Enthusiasm & Positive Emotion: The Profound Implications of the Emotional Gym
By Dr. William K. Larkin on July 2, 2012
How is your pulsing going? Do you realize that when you pulse and do the Emotional Gym, you are doing a form of meditation, especially when you start to get good at it?
When you can get to an emotion with immediacy, when you can make it last, and when you can increase it, you are affecting the activity of the left frontal lobe from blood flow to EEG activity.
Increased blood flow and increased EEG activity are associated with the elevation of positive mood. The research has been done with long-term meditators but it has also been done with those who meditated for 8 weeks.
This is the bottom-line. Meditation means and is many things. Most significantly it means an ability to alter the activity of the brain by choice, resulting in an alteration of the frontal lobes. This process affects the anterior cingulate and lessens the negative emotional reactivity of both the right frontal lobe and the amygdala.
Here’s the translation. The left frontal lobe is responsible for inhibition/disinhibition. This means that it is a stop/go mechanism of the brain. While it is interesting that it is not the moral center of the brain, it can over rule the moral functioning of the brain and be a primary source of compulsive addictive behavior, as in orbital frontal syndrome.
Still not a very good translation? Here’s the skinny. When you pulse and “feel” emotion, you are activating the left frontal lobe. When you think and image good and positive things, you are loosening up the inhibiting function and disinhibiting greater freedom and expansion, the good stuff associated with the UpSpiral. The left frontal lobe is also associated with visioning, direction, and schedules. So you’re beginning to get the picture that if you keep your left frontal lobe busy thinking and FEELING love, peace, gratitude, joy and hope, and the more accustomed you become to doing that, the greater you are affecting your state of mind.
You are establishing a predisposition to a more positive mood.
There is, in fact, a ratio that exists between the activation of the left and right frontal lobes. The right frontal lobe is more associated with depression, but also with anxiety and more negative states of mind. Change the ratio by choice.
Biofeedback has claimed a piece of this territory by offering equipment that shows when you are increasing left frontal lobe EEG activity. EEG activity is a topical measure of brain activity. What would you guess is the best indication of that activity and it’s free? Your emotions are your best biofeedback device.
YES, YOUR EMOTIONS!
So stop just reacting with your emotions and do some meditating with emotions. There are four tracks at the end of our CD that accompanies Growing the Positive Mind. That CD, with original tracks by Douglas Ladnier, is The Music of the UpSpiral, and is available on Amazon. Douglas did a wonderful job of translating my book into music.
However, you don’t have to buy anything. The music helps because it’s music and it gets the whole right hemisphere working for you as well. That is an additional added dimension of getting the whole brain to work in building stronger, more stable positive emotional responses.
Think about it. We walk around in the emotional states we have grown all of our lives by reacting to what was happening around us. And now the revolution is here! You can feel what you want to feel and practice “love, peace, gratitude, joy, and hope” for no reason at all except that you choose to feel them.
Let these be the emotions that you are most accustomed to feeling and living. Let these be the emotions that fill both your quiet times and your busy times. You can meditate with gratitude while you work. You can meditate with hope when you go to sleep. You can meditate with love when you are aggravated and in the presence of somebody who rubs you the wrong way.
And in the process of paying attention to what is elegantly simple, you can discover and rediscover what is really simple meditation for the Western mind: The Emotional Gym.
CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR COACHES
1) Summarize your understanding of the neuroscience of the Emotional Gym as it is presented in this blog. Specifically, how do you see the “inhibition/disinhibition” function of the left frontal lobe as a catalyst for the power of the Emotional Gym? Give us an example from your personal or professional experience.
FOR OUR LARGER BLOG COMMUNITY
1) What insight did you gain from learning about the Emotional Gym as a form of meditation? How does the practice of this new form of meditation compare to your more traditional or customary forms of meditation? Tell us your story with an example.
Fiat Lux wrote on Thu Jul 5th, 3:42pm:
When I was 16 years old (almost four decades ago) I studied Transcendental Mediation. I was given that very secret $500 mantra which I was not allowed to share with anyone. I never really maintained a solid practice. In the ensuing forty years, I studied with many teachers and masters from all walks of life in all different traditions. Do I routinely meditate? No. Do I maintain different rituals for setting my intention, creating clarity around my greater mission in life and am I able to manifest that which I am intentional about….absolutely YES!
What I found so utterly fascinating about re-framing the notion of the emotional
gym as a form of meditation is that it is much easier for the average person to maintain as a practice. What usually trips people up when they are learning to meditate is the notion that they must empty out- that the goal is to eliminate thoughts and when you find yourself thinking to redirect to a state of nothingness. The idea of pulsing positive emotions is very direct and much less distracting and can land you into a similar state of peace or at the very least activate the left frontal lobe. Ultimate, if you are pulsing long enough, you soon forget that you are doing so and it becomes a fluid, rhythm that takes on a power of its own and lets you empty out which brings you to a very refreshed state of clarity. This is a very clever approach to getting to this state and though at first, one feels very self-conscious about the pulsing, it gets you where you need to go in a rather facile manner. LOVE IT!!!!!
