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 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Mary Garvey Horst

    As I am reading this post, I am reflecting on how important this message is and how grateful I am to Drs. Larkin and Johnson for teaching me, as well as mentoring me in this approach to living. Prior to my association with ANI, I had no idea about the effects of positivity and neuropositivity on the evolution of the structure of my brain. I had never been introduced to the concept of neuroplasticity before meeting them. Quite honestly, I had never even thought about all of this with regard to personal growth and meaning making. I guess that is because I was “stuck” without even knowing it. Certainly, I was learning new things; however, I was continually feeding the left side of my brain with information. At the time, I was not introducing the novelty of the right hemisphere into the mix.

    During the “post-it” note exercise followed by the creation of a scrapbook with my five-year goals and life vision, a shift started to occur for me and my husband. To our good fortune, we entered into this work & training with ANI together! Our brains began to be structured around these new wants, desires, goals, and vision which called forth an evolution in ourselves and our shared life together. We invited in a level of creativity and freedom that had been sufficiently buttoned down previously. Having been through this process, I understand and have experienced that positivity is about evolution!

  • James Beeman

    As I continue to pulse in the Emotional Gym and set my Up
    Spiral everyday, this consistent and continuous practice has made me more aware
    of my current pattern of thoughts and feelings. As I go about my work each day
    as both a coach and trainer its been interesting to see how I can more easily
    identify when someone is feeling safe and when someone is experiencing fear
    because of my own heightened awareness of what I’m thinking and how I’m
    feeling. In other words, tuning into myself has heightened my ability to tune
    in to other people.

    In the last week, I had one situation where I chose to
    experience an intense Down Spiral over my regular Up Spiral. This Down Spiral
    came from an internal belief of thinking it was more important to have someone
    else value me more than I value myself. When I found myself in this brand new
    scenario, instead of being curious, grateful, and excited about the opportunity
    to support a potential client, I started to imagine the worst was about to
    happen – that this potential client would figure out that I didn’t know this or

    The truth in the situation is that, as a career coach, I
    don’t need to know every single answer to every single question that the
    potential client could pose to me. Instead, I can use my skills of listening
    well and asking powerful questions to enable the potential client to develop
    new thinking and feeling patterns that will lead the client to a more fulfilled
    life – a life where this client gets more of what he or she wants. The focus on
    positive thinking and feeling continue to open up to me a growing safety with
    the unknown and the novel which will be a quality that I’ll need to possess as
    I grow in my career and my ability to help others process through uncertain and
    often unclear life and career transitions.

    • Jodi Ana

      Beautiful! <3

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I’ve thought about making a bumper sticker, “Comfort is a Killer.” Somehow it seems easier to keep a negative frame of mind. It’s so easy to live life from an “Ain’t It Awful” and “Poor Me” perspective. Then it’s always somebody’s or something’s fault. It removes us from the responsibility of how we feel.

    But living from this negative frame is not good for us. I think comfort may be first cousins to laziness. It takes some effort to change. And it takes diligent practice to make the change “take.” When we look at the research that supports positive thinking, feeling and believing, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay negative. Exercising a positive frame of reference effects our immune system, our longevity, our health, our well-being and our relationships.

    For us to commit to a positive life reference, we may need to “Watch the Company” we keep. Being around negative people who dwell on catastrophic thinking, makes being positive much harder. And sometimes this means family. Practicing “detach with love” is a complex and challenging goal.

    If you want to improve your tennis or pickleball game, you have to play with better players. If you play with someone who isn’t at your level, you pull your game down to match their level. Dumbing down doesn’t seem to be a positive option. Being around negative people while wanting to be more positive is like swimming upstream. One of the loving-kindness meditations, is “May you live life with ease.”

    Evolution is a life-time endeavor. It’s a process really, not a goal. We can’t just eat our fruits and vegetables and expect to be healthy. We need to manage our thoughts, feelings and beliefs to be positive for our minds and brains to evolve too. We need to stay active. And, Dr. Fredrickson reminds us, we need to engage in meaningful encounters with others.

  • Sandra Lintz

    Positivity may be one side of the coin of being responsible for ourselves. Heads equals Positivity and tails equals Negativity with a core of responsibility. To think that I am responsible and have a choice about whether I am positive and in an UpSpiral or negative and in the DownSpiral feels almost too good to be true. It is awesome in its simplicity.

    A couple days ago something happened to alter the agenda for my entire day. My first inclination was to feel angry, this would ruin my day and the story started going on about things. I didn’t like how I felt, upset about this and that, the story of my day that would not happen. Nothing however was going to negate the fact that my agenda was off the table that day. That was reality and being angry wasn’t helping things. Next I had that little chat with myself, acknowledging my responsibility, and deciding to flip the coin, and found that this deviation presented an opportunity to take care of myself by being positive and I felt much better accepting that. My anger subsided. This wasn’t magic that healed me in that instant but I could find peace changing my “plans” for the time being. This is not simply a story of switching negativity to positivity because it was within this experience that I realized that there was a storyline weighing me down. As I was able to break free from the story the opportunity came to light.

