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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 3 September 2012
To be in a positive state of mind and to be hopeful are essential to our well-being, but it can sometimes feel difficult to achieve these states especially when confronted with challenging and unfortunate life events that need our immediate attention. In this book, Elaine Fox argues that by getting involved in rewarding activities (no matter how small or big) that impact our lives in personally meaningful ways, we can boost and encourage an optimistic outlook on life that can in turn enable us to achieve our goals more efficiently. Elaine discusses classical as well as state of the art evidence from psychology and neuroscience research that has taken us further in understanding how our brains interact with the environment, and how these interactions are influenced by evolutionary pressures, our personality traits, genetic make-up, and past life events. Most remarkably the book discusses new and exciting evidence on how our brains have the most amazing capacity to be retrained, through new and healthy experiences, to deal more effectively with anxiety and depression, and enhance our well-being and resilience to stress. The book explains how our brains are constantly changing and responding to positive experiences and information, no matter how young or old we are, and it is this remarkable plasticity that can shape and strengthen the neural pathways of our sunny brains in coping with distressing thoughts and feelings.

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
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on 3 November 2012
This is an excellent popular science book. The author is a psychologist and neuroscientist and presents the latest in genetics, psychology and brain science in a highly accessible way. Using the technique of giving lots of anecdotes and stories alongside well explained studies, the reasons why we differ from each other becomes clear. The author argues that at the root of pessimism lies our "fear" brain, while at the root of "optimism" lies our pleasure brain. There is a fantastic description of how our genetic make-up and our environment work together to make us who we are. The book takes you through a journey of modern day science with lots of literary and personal references thrown in for good measure. It's a highly entertaining and informative book. I really enjoyed the easy writing style and highly recommend it. On top of the good science writing the last chapter also gives lots of self-help tips on how we can change our pessimistic mindset into a more optimistic one. In other words, how we can make our rainy brain a bit sunnier. Highly recommended.
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on 2 September 2012
I feel that this is one of those books that everyone should be made to read at an early age - it offers such an important insight into the way our brains work, especially when and why it's maladaptive. i was fascinated to learn about the underlying physiological pathways governing optimism and pessimism, but as someone with more than one person in the family struggling with depression, it was enormously encouraging to discover that they can change their outlook, and relatively simply, even if some of the 'brain-training' programmes aren't yet available to the public. (I hope they are soon!) I had always hoped there must be a another way of coping rather than just swallowing the seratonin inhibitors dished out by the GP. This book has helped me to understand what my family members experience, why their brains work differently to my own 'sunny' brain and how i can help them - or rather, what kind of help to seek and from whom. I highly recommend this book.
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on 13 July 2013
If you want evidence based stratigies to change your life look no further. professor elaine fox is the real deal who conducts research into the science of optimism and pessimism. this book is one you will refer to time and again as you make your way through the predictable slings and arrows of life. postive action not postive thinking is the forumla and she has a great webpage with the same title as the book which has tests to help you in your quest for a happier life. go get it now!
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on 1 October 2013
This book is not so much of a self-help book, although you will learn how to do this in a small way. It offers more of a wide understanding of the how and why of feelings.
You will need to supplement it with something else if you want a true self-help book. Also, bear in mind that despite what is written here, the full workings of the brain and its parts is still incomplete and it is a pity that scientists don't get together to offer a fuller picture of their individual findings. Still, this is a good read and helps a lot in seeing where you are currently and how you might want to go about instigating change.
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on 11 August 2013
the title and presentation makes one fear this is too much a 'pop' book, but actually it is very science based. Whilst it covers some ground already covered in other books, it does build up to a very punchy final couple of chapters, particularly on how CBM (cognitive bias modification) can change deep underlying biases in thinking and attitudes. Breaks new ground even for someone who has read a great deal (including much research) on this area. Very highly recommended. the website is good too, and clicks through to some online CBM exercises.
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on 14 July 2013
Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: The New Science of Optimism and Pessimism

For years I have suffered the torment of being a total pessimist. I cannot think of anything positive in my life and I have always wondered why this is.
I was not always like this so what happened in my life for my brain to change.
After watching a programme on "Horizon" about Elaines work, I decided to purchase the book.
Once started I found it impossible to put it down, it explains how a certain lobe of the brain deal with optimism and another lobe pessimism.
Although slightly technical in places with medical references it revealed to me the complexity of these two conditions.
I have always been told to think of positive things, but according to Elaines research life is not that simple.
The book is littered with fascinating simple tests that have been carried out by researchers to distinguish if you are a pessimist or optimist.
A marvellous book, don`t hesitate to purchase it, it may just change your life
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on 17 August 2015
Didn't like the slant of the book - very much oriented to visible 'success' and extroversion. No sense of the quality of an inner life or benefit of a possibly quiet and valuable contentment.
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on 28 March 2016
As a long term sufferer of mental health issues including depression I was recommended this book by my GP, and without a doubt (along with other things) it has changed my life.
I really enjoyed it & found learning about WHY I was the way I was helped me to both realise and change my thoughts and behaviour which has had a major positive effect.
5/5 from me!
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on 21 April 2016
A very hard read, very technical and not for bedtime reading. Lots and lots of case studies and theories. No simple to follow to rewire your brain, not even in the chapter entitled 'New Science Based Techniques' which just had a few examples of exposure therapy and couple of others.
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