Katherine wrote on Sat Jul 7th, 7:59am:
In Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz’s book, The Mind & The Brain, he writes about the role the left frontal lobe plays and the experiments around free will (pg. 303-311). Experiments by Ben Libet using EEG reported results that substantiate what Dr. Larkin refers to as the “stop/go mechanism of the brain” and our ability to decide what thoughts and feelings we act on.
The Emotional Gym meditation exercises simply train our state of mind to lean towards the positive. As these positive emotions become ingrained in our pre-conscious and conscious minds they are most likely the thoughts that will bubble up as our mind is making decisions on what our next actions, thoughts and feelings will be. The positive states of mind become more accessible quicker (immediacy) and become our foundation towards action in our lives. Positive action, thoughts and feelings start to be compulsive – our natural state of being.
For me, this plays out in my everyday life. I have been meditating in the Emotional Gym for over six months now. I have become better equipped to respond to the negativity that may enter my life. At work I have associates that can be negative about circumstances and outcome of our efforts. Before I generally conceded in these ad-hoc discussions and found that they would zap my energy since I did not share a similar outlook. Today I am more apt to listen and not make a comment either way diverting the attention to a more positive topic. In other words, I am in control of the conversation I decide to participate in which makes me feel empowered to live my life in a positive state.
Steve D wrote on Sat Jul 7th, 11:38am:
Laughing as my first thought is where can I find my frontal lobe; is it looking from within//out meaning that it would be on the left side of my head as I view the world or is the left frontal lobe the other side looking within my head from the outside so it would really be on my right! Then I realized how much I think all of the time…perhap sit will help to know the answer so I can visualize where all of this positive ernergy is manifesting within.
I love the emotional gym and all that I do thorughout the day to reflect and meditate on positive thought. Formal meditation never worked for me and it’s something that I have no real desire for. Informal meditation however I choose to do so (usually quiet music with reflective intention usally laying down comfortably in bed is my preferred way when I think informal meditation).
But aligning to the emotional gym with focused attention on pulsing, being aware when I’m in a place of of negative thought and anchoring positive thought every day through some of my informal rituals has really helped me live in a state of incredioble harmony.
Each day I start the day with the song of the day…dancin and doin’ my emotional gym moves to anchor gratitude, love, peace, joy, inspired hope, and child-like innocence. It starts the day with a smile and I’m off and running aware of my choice to be happy…one that I will choose 9 times out of 10…hey I’m working on being 10 for 10!
Peace to all this incredible Saturday while I’m listening to the Top 40 countdown of this day in 1966…ah to be 13 years old again…I do feel it within even if I do have gray hair!
Katherine wrote on Sun Jul 8th, 10:03am:
Great comparison Fiat Lux, I am one of those that found eastern meditation elusive for the most part. I actually learned meditation using a Brian Tracy audio tape for Accelerated Learning…boy, that goes back a few years. The Emotional Gym is the first meditation exercise I have been able to incorporate daily for a long period of time.
neuromind wrote on Sun Jul 8th, 9:37pm:
As I understand this… negative emotions are associated with activation of the right frontal lobe and positive emotions are associated with activation of the left frontal lobe. So by continuing to direct my mind in positive ways, I increase the electrical activity in the left frontal lobe, by doing this, I increase positive emotions, and I feel good (UpSpiral).
According to Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD., in her book Positivity, by directing the mind away from negativity and using mindfulness or meditation we can “sever the link between negative thoughts and negative emotions” (p. 167) and we can decrease anxiety and increase our focus (p. 168). I have certainly found this to be true for me. I started with ANI earlier this year, and have used the Emotional Gym, calling up positive emotions and directing my attention to Gratitude, Love, Peace, and Joy.
Lately my attention has been directed on enhancing my professional performance, and in order to achieve my goals, I continue to stretch and take risks. This means putting myself in situations where on a regular basis I step into the unknown.
This year I have faced some significant personal and professional challenges, and I believe they were easier because of the work I’m doing in redirecting my mind. Since the start of 2012, I know I’ve changed; my brain has changed and so have my experiences in life. I notice as I continue to take on challenges at work that I am calmer and more focused than before. The other day it occurred to me that I really feel different… it is such a wonderful experience to feel calm in body and mind, especially as I continue to stretch myself. I feel alive, engaged, and creative. This is a very different experience compared to how I’ve felt in the past when I would step into the unknown.
livestrong81 wrote on Mon Jul 9th, 1:27pm:
The Emotional Gym is a process that uses intentionality to bring about a neurological response through “feeling” positive emotions to strengthen the pathways in the brain so that we can feel them more frequently, intensely and for a longer period of time. The Emotional Gym works to increase activity in the left frontal lobe through intentionally choosing positive emotions to feel and meditate upon. It is in the right frontal lobe where depression and negative emotions are active.
