward deterioration.

It starts with feeling disconnected and moves to feeling disengaged, disenchanted, unappreciated, unseen, unnoticed. Feeling unappreciated appears as the State of Mind of loneliness.

That’s usually the place where we start looking for someone else to fill the absence of ourselves that we have created.

When you engage your strengths in an UpSpiral of feeling good, you are meeting challenges head on, from the higher ground of your real self.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 







The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

H. L. Mencken

Pursue Happy

We are a culture obsessed with the Puritanical fear of what our Declaration of Independence guarantees us – “the pursuit of happiness.”

Yes, we’re afraid of the power of positivity because of the changes in thinking, believing, feeling, just plain living our lives, that positivity may require.

But positivity is about evolution.

It is what sets the stage for our personal growth, our evolution.

It is essential to the unfolding stages of brain development, that are expressed in what we call an UpSpiral – higher and more complex stages of reasoning, feeling, and creating.

And having learned to savor the sweetness of life in this UpSpiral, nothing is more important than learning how to stay there with integrity, ease, and peace.

Neuropositivity is pushing change in the structure of the brain, enlarging the networked connectivity of neurons into powerful “neural nets,” in such a way that you begin to notice that you reason differently than before.

Your brain is literally growing you a new “lens,” a new structure of how you think, feel, and reason, and its fuel is positivity.

Negativity, on the other hand, creates regression and balks at these changes and your emerging new ways of reasoning, thinking, and feeling.

In the name of staying in your “comfort zone,” you remain fixed, stubborn, and “dug in” with beliefs and emotions that you say are “your style,” but which you know are producing ever- dwindling results.

Hill Over

If there is such a thing as “being over the hill,” it is negativity and pessimism that create it.

It is positivity that expands the potential for what it is that your brain is essentially designed- the evolutionary, ever-present unfolding of deeper meaning, deeper connections, and a life that you know you want, but which at times may seem simply out of reach.

That’s because positivity, once set in motion, inevitable throws you into a transition.

Your brain is never NOT attempting to unfold and grow, with one exception.

That is the choice you have to refuse to grow, thus creating rigidity and stuckness, the process at the heart of our dis-eases.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The Power Of An Emotional Pulse

5 Senses


Beyond the 5 senses and the thoughts of the brain, there is a deeper knowing that is always present, always there, always ready to be revealed.

In fact, it is always getting through the “filter” of everyday living.

What is beyond the senses and the thoughts is the essence of gratitude, love, peace, joy and hope. Living in these moods and states of mind is the easiest way of allowing this essence at the core of you to emerge.

This essence is the closest thing to what you really, really, really believe about yourself and life. It’s you’re basic “knowing” that you may not even be aware that you have.

Have you ever had the experience that when you had to draw upon it, there was an inner source of strength making you feel “steady as a rock?”

Remember how you worried your way all the way there, and then when you stepped out and did it, you were steady as steady could be?

There are those times when we feel oppressed –life seems to be on top of us rather than feeling like we “are top of things”. It is a common experience in a life where we get too busy to take good care of ourselves. Sometimes, it’s ANGER, some times it’s just frustration and that “wit’s end” feeling.

Try this.



It is true that we notice more of what we begin to FEEL.

An “emotional pulse” is like sending positive emotional blood through your brain and body. You might have to start with your imagination.

Find the positive feeling that you can catch by the tail and feel just a little bit of it.

Among 5 feelings- gratitude, peace, love, joy or hope, which of these feelings RIGHT NOW can you get the closest to by feeling just a little bit of one of them?

Which one can you most easily imagine?

Which one can you catch by the tail?

Tap those moments and you tap into what you really know and believe.

At the core of you is a center of steadfast love, peace, joy, and hope, and gratitude.

Touch it and let it seep into your world.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The “Mirror” Of Your Mind

Mirror Neurons 1


Tucked away neatly behind the frontal lobes of your brain are these amazing neurons of ours that help us to embrace “the other.” They are called “mirror neurons” and they enable us to experience the experience of another person, to the extent that we can, and that can be greater and greater. They are also the roots of the expanding awareness of the spiritual sense of the “the other,” but that’s for another time.

Start with people, one and a time, and you are also starting with the Universe.

Feeling understood is one of our most basic human needs- to get that sense that someone embraces who we are, not only for what we think, but for how we feel. It is this activity of being a kind of “chameleon” to the experience of another that bonds us to like-minded people and communities. It is the basis of friendship.

People who can’t or don’t use their mirror neurons have limited friendships and very small communities, or are loners.

Your mirror neurons, and your capacity to mirror the experience of another, help you and the other person to mature. It’s call mutuality. In a relationship of love between couples, it’s essential.

