Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: Overcoming Pessimism for a Better and Healthier Life

By Sharon Moore on July 11, 2012

Do you ever wonder why some people are much more resilient to life’s difficulties that no matter what kind of problems are thrown on them, they manage to stay strong? On her book entitled ‘Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook’, Elaine Fox, a visiting research professor at the University of Oxford, gives a deeper insight on the role of our emotional mind and how it affects our life.

Fox and her team of researchers investigated and compared how the brains of pessimistic and positivist individuals respond to certain emotional stimuli. For instance, they flashed a series of negative images on the computer screen in a very swift manner. They found that the mind of a pessimist is drawn towards the negative while the mind of the upbeat is drawn towards the positive.

2 Sides of Brain

According to Fox, the emotional part of the brain has two sides. The ‘rainy’ part draws the mind towards negative thinking while the ‘sunny’ part draws it to positivism. Of course, both of these parts are essential in a balanced life. But as to which part the brains give more importance to – whether it is the negative or the positive side – it’s up to the person. And that what makes one different from the others. It is the emotional mind that gives meaning to our lives, by taking us to what really matters, Fox explained.

The emotional mind is made up of two opposite areas – pain and pleasure. These two biological motivators, as pointed out by Fox, identify our mindset. The brain systems make us aware of what might harm us or what make us feel happy. For instance, you came late to the office and as you entered the conference room, the meeting has already started. Upon seeing you, your boss said ‘glad you could make it’. People would have different interpretations on this, said Fox. You might feel that your boss was being sarcastic or you might feel he’s happy to see you. The way our mind perceives things can develop into a habit. If you are a negative thinker, you’ll take the remark negatively and be destructed or annoyed all throughout. But if you’re a positivist, you take it lightly, and proceed with confidence.

Why stay positive?

Nonetheless, the brain can be trained to become more positive, Fox explained. For many years, experts believed that the brain is inflexible and is neurologically set in its own ways. But studies in neuroplasticity has overthrown this concept and proved that a person’s way of thinking can actually be changed. And such changes aren’t just on one’s level of thinking, but to the physical structure of the brain as well. This means that if we can change our cognition, we can also reshape our brains, said Fox.

She suggests that if we will train our brain to be optimistic or pessimist, then it will be. One way to do this is to widen our knowledge base. In one study cited on her book, it was shown that the hippocampus – the part of the brain that’s responsible for spatial memory and navigation gets bigger as the cab drivers honed their skills.

Although we need both the rainy and sunny parts of the brain to keep our mind healthy, there’s profound evidence that the positive individuals take on the world, particularly when it comes to health, success, happiness, and sense of wellbeing.

 

Source of this article:

Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, by Elaine Fox

 

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