Author(s): Elaine Fox
Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Glass half-full or half-empty? Do you look on the bright side or turn towards the dark? These are easy questions for most of us to answer, because our personality types are hard-wired into our brains. As pioneering psychologist and neuroscientist Elaine Fox has discovered, our outlook on life reflects our primal inclination to seek pleasure or avoid danger-inclinations that, in many people, are healthily balanced. But when our 'fear brain' or 'pleasure brain' is too strong, the results can be disastrous, as those of us suffering from debilitating shyness, addiction, depression, or anxiety know all too well. Luckily, anyone suffering from these afflictions has reason to hope. Stunning breakthroughs in neuroscience show that our brains are more malleable than we ever imagined. In Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, Fox describes a range of techniques - from traditional cognitive behavioural therapy to innovative cognitive bias retraining exercises - that can actually alter our brains' circuitry, strengthening specific thought processes by exercising the neural systems that control them.
The implications are enormous: lifelong pessimists can train themselves to think positively and find happiness, while pleasure-seekers inclined toward risky or destructive behavior can take control of their lives. Drawing on her own cutting-edge research, Fox shows how we can retrain our brains to brighten our lives and learn to flourish. With keen insights into how genes, life experiences and cognitive processes interleave together to make us who we are, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain revolutionises our basic concept of individuality. We learn that we can influence our own personalities, and that our lives are only as 'sunny' or as 'rainy' as we allow them to be.
Why some of us are optimists, and others pessimists - and what we can do about it
"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." Michael J. Fox "'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." Joseph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self "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." Publishers Weekly "A psychologist looks at the influence that outlook - a tendency toward optimism or pessimism - can play in shaping the events in our lives. An insightful addition to the self-help bookshelf." Kirkus Reviews "Fox constructs an elegant narrative from neuroimaging results, her clever psychology experiments, and the interaction of genetics and environment." -- Steven Poole Guardian
Elaine Fox, born in Dublin, is a leading experimental psychologist and neuroscientist. Formerly Head of the Department of Psychology and Centre for Brain Science at The University of Essex, she is currently a Visiting Research Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. She has published widely in scientific journals and her work has been discussed in The Economist, New Scientist, New York Times, Guardian, The Times and others.