    Our stories weigh us down and keep us hooked by negativity, keep us from being happy, and keep us from evolving and changing for the better. I think this is why Dr. Larkin wrote that people stop themselves in the pursuit of happiness or may even fear it. But it is possible to find happiness in more circumstances than we realize (bring to reality). Stories distract our focus, becoming so familiar, comfortable, and limiting. Stories get in the way of posititivity and the evolution of the self to pursue happiness. With positivity we declare ourselves independent and free of our stories. We can evolve to create new realities all the time with focus and intention. This is the liberating reality of responsibility and positivity.

  • jeris hollander

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

    I have seen this mentality negatively affect too many friends and loved ones. Refusal to be open to change and stubborn commitment to one’s comfort zone is undeniably an impediment to growth and evolution. I know someone in particular that has been a part of my life for many years, who is constantly enmeshed and attached to the victim mentality. She has been stuck in the down spiral for years, refuting any possibility that a change in thinking, reasoning and perception would improve her life, and in effect, the lives of those closest to her. When one loses their sense of self, meaning and purpose and chooses to live in perpetual fear of change, fear of letting go and clutches to victimization, we are confining ourselves to a destructive state. In this state, we are unwilling to open the door to the possibilities of positive change – this is a painful place in which to be stuck. Its is also painful to watch loved ones perpetually reside in this state of being. As the down spiral continues to become increasingly prevalent and ingrained, problems tend to compound and grow exponentially. Concurrently, the efficacy of our coping mechanisms continue to diminish. Simply put, negativity encourages self destruction while positivity steers us towards growth and evolution. As I continue to pulse in the emotional gym and grow stronger in my up spiral, I am optimistic that sharing the impact that this has had in my life will encourage my clients and those close to me to open their minds to new possibilities.Teaching and gently guiding others to find meaning and live in their up spiral is what I feel most called to do, whether it be as a coach, friend, family member or stranger.

  • Audrey Sloofman

    I always thought I was open-minded…but now I see that I was not really. How openminded could I have been if I let my mind conclude my future with results from the past. That is…I would dread the next bad thing and hope it wouldn’t happen, but expect it would most likely. Oh well, such was my lot in life! I had learned well how to “protect myself” from the challenges in life.
    I so appreciate knowing that I can actually starve the brain cells that kept me in the “victim jail” and build new neuropathways (LITERALLY!!) by managing my learned negative habits of emotion and thinking with new positive UpSpiral tools. It is so helpful for me to know that these more helpful tools are not just “magical thinking” but actually biologically based! What a gift!

  • Jodi Ana

    It’s super hard for me to relate to parts of this post. For example, you say: “Yes, we’re afraid of the power of positivity because of…”

    While “being afraid of the power of positivity” may be true for some of your readers, it’s not true for all of them. I don’t resonate with this at all. Positivity has quite literally saved my life and I thrive on it.

    Harnessing positive feelings and emotions is what got me through some of my darkest days and pulled me out of a downward spiral of ill health and back into a healthy life. For some people it may not be that they are afraid of the power of positivity, so much as it may be that they simply have not been taught how to be positive.

    I can only speak for my own self when I say that was the case for me. This way of being was greatly sparked by my neurologist during the follow-up appointment after I was diagnosed with narcolepsy. At that time, I had myself convinced I would be in a wheel chair before my daughter graduated from high school. I asked him, “is it progressive?”. His response to me was, “Jodi, you can’t look at it that way. If you do, you will destroy yourself. From now on, you must only focus on the positive”. I left that appointment wondering what was ‘positive’ about having narcolepsy. That sparked a whole host of thoughts processes that lead me back to positive thought and deepened my journey.

    As friends, family, and strangers lay witness to my health journey; I often heard “you’re the most optimistic person I know”. After focusing on the positive for a while it began to just come naturally and effortlessly.

    However, I can totally relate to this: “If there is such a thing as “being over the hill,” it is negativity and pessimism that create it.”

    After harnessing positive thought and making other lifestyle and dietary changes, the narcolepsy (along with seizure activity in the brain, metabolic syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a mass on my liver, two tumors in my right breast, and a growth on my thyroid) all went into complete remission!!!

    Of course, it wasn’t ONLY where I focused my thoughts that was at the root of my healing, but it did play a large role. I later realized that a great part of my problem was caused by my relationship with myself, and in denying my own strengths and gifts (because I didn’t think they were acceptible to others in my environment). Today I am a Coach and Master Energy Healer who uses my intuitive/psychic gifts to empower others to tap into their intuition and realize their Greatness. Doing this as ‘work’ is like living a dream!

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute