Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain by Elaine Fox

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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 behavioral therapy to innovative cognitive-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 revolutionizes 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.


About Elaine Fox

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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 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.
Published June 5, 2012 by Basic Books. 274 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Science & Math, Self Help, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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She reports on experiments that differentiate between these mindsets in a variety of circumstances: the direction of a subject's attention to positive or negative images, brain scans that reflect the activation of different pathways in the brains, longitudinal studies that correlate personality t...

Apr 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

The Guardian

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Steven Poole on Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain by Elaine Fox, Why the Olympics Aren't Good for Us and How They Can Be by Mark Perryman and God: All That Matters by Mark Vernon

Aug 10 2012 | Read Full Review of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

Publishers Weekly

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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 (the amygdala) and those associated with pleasure and optimism.

Mar 12 2012 | Read Full Review of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

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