Personally, I can “feel” my mood, mind and being shift into a positive state easier and I’ve noticed that I have access to positive emotions throughout my day without really trying. I think it is becoming my default setting!
The left frontal lobe when increased in blood flow through my “feeling” positive emotions and positive thoughts, is strengthening that area of my brain. The left frontal lobe and the emotional gym work together as a team to produce positive states of mind.
I have also enjoyed using my gratitude journal daily and focusing more on my strengths. This brings me into an awareness that is very positive and keeps me in the Upspiral most or all of the day!
RachelsWell wrote on Mon Jul 9th, 2:39pm:
I’ve been pulsing in the emotional gym for over three months, and am continually surprised by how something so seemingly simple is changing my experience of myself and the world. I can now pulse Gratitude - without really thinking about it or trying too hard - while driving in traffic, doing errands, losing this blog post as I was working on it… or just about anywhere, any time, and not just on a cushion . Meditating emotions is a simple but profound practice.
With Gratitude as the foundation, I decided to pulse one emotion at a time for a day or more. I began with Joy. The other day while rhythmically pulsing Joy at the (physical) gym - on the treadmill with a view of the mountains that already puts me in a light meditative state - I felt a slight shift and suddenly Joy was pulsing me. I was permeated by a higher vibration that changed my experience and my perceptions of myself and my immediate world as it was happening (and clearly raised my UpSpiral and Emotional Scale scores). I understood what Abraham (through Esther Hicks) meant when he taught: “You are joy looking for a way to express…It’s not that your purpose is joy, it is that you are joy.”
In his book 12 New Steps For a New Millennium, in the chapter on the very First Step (“made the decision to experience positivity as often as possible”) Dr. Larkin writes how we don’t have to first know suffering in order to know joy. “The world has already learned everything it has to learn from suffering. It is now time to learn from happiness and joy.” (p. 30).
Dr. Larkin continues on the next page: “And so we are not only looking at, in this step, the importance of the decision to be happy and to live in an UpSpiral of positivity. We are literally,” he writes, “standing on the threshold of joy. Could it be that the world and ‘our own little world’ are getting ready for joy?”
What a remarkable concept. Definitely something to consider. To practice. And thanks to all I’m learning in these classes and readings, and to that touchstone shift I experienced in the Emotional Gym, to live.
Suzanne wrote on Wed Jul 11th, 2:35pm:
I am currently taking a class at our church on “Meditation” and while we are exploring various methods and techniques, I realize how very deeply my two years of practicing the Emotional Gym has changed my mind and my ability to receive extraordinary benefits from it. It brings me into alignment on so many levels. Now I can interchange the words pulsing with meditating.
“You can feel what you want to feel and practice “love, peace, gratitude, joy, and hope” for no reason at all except that you choose to feel them.” What a bold statement that is! YES. I notice now that I am not consciously trying to pulse anymore - it is just automatically there! It has become my ambient background, my base of support, my reconnection to my essence. And I appreciate the idea that I am turning on my left frontal lobes.
I agree with the power of music and the ability to be in duration with an emotion. In our UpSpiraLife group meetings, we listen to some of Doug’s CD before every meeting and have an optional pre-meeting emotional gym workout - and yes, everyone’s scores rise after it.
I gratefully and enthusiastically share the idea of the Emotional Gym with my yoga students during our practice, with friends and family. It is unbelievably effective. thank you thank you thank you ANI.
I’m in a meditative state of mind.
palmspringsesq wrote on Sun Jul 15th, 9:05am:
The traditional form of meditation focuses on an individual’s mantra. I prefer meditating in the emotional gym as it specifically focuses on gratitude, love, peace and joy.. These seem to be important emotions linked directly to our ability to be genuinely happy. Also, these emotions allow one to focus more on other similar emotions.
Meditating in the emotional gym appears to rapidly change ones mental perspective more rapidly than simply repeating a mantra. I’m not saying traditional meditation is deficient, but simply lacks the positive emotional changes the emotional gym provides.
RebeccaE wrote on Wed Jul 25th, 4:56am:
The emotional gym has been very exciting and enlightening. Practicing the emotional gym has enabled me to bring up memories in my past that are great rather than bad ones. Those great memories make me feel so happy and excited inside and a really great way to start my day.
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