3 Studies That Can Inform You If Life is More Positive or Negative– Despite What is Being Portrayed

If you have a strong suspicion that we have it backwards in the world, you’re not alone. For example, we say we want peace and love, but what do we focus on? The news? The negative? Interested in watching a war or horror movie, anyone? Before going on any further, given that what you think is positive or negative and what I think is positive or negative may be different and potentially controversial, and because I recognize that we all want different things out of life, we need to clear up two definitions that I looked up:

  • positive: showing pleasing progress, gain or improvement
  • negative: not desirable or optimistic

What Treasures Will You Obtain From This Post?

In this post, you will learn the answers to:

  • What are the 3 studies that can inform you if life is more positive or negative- despite what is being portrayed?
  • Why are human beings interested in the negative?
  • Which of the 3 studies is most important, positive and relevant in your daily life?
  • Which of the 3 studies is the most negative for your life experience?
  • How is the world doing overall? (Statistics included)
  • Are there more studies that focus on negative things in life or on positive things in life?
  • What is some recent good news worth finding out about and where you can find even more of it?
  • How can you internalize what you learn from this post to increase the positivity in your life?(It includes a printable PDF that you can use to your heart’s content)

What Are The 3 Studies That Can Inform You If Life is More Positive or Negative- Despite What Is Being Portrayed?

While there are many types of specific studies conducted in each of the fields of study, like science, engineering, medicine and linguistics, overall, in life, there are three types of studies. There are the studies that:

  • The pros do (a.k.a. the scientists)
  • The world does (the media)
  • You do (your personal experience of life)

Why Are Human Beings Interested in the Negative?

If we know that what we focus on expands, why are we focusing for HOURS a day, massively and worldwide on experiences which we don’t want more of? Doesn’t make sense, does it? But yet we do it. According to Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths, the reason why we sometimes show interest in the negative is because,

“guided by the belief that good is the opposite of bad, mankind has for centuries pursued its fixation with fault and failing. Doctors have studied disease in order to learn about health. Psychologist have investigated sadness in order to learn about joy. Therapists have looked into the causes of divorce in order to learn about happy marriage. And in schools and workplaces around the world, each one of us has been encouraged to identify, analyze, and correct our weaknesses in order to become strong. This advice is well intended but misguided. Faults and failings deserve study, but they reveal little about strengths.”

And it isn’t our failings as a society that makes us strong. It’s the positivity and support that each of us can contribute that can truly make a lasting and significant difference in the causes we genuinely care about.

As I published a few weeks ago, we have lived long enough to know what joy feels like and what pain feels like and we can therefore choose to learn the lesson the easy way instead of the hard way. We are such intelligent beings that we don’t have to make ourselves fail in life in order to learn the lessons we need to learn.

Which of the 3 Studies is the Most Important, Positive and Relevant in Your Daily Life?

While it may be useful to try to keep up with the latest research studies that scientists do, what is much more important, relevant and definitely positive in your life is that you focus on what you study. In other words, you need to focus on, analyze and test the results that you get from life when you:

  • talk about what you want to talk about
  • talk to whom you want to talk to
  • spend time with whom you choose to
  • listen to what you listen to
  • watch what you watch
  • choose what you choose
  • behave how you behave
  • think what you think
  • focus on what you focus on
  • believe what you believe
  • create what you create
  • experience what you do

You may think that you need to justify some of your preferred activities by saying, “oh, it’s just entertainment” but think about this, many negative acts have been started and continue on for the sake of entertainment, or worse yet, custom. So for that reason, go back to the definitions about positive and negative and truly analyze and see the connection between what you do and how you feel.

Above anything though, please know that it’s important that if you aren’t experiencing from life what you want there is hope. Look not only behind the horror that comes into your consciousness from sensationalist media, but also from those around you. They influence you as much or sometimes even more than the media does. As you may have heard, Jim Rohn’s quotation, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So explore if they’re supporting you in how you want to feel or if they aren’t.

Even though you may consider these research findings that you obtain from your life “unofficial,” be assured that they are significant, valid and reliable enough that you can use them to design a better and different life that matters to you and is worth living, especially if things aren’t looking too positive in your life right now. If something isn’t working change it. As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If your life is working for you, noticing this simply encourages you to continue living the good life that you have created for yourself.  Whatever your circumstances are, appreciating the good things you do have always has the power to do wonders in your life.

Which of the 3 Studies is the Most Negative for Your Life Experience?

Given that you know that research studies done by professionals in universities or various career fields, may or may not be relevant to you and that your personal experiences are some of the most meaningful and impactful experiences where you can discover for yourself what works and what doesn’t work for you, it’s not difficult to conclude that the most negative type of study for your life experience is in fact the media, particularly the news.