It determines whether the love in that relationship, indeed the relationship, itself, will last.

Can you experience the experience of another?

Not just as a parrot, mimicking back what somewhat is saying, but in an understanding an enlightened way, letting the other person know that you “get” where they’re coming from?

Mirror neurons grow when you use them, and so does maturity.

Find new balance and connectedness in your life by finding those people who can do the same for you.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Aren’t All Emotions Good?


Feelings Wordle


No, they’re not, not all the time, and not just anytime.

Most negative emotions are not good too much of the time. Yes, we need negative emotions, but we need them much less than we think we do, and certainly far less than we have been conditioned to respond with them.

People are too careless with negative emotions. They increase your cortisol, and you die sooner, and get sick easier.

I’m here to argue the case for the importance of positive emotions. We need many, many more of them, and we need them more pervasively and permanently. Positive emotions are essential to health, fitness, and optimal living.

You can have many more of them by not waiting for the world around you to give them to you; make the decision to give them to yourself!

They are far more effective and healthy than negative emotions most all of the time. As an evolving species, we face fewer and fewer sabre tooth tigers, and those we do, in whatever shape they come, are better escaped or defeated by smoother, slicker, more clever means than the reptilian fight/flight that we are evolving from.

Learn to move into a “calm/connect” response –where the real power is.

We are not nearly as good at positive emotions as we are at negative emotions.

Consider how lightning fast you get to the emotions of upset or anger or anxiety! Can you get that fast to gratitude or love or joy? Probably not. If we can get to anger or upset with lightning speed, we can rehearse and train ourselves to get to joy just as surely.

We learned to get to anger, we can learn to get to joy. As evolutionarily predisposed as you are to anger, you are also have within you the capacity for joy, great, great joy! It is a part of your nature.

But you have to rehearse your part and that is to feel them. There are plenty of reasons to have them; it is your part to decide you want and to feel them. Practice feeling positive emotion. All day long feel joy.

Every chance you get, go to joy. Start with a little and then increase the amount, but rehearse joy.

If you have a problem on your mind, use it as a cue to go to joy. Think of the problem, then feel joy. Hard at first, but very possible to learn to do. Then start to look around for what gives you joy and feel joy 100 times a day, every day for a week. Then do it for a month and see what happens.

You can build routes of joy in your brain that you go to instantly, that you can stay there for a while and that you can increase whenever you want to.

But you have to rehearse positive emotion to develop positive emotional muscle.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 


Build Your “Gratitude Brain”

Brain Age NYT


Do you believe your brain has to decline with age?

Gratitude is the state of mind that opens us to expansiveness. It has only been a relatively short time ago that we believed that the brain was a fixed at a certain point on life, and that everyone’s brain declined with age.

Now we know that neurogenesis, the growth of new neurons in the marrow of our bones, make their way to our brains for distribution exactly where they’re needed. This process of cellular renewal goes on until you die.

If we think about the nature of gratitude and the nature of the way it opens us to perceive, puts us in a state of safety, and allows the parasympathetic nervous system of the body to remain in homeostasis to repair and strengthen the body, gratitude is enough to bring us to our knees. Then we when we look around us and give our cells permission to receive, to be open, to see, to smell and to appreciate goodness,  we resonate in a way that allows us to have a sense of wholeness and oneness, that is unifying and restorative.

Every single challenge will give me the opportunity of identifying something good in it, and I can find what I like in every person rather than what rubs me the wrong way. That rub may be surely be there, if I choose to make it my focus. And even if I do focus on the “rub” I can know that I am really only focusing on something in myself that is not whole, that needs a look that will end in deeper self-acceptance, if I choose to do the work to realize that what rubs me in another is something I reject in myself.

Good Seen

This thinking really is a new kind of meditation, because its focus is gratitude. Gratitude is where it begins. It does not begin with love or hope. It begins with gratitude, because gratitude is the apprehension of what is good right now. Start the mind in the track of what is good right now, what is to be enjoyed, and that is the track you are likely to stay on.

Feeling gratitude increases blood flow in the brain. Increased ratios of blood flow to the left frontal lobe increase positive mood.

Gratitude is the emotional state that enables the most rapid transmission of positive emotions and the connectivity of positive brain neuropathways.

Gratitude is one of the lead strengths of the happiest people. When in doubt, go to gratitude. Whenever you have spare time, immerse yourself in gratitude. Whenever your brain is wandering, experience gratitude. When you’re in traffic, go to gratitude. When you hear a great song, go to gratitude. In fact, when you hear a lousy song, go to gratitude.

Gratitude is profound experience of healing and restoration.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

The Gratitude Brain



We are a “fix it” solution-oriented culture.  It’s a real cultural fixation.

