Book Reviews: Rainy Brain + Search Inside

book cover imagesIt is time to sing Goodbye, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu to our graduating students and to wish them much success wherever life takes them.  Students bring energy and excitement to our life at the university, and so it is with mixed feelings that we say Goodbye.   As a farewell gift to our students, here are short reviews of two new books that focus on getting the most out of life.

Fox, Elaine. Rainy brain, sunny brain : how to retrain your brain to overcome pessimism and achieve a more positive outlook. Basic Books, 2012.

This tour of recent research in brain science concludes that optimists generally have better health and wellbeing; are more emotionally resilient; and experience greater success in life.  While a typical self-help book attributes optimism to a positive mindset, brain scientist Elaine Fox explains that optimists’ better lives result from something more than attitude.  Those with sunny brains are primed to undertake beneficial actions to achieve the things they want.  Optimists stay focused on their goals in spite of setbacks.  More than having the right mindset, optimistic people are fully engaged in life.

Fox explains that is possible to train your brain to be more optimistic.  Human brains are flexible and can be reshaped throughout life through changes in cognition.     People who are fearful and anxious can learn to regulate their emotions by reinterpreting distressing thoughts.   Fear can be also controlled through techniques using language or focused attention.   Fox shows that to thrive, people need to experience positive emotions in their lives every day.  People who get the most out of life have at least 3 positive emotions for every negative.  These positive experiences include compassion, contentment, gratitude, hope, joy and love.

Tan, Chade-Meng. Search inside yourself : The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace). HarperOne, 2012.

In Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan briefly cites many of the same brain studies discussed in Elaine Fox’s Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain. Tan’s book is the more pragmatic of the two, with numerous exercises and examples designed to develop inner strengths that contribute to the reader’s  sense of well being and  happiness.  Tan explains that enhancing our ability to pay attention can improve how we respond to our emotions, and he begins by training readers in mindful attention.   After readers have deepened the calmness and clarity of the mind, Fox then trains readers to recognize their physical reactions to emotions. These skills are foundational to the emotional intelligence that leads to successful work, meaningful relationships and true happiness.

Chade-Meng Tan is one of Google’s earliest engineers, responsible for the team that monitored Google’s search quality.  His current job description at Google is to “enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace.”  He first designed Search Inside Yourself for a course he teaches at Google to enhance productivity and creativity, to make work more meaningful and to experience fulfillment in life.

Both of these books are well worth reading.  Recommended.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

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