In his article “Bad News Sells Better than Good News,” David Murray offers a wonderful paradigm-shifting perspective on what is behind worldly news. He says,

“the good news about bad news is that there is not nearly as much of it as you might think. The bad news about good news is that good news doesn’t tend to sell.”

That is unfortunate… that good news doesn’t sell. In order to understand this phenomenon a bit more, a book that we can add to our “to-read list” for a much welcome change of pace is “Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World” by Dr. Bradley Wright. He is not alone in what is now more than just positive thinking, but actually positive reality. For example, according to Simon Sinek, we live in a very safe world. He says that the likelihood of dying due to another human being’s attack against you is the lowest it’s ever been. And yet for some reason, you may believe that it’s crucial to watch the news. But for many, doing so is as important as saying it’s crucial to buy Doritos. While the news can be informative (just as Doritos can be tasty) according to Dr. Wright,

the media sells negative world views. It’s not that reporters, writers and editors are pessimistic people, rather, they have a strong incentive [cha-ching] to tell us about the fearful, scary and dangerous happenings in our world. The media is a business and it succeeds by attracting viewers and readers.”

Wow… that’s interesting. Many people watch the news as if it’s momma and pappa telling them what to do, what not to do, what to eat, what not to eat, who to trust, who not to trust, who to vote for, who not to vote for, who to fear and who not to fear and worse yet, who to judge. But you see, in many ways, if you love the news you’re simply being lured and you’re just a customer. The sad news is that those stories that you “buy” affect you like the nightmare that haunts you, but which unfortunately is more difficult to forget than a regular dream. Just like in any other business, news broadcasters try to beat their competition by

“… offer[ing] something that is truly frightening. If watching a story can save us from imminent danger, then maybe, we’ll stop channel surfing long enough to watch it. If reading a report can protect us from a health scare, maybe we’ll pick up the magazine off the rack. Sensationalism and fear sells– this is a fact that wont change anytime soon.”

Why? Because people who fall prey of sensationalism and fear (which is the majority of people) are okay with having the external world validate their internal fears. To really make matters worse (no pun intended), the fact that there are pros and cons to everything is something that the media uses to its advantage given that even when positive things are going on in the world… they can always pull the “but what’s the downside to this great news?” trick and sell that sensationalist version to the public.

According to Harry Mount, a British author and previously a journalist for British and American newspapers, says that for some reason, as human beings, we:

  • Are often fascinated when something awful happens to something that has existed for many years. (Thankfully, he agrees that one reason that we become fascinated with the negative is because “really bad things happen much less often than everyday, good things.”)
  • Believes we would become quickly and extremely bored by reporting the successful events such as safe airplane landings. However, plane crashes are captivating because they’re unusual and they often become more interesting if there is footage available for people to see. Even when people inherently know that being interested in events like these is horrible… their feeling of knowing that it’s horrible but still feeling interested can exist at the same time. This phenomenon happens to many of you, when you see a car accident, when you don’t want to look, but at the same time you do… and often do look.
  • Are interested in horrible events as long as they didn’t happen to anyone too close to us. He says, “None [of you who look at a car crash] wants to be in that car crash. Part of the fascination is consolation- thank God, it isn’t me or my family that have been struck.”
  • As a human race, we are often interested in evil and sad things. There seems to be a fascination with war, for example. It’s not that we want negative things to happen, but we’re interested in reading about them when they do. There is often greater interest if the evil and sad things are fictional… that’s why movies that portray either of these subjects do well. And if you note, it’s usually males that are more interested in this, for some reason.

Do You Think You’re Doing the World a Favor By Watching the News?

Have you ever stopped to notice what the Twitter tagline of CNN is, “it’s our job to #gothere and tell the most difficult stories. Come with us.” I’m not sure how that could possibly be an encouraging invitation for anybody. If somebody invited you to their house and that tagline was on the invitation, would you go? I don’t think so. Why not? Because, honestly….Do we need to listen to more difficult stories?
Personally, I don’t watch the news and don’t see the point in watching them. Some might claim, “but it’s useful to be informed” or ask me “not being informed is being ignorant.” I disagree. Let me tell you why. Please note that my intention isn’t to be preachy, but rather to invite you to step into somebody else’s shoes, which is a much more positive invitation than hearing the difficult stories of the world every day. 😉
Going back to the car accident example, let’s say you’re riding down the freeway and there’s an accident. Is there any use in being person number 101 to watch the accident for more than a nanosecond? Unless the first 100 people haven’t called 911, assisted the injured or served as witnesses, then you watching the accident may be useful. But usually it’s not. What if you were in the accident and you’re in pain, shock, or trauma? If you were physically and emotionally conscious enough to notice or care, would it help you at all to see, feel or know that hundreds of people are passing you by and doing nothing? Of course you would expect that someone helps, but would the rest of the people improve the situation just by watching? Worse yet, would it help that your accident is televised and thousands, if not millions of people see it? Pain is often a private moment, especially when the number of people watching aren’t making the situation any better.