We are taught to work and not waste time, to suffer as a part of the price to pay for any success, and to be persistent no matter what.

We have been conditioned to believe in “no pain- no gain” in almost anything we do.

If we felt as elated for all of the goodness in our lives as we do guilty for what we are afraid we haven’t worked hard enough for, we would problem-free.

To say that we are driven to fix, solve, and explain is an understatement. To say that we work too hard or worry too much that we are not has just become cliché.

Guilt over not accomplishing something, at least making the bed, looms largely in one way or another. Even finding meaning in life has been overtaken by those who must live the “purpose-driven” life.

Just for the record, have meaning in life and finding a purpose are not necessarily at all the same thing. It is far better to be inspired to live, being alive to life rather than driven to accomplish a purpose.

To suggest that the best fix is “nothing” is blasphemy. However, when we are thinking and thinking and thinking and worrying and worrying and looking and looking for a solution, both the wisdom and the research tell us that it is precisely “nothing” that works best.Resistance3How do you clear your mind when you are obsessively stuck on solving or worrying to solve some dilemma?

How do you clear your mind when a “fix” is needed?

First, we have to begin to realize that driven and obsessive effort, even when it is disguised as concern, compassion, or caring, is actually resistance. We aren’t pushing in the direction of a solution; we are pushing against the problem or the concern. It is that resistance that wears us down and is the opposite of creating a NeuroPositive Mind.

How many things in your life have resolved themselves because you left them alone, and time changed certain factors you could not have expected? Actually, for all of our work at problem-solving, most of the time things come to their conclusions outside of our determined and best efforts. The tide changes, factors shuffle around, surprises happen, and the most unlikely things happen to affect outcomes.

Gratitude Vision

With that realization we turn again to the Emotional Gym and it’s first and most important emotion. That emotion is gratitude. It is the worm hole through the black hole. That is to say, it is the way out of the problem.

In the face of the problem, practice gratitude over and over and over again. If it takes an hour of writing down what you are grateful for, take the hour and save yourself 3 days of worry and needless mental work on solutions that you just don’t have.

Gratitude is a daily practice, but you can’t just think gratitude. You have to have learned to “feel” and experience it. Every solution comes from a reservoir of gratitude.

Build the reservoir, put it to the test, and see if it is not true that the solution to all of your “issues” comes when you turn from them and live today, experiencing the feeling of gratitude.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Slow Down Your Brain…

PAST-PRESENT-FUTURESo the future can catch up with you.

The past is before you.

The future is behind you.

Let it catch up.

In historical Chinese culture, it is the past that is in front of you. You can see all of your mistakes and all of your accomplishments. If you look, and will see, there it is. That is the part you know. The task is to accept what you see and know and learn everything you can from this past that is right there in front of you.

No digging required.

Interestingly, it is the future that is behind you, trying to catch up with how fast your are running after it. Can you get this picture of chasing success, purpose, meaning, security, and the well-lived life while it is all the time trying to catch up with you? What longing wants to catch up with you?

Here is a clue of how to get there and orient yourself to what this longing is. Here is a way to stop and grab it. Do an Avalanche of Gratitude. List 400 things you’re grateful for. Then be still with yourself. What speaks? How does the future talk to you about your longings?

Future-mindedness is one of the top five strengths of the happiest of happy people. We have the solid research evidence that shows us the importance of “future-thinking.” This is not “fortune-telling” and expecting the worst, but rather a zest and excitement for the future that draws us forward to be a part of what is yet to be revealed and created.

It is the left frontal lobe that is particularly engaged in “visioning.” It is busy sorting and making sense of the data collected by the right frontal lobe. It is the spinning wheel of the yarn and stuff of life that we assimilate, distributing the fabric of initial meaning-making to the rest of the brain for a billion neuropathways to form new structures of reasoning –all future-oriented.

“Going-here, going-here, next stop” is its constant call as the booster engine of enlarging the ever-growing, ever inter-connecting network of neuropathways of the brain, building vast canopies of intricate reasoning that form the rainforest of the Mind.

It is a wonderful metaphor and true. The future wants to take us along, pull us forward, and beckon us to wish, hope and desire. We can think that we are so much in charge of the future while we believe that the past is this baggage on our back to be worked through in order to deserve to live with vision and what captivates us.


Little wonder that we have such little sense of potential, of adventure, and the yet to be explored. On the one hand we don’t believe that we can simply look at the past, accept it, learn, and go on without having to pay anymore debt than that.  On the other hand we have difficulty wanting, just simply “wanting” what we want.

Longing has become an almost dirty word.

What do you “long” for?

What is your heart’s desire?

What’s your next stop, next thought, next idea, next lusciously interesting encounter with unfolding creation?

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute