Negative news abounds.
The stock market is tanking. The coronavirus is spreading. The death toll is mounting. Hate crimes are on the rise. Americans seem divided into warring political camps. The geopolitical situation seems tenuous. North Korea keeps lobbing missiles. Relations between the U.S. and Iran are at an all-time low. We are no closer to peace in the Middle East.
But there’s also reason for optimism. Our economy is strong. Unemployment is at historic low numbers. The spread of the coronavirus in China has started to decline. We have not initiated new armed conflicts and are extricating ourselves from those where we are involved.
The history of how the market reacted to other outbreaks is also encouraging. It recovered within about a year from SARS, MERS, swine flu, and bird flu.
The world’s scientists are mobilized in an expedited effort to find a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus. The National Institute of Health has begun a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of treatment options. While any death is tragic, the mortality rate of this virus is less than 2%.
Most of us pay more attention to negative news. Negatives linger far longer. We fear a trip to the dentist more as it gets closer than we enjoy the thought of a Caribbean vacation as it approaches.
When we tally the pros and cons about a job change or a move, we give more weight to the negatives than the positives. We even mentally picture negatives as more vivid and more varied than positives. It’s why the sensation of defeat lingers, while the pleasures of success are fleeting.
Our proclivity to overreact to negative events is well-documented. We are hard-wired to give precedence to negative events.
Overcoming negativity bias
When you recognize you’re sliding into negativity bias, try to understand what’s happening. As clinical psychologist Elisha Goldstein notes, “The moment we name it, we can approach it and work with it.
Ask yourself questions like: Why am I feeling this way? Am I being objective or succumbing to negativity?
Focus on the positives in your life, like a recent experience you had or the satisfaction you derive from your friends, family and hobbies.
It’s cliché, but whether the glass is perceived as half-full or half-empty is a choice we all get to make every day.
Choose to be positive.