My 3 Reasons For Allowing Sad News to Enter My Life

In my mind, sad news only is justifiable to the degree that 
  1.  I am catapulted to act on an exact way to help (like a donation, or moral support)
  2. the information shared doesn’t just produce fear, paranoia or panic
  3.  I am inspired or uplifted seeing the resilience, strength and courage in others in such a way that it impacts my life and changes my present, past or future for the better.

Perhaps my point of view can seem egocentric, but more than that, I see it as more humane. I want to help as much as I can and I know my limits. I respect and honor the time people need to process a painful experience and nobody’s suffering is ever or will ever be my entertainment. If I can help, I’ll get involved. If I can’t, I’ll stay away. I saw a perfect Venn Diagram that relates to this a couple of days ago that basically said that in life there are two categories,

  1. things that matter,
  2. things you can control…

… and what you should focus on is what matters and that you can control. Focusing on the negative for the “sheer pleasure” of focusing on the negative especially when it’s out of your hands, is essentially plain insanity, at the very least. It’s like this: if a plate is broken in France and you can do nothing about it, why focus on it? To be informed? For what? If you will be of service with the information, that’s wonderful, go right ahead and inform yourself so that you can provide solutions all you want. But if you will just watch and not even take the time to send good wishes to those affected, for the benefit of our world, please focus on positive things because if you keep focusing on the negative, the negative will grow and depending on what it is, it can potentially hurt us all. (If you don’t believe me, read the quotation at the end of this post).

How Is the World Doing Overall?

There are people who simply want the facts that “prove” that the world is in better shape than we think it is. Not that we should request proof of that (if anything, we should really be questioning whether the world is as bad as we have been led to believe because that worries us— just like if you had a family member in the hospital… you wouldn’t probe the medical professionals to respond to…”really? my family member is doing great?” “are you sure?”), but here are some great statistics that can shine a bit of extra sunlight on your perspective of life if you live in the U.S. or simply love the U.S. from Dr. Wright’s book Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of the WorldDid you know that:

  • “People living in the middle class in the U.S. live better than 99.4% of all human being who ever existed.” Yep that includes kings, queens and pharaohs.
  • “Americans are healthier and live longer than ever before.”
  • “Literacy rates in the U.S. are up and crime is down.”
  • “Family income is up and the cost of living is down.”
  • “Are and water quality is up and deforestation is slowing down.”

You might be wondering… “when was the book Upside published because that’s not what I saw/heard/read the last time I checked?” The book was published on July 1, 2011. This is even better news, isn’t it? Because these statistics stand in spite of the recent recession.

Because the whole world, not just the U.S. is thankfully on the upswing too, listen to this! According to a United Nations 17-year study from 1990-2007, 109 out of 115 countries improved in life expectancy, education and income. So it’s not all going to the wolfs! Yay! =) We know the world took a financial dip after that study, but human beings are resilient. We may have faced rough patches or may still be facing them, but in the grand scheme of things, all is well. This is not an airy-fairy phrase because even scientists like to study things throughout several years to ensure that their findings are accurate throughout the span of time.  Even though countries can face ups and downs like we can, the most important thing to note is the possibility and the probability of positivity. During any given time frame 95% of the world can be improving! You don’t often get to hear a statistic like this one, do you? But it’s true.

Sure, all isn’t perfect. Wright assembles hundreds of facts and statistics to support his persuasive thesis that although there are still a few significant areas where things are getting worse rather than better, that’s the exception rather than the rule, and concludes:

“Two thousand years ago, a book whose core was euaggelion—good news—began to be widely read. We of all people should be able to recognize and celebrate and express gratitude wherever we find it. For all good news is God’s good news, and to ignore it, hide it, minimize it, or distort it is neither mentally healthy nor spiritually sound.”

Are There More Studies That Focus on the Positive or the Negative?

Henry Ford is famous for his quotation, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.” The reason why this quotation is very accurate picture of your life is because what you experience is a direct reflection of what you believe, and is influenced by how you feel. So if you perceive the world to be scary, safe, positive or negative, that perception shapes your world tremendously.

So when you ask, “are there more studies that focus on the positive or the negative?” Guess what? The answer is simple. It depends on what you believe and it also depends on who you ask. If you ask a scientists, their response will depend on what their interests are and what they study. If you ask the media, you know what they’ll say (why would you ask the media?) and if you ask yourself… well, you’ll get your own answer.

So in this epic war between good versus evil, and the positive versus the negative who is likely to win? You won’t believe it 😉 , but thankfully, humans are more receptive to good news than bad news. A team at University College London (UCL) has concluded that despite what it may seem like on the surface, human beings prefer to look on the bright side. It may be surprising to know, especially when thinking about the pessimists in your life, because according to Ian Sample, a writer for The Guardian, says that

“most of us (about 80%-90% of the general population) go through life with a selective ear for the news we take in. We hear the good more than the bad, the flattering more than the insulting” and we update our beliefs for the good.

For example if someone tells us that we’re smarter or better-looking than we thought… we update our self-image quite a bit for the better. But when someone tells us the opposite, we incorporate that into our own perception of ourselves to a lesser degree. This phenomenon is what neuroscientists call the “good news/bad news effect.” And they believe there are pros and cons to it. If we update our beliefs about ourselves and the world mainly on good news, we tend to have a more optimistic view of life. We are less anxious of the negative life events that could happen. On the flip side, some would argue that ignoring bad news can be dangerous and can make people be overconfident, reckless and poorly prepared for a negative life event or world event. But overall, this good news bias affects the world positively. The only people who don’t benefit from this positive bias as much as everybody else are people with depression, for obvious reasons. So smile from the inside out!

What Do the Research Archives Reflect About Whether the World is Positive or Negative?

Given our media, if we asked any random person on the street whether there are more studies done on the positive aspects of life versus the negative aspects, most would say that researchers focus more on the negative. I don’t blame them! That’s what it seems like. However, I did some research on words that are found in books, academic journals, magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias using a research tool and discovered a great trend. See if you can spot it in each of the comparisons that I broke down for easier analysis below:

Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Love 68,237 23,990 78,726 967,093 686 1,138,732
Apathy 17,484 878 1,767 9,458 10 29,597
Hate 40,648 2,778 13,168 117,945 13 174,552


Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Positive 72,805 53,895 61,263 402,529 179 590,671
Negative 68,663 39, 164 37,123 143,264 147 288,361


Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Positive News 11,110 2,155 8,914 59,187 0 81,366
Negative News 9,148 1,744 5,781 23,059 0 39,732


Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Positive Studies 26,828 21,009 6,466 10,987 19 65,309
Negative Studies 23,547 15,600 3,895 5,361 13 48,416


Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Good News 39,793 6,684 48,088 358,796 7 453,368
Bad News 21,231 2,045 18,444 131,789 5 173,514


Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Positive Research Studies 11,914 13,316 3,022 3,464 1 37, 717
Negative Research Studies 10,026 9,600 1,780 1,910 2 23,318



Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Good World News 18,186 2,893 18,545 105,649 3 145,276
Bad World News 7,599 803 7,023 40,118 2 55,545


Word Books Academic Journals Magazines Newspaper Encyclopedia Total
Positive World News 4,054 790 3,039 16,990 0 24,873
Negative World News 3,290 627 1, 951 6,553 0 12,421

Did you find the trend? There has been more written about the good/positive than the bad/negative! Now that is literally great news! =) Now if only we would get to hear more about the positive news, right? Don’t worry, I have some for you, right now.

So What Is Some Recent Good News Worth Finding Out About?

Have you ever listened to the radio and heard a segment called something along the lines of “events that happened in history on a day like this?” Usually they mention negative things, right? Even the word history doesn’t necessarily bring up many positive memories (no wonder it was always my least favorite subject all throughout school because I believe that history has the potential to spread more animosity between cultures, religions and races since it indicates our differences more than it unites us in love). But did you know for example. that on July 23, 1904, ice cream was invented? As of this year, 2014, ice cream is 110 years old!
If you’re looking for another pick-me up AFTER you finish reading this post, instead of heading over to the You Tube website to watch an iffy comedy sketch or engaging in any activity that doesn’t show “progress, gain or improvement,” head on over to http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ .  On the wonderful Good News Network site, you can find out about families who travel the U.S. spreading kindness on a sponsorship, a policeman who helps a family in need with his own money and even a plastic bottle recycling machine that provides dog food for stray dogs! (this last one is especially cool)  The best thing is that this invention isn’t in a country you would expect– which makes reading the tiny, to-the-point article even better news.

It’s Time to Share Your Wisdom Treasures

I realize this post was longer than usual.. but we covered a lot of important ground that can literally position us in a positive frame of mind to do the meaningful things that we are meant to do in life, which this site will inspire to do.

I don’t really think that there is a better way to end this post than with this quotation and a brief reflection:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited… We need men who can dream of things that never were.” –John F. Kennedy

So, even if you’re the exception, or the only one who can see things from a positive, purposeful progressive angle in your family, workplace or circle of friends…. stay positive… and share more positivity with the world, little by little, through the activities of your life, your actions, suggestions and conversations.

In a world where getting lost is easy, if you ever need a compass to find your way, make sure that your compass points to your heart, because that’s the only way up and through whatever you’re dealing with.

In the comments below, please share with me:

  • How have your perceptