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 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Mary Garvey Horst

    Although in the beginning of my work with the Emotional Gym, I didn’t have a clue! Now I understand the absolute brilliance of “building the reservoir.” It takes time, consistency, and practice for the old neuropathways to wither away as the new neuropathways are being formed. When Drs. Larkin and Johnson spoke in my ANI training about “leaning in the direction” of greater levels of peace, love, gratitude, joy, and hope, I had no idea what they meant by this. However, I did the Emotional Gym as they instructed and slowly began to build that reservoir that has now become the positive ambient soundtrack in my mind. I know how to immediately access those neuropositive feelings that I have been building up as my own reservoir over time. What initially felt like so much hard work, comes easily to me (almost as second nature).

    Additionally, when they used the metaphor in the training sessions of the “rollercoaster of emotion,” my ears began to perk up. Mostly, because I knew what that felt like to have an emotional reaction that would run away in such a way that it was almost impossible to stop as in a speeding rollercoaster. Once again, the idea of stepping off the track and out of the rollercoaster car before it even got started triggered an “aha” moment for me. The idea of slowing down, taking the time for reflection, and exerting less of a push in life allows the possibility for a level of objectivity and wisdom to be accessed. What a perceptive, yet power-packed question that invites in a deeper level of knowing: “How do you clear your mind when a fix is needed?” I will spend some time with this one!

  • Maureen Nessen Fluke

    In spending time with my father before he passed I began to look at my own mortality- One of the things I remember him saying was-” We spend our lives working towards things- things we think we need to make us happy. Things we believe we need to do to become,who we think we should become…. all long we are chasing something that has always been present,if we only took the time to be still and listen”. Yes this is why I strongly believe that in gratitude the foundation is set to see all possibilites and to know that… It is (in the stillness) which allows me to savor each moment of this precious life.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    We are indeed a fix it, solution-oriented culture. I am so encouraged that the trend of Positive Psychology is moving away from a “what’s wrong with you” approach to “what’s right with you” approach. For years, as a psychologist, I have been working with clients on how their strengths and talents can bridge them over the rocks of their current upsets. “How can you use your successes to help you deal with what you see as your current problems?” was a common question.

    Dr. Jill Taylor, a Harvard trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke at 37. Her left hemisphere was flooded with blood. She could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life within a space of four hours.

    With diligent determination, she is near full recovery after eight years. Her ability to articulate her experience is phenomenal in her book, My Stroke of Insight. She became very clear

    that her recovery is partly a result of her and her helpers focusing on her progress and successes – not her limitations or failed tries. I so wish our educators would DEMAND this philosophy in the classroom.

    So how do we move away from the culturally motivated fix-it mentality? How do we get out of the obsessive worry patterns? I think of it as “brain train.” We have to choose what we think about, how we feel and what we believe. The next time you’re stuck on going over and over something that seems futile, take some deep breaths and focus on gratitude. Not just thinking gratitude, but feeling gratitude. It will take some practice and diligence, but you can learn to switch from negative to positive and train your brain.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute