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Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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Every day I send my kids out the door to school with this admonition, you can choose to be happy.' More often than not, they roll their eyes, but in Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain Elaine Fox (no relation) offers a scientific argument for my contention. After much research, and in comprehensive, but comprehensible detail, Professor Fox provides a mental map to the sunny side of the street. For optimists and pessimists alike, this fascinating book is a must read.”
Joseph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self
Every experience you have, from the most trivial to the most significant, alters the brain. Elaine Fox offers scientifically based advice about how to make the most of this, how to be in charge of changing your brain for the better.”
Drawing on a host of studies in neurobiology and genetics, as well as evolutionary and behavioral psychology, Fox explores the struggle between the parts of the brain associated with fear and pessimism and those associated with pleasure and optimism.... Fox introduces readers to many new concepts from experimental psychology and recent research on neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.... [A] welcome, if intellectually demanding, introduction to a key area of brain research.”
About the Author
Elaine Fox is currently a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and Director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, where she leads a program of research combining cognitive psychology, neuroimaging, and genetics. She has been Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex and an associate editor of leading scientific journals including Emotion/i> and Cognition & Emotion. Her work has been discussed in Nature, Science, New Scientist, The Economist, and the New York Times. A Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science (APS), she divides her time between Wivenhoe and Oxford in England.
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Over all though, I was disappointed in the limited recommendations to come out of this book towards becoming more optimistic. This was confined to one short, final chapter and didn't really tell me anything new - meditate, practise focussing on the positive things, use mindfulness. There was a description of some psychological interventions which entailed subconscious brain retraining using responses to images, but no information was provided as to how to gain access to that type of therapy. This method has apparently been used successfully to treat PTSD sufferers, and the book suggested that it could be readily delivered via the Internet, but it seems this may not be available to the general public as yet.
The book read as though its intention was to explain the science to an average, well adjusted reader, rather than to someone specifically seeking help for pessimistic thinking. There are a number of short self evaluative tests in the book (the marking of which could have been better explained), and it is clear that the author thinks it just as likely that the reader will have an optimistic result as a pessimistic one. So I don't blame the author for what seems to be a misrepresentation on the cover - "How to retrain your brain to overcome pessimism and achieve a more positive outlook". This is probably something the publishers added to help the book sell. Well, it worked, for me, but others who are less interested in the science and more focused on self help might have felt ripped off.
Once you start reading this book you will find it difficult to stop. The book takes you through an adventurous and exciting journey that you will find yourselves wanting to know more with every new chapter. The author's style is contagiously engaging and the research evidence is discussed in a most accessible and approachable manner without reverting to simplification.
By far, the most selling aspect of this book is in its impact. The book is written in such a way that it can benefit and target a wide audience, for scientists and non-scientists alike. Having spent many years conducting research on anxiety and depression myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see the extent to which I was personally affected by the book, and how I found myself practicing the many ways that helped shape an optimistic outlook in my own life. This book is a triumph of an implicit but forgotten legacy of the power of the human mind and the heights of what it can remarkably achieve in the most challenging situations.
Nazanin Derakhshan, PhD
Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London, UK