Half Empty, Half Full: How to Take Control and Live Life as an Optimist (Harvest Book)

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9780156011006: Half Empty, Half Full: How to Take Control and Live Life as an Optimist (Harvest Book)

How do you see the glass: half empty, or half full?; A bestselling psychiatrist explains how to achieve optimism; Proven processes to fool your brain into looking on the bright side; Ever wondered why some people always look on the bright side of life? Susan Vaughan, an acclaimed psychoanalyst and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, identifies and reveals the specific character traits that produce highly hopeful individuals and how all of us can 'learn' them.

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Review:

Crack open Susan Vaughan's Half Empty, Half Full, check out the fat margins and the relatively large type size, and you might think one of two things: You'll either say, "Great! This'll be a quick read!" or you'll say to yourself, "What is this, a self-help book? This can't be science". Either way, optimist or pessimist, you're going to be at least half right. But--as Vaughan ultimately makes clear--it's the optimist who's going to win out on this one. A Hah-vard-trained research analyst and frequent contributor to Harper's Bazaar, the inarguably insightful Vaughan ably straddles the fence between self-help and applied psychology. Her thesis boils down to this: Some of us are lucky enough to be trained as optimists in our formative years, but for the rest of us worry-worts, fear not--optimism can be learned. Alternating between dry papers like "Mood congruent memory biases in anxiety and depression" and pop-psych concepts like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's early 1990s notion of "flow", Vaughan comforts the afflicted with thoughtful explanations (often drawing from her experience as a therapist) and concrete advice--assuming, of course, you can get past her sometimes cloying references to "Tiggers" and "Eeyores".

Half Empty, Half Full is good news for pessimists, and even good science, a timely summary of the state of neuroscience as it bolsters many theories of what Vaughan describes as the "positive psychology movement". The anti-depressant Paxil, early cortico-limbic development, desperation in milk-treading lab rats, even Cocoa Crispies ("which are apparently like ambrosia to rats")--they're all here and, thanks to Vaughan, good reading and a compelling argument for not simply chalking up pessimism to factors beyond our control. --Paul Hughes

Review:

"With so many books on depression, it's refreshing to see one on optimism. Putting theory into practice, this will help many readers"

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Vaughan, Susan
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