Why do we focus on the negative more than the positive?

 by Ann Zuraw | Featured Contributor

As a registered investment advisor, I’ve been investing in the stock and bond markets for over 30 years. During this time, I’ve noticed when the market (DOW, NASDAQ, S&P 500) has a significant decline, and we hear more noise than usual. Everyone starts listening to the financial news networks much more closely, and the negative noise is absorbed by all, as they anxiously await an explanation.

I must listen to the noise. It’s my job. Growing up in New Orleans, I experienced hurricane Betsy, and my family felt the wrath of Katrina.  Now, unfortunately, every time there is a hurricane heading in the direction of NO,  Everyone thinks back to Katrina, and the negativity and fear begin to spread.

Even the weather channel and CNBC have adapted the same red area for bad news alerts…

According to scientific studies, our inclination to pay more attention to bad things and our failure to take notice of the good things is likely a result of evolution. Our ancestors had to pay attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world because it was a matter of survival. While we may no longer need to be on constant high-alert to survive, the negativity bias still has a starring role in how our brains operate.

I play USTA tennis, and when I win, I rarely talk about it, but when I lose, I will tell anyone who will listen to what went wrong.

Markets are cyclical and cannot be expected to go up in a straight line.  There are many profitable, strong companies in the public markets.  A downturn in the market is not necessarily going to be like October in 1987 or 2008.

Hurricanes come every year, but it does not necessarily mean it will be another Katrina catastrophe. We will continue to have four seasons of the year. Some seasons will be great, and others will be not so good.

I will win some tennis matches and lose some too. But I will still go out there and try my best. So I am telling myself to stop focusing on the But scenario and put situations in perspective.

Negativity can have a powerful impact on our behavior, but being aware of it means that you can take steps to embrace a positive outlook on life. Once you become aware of the negativity, you can start to remove the negative thoughts and replace with happier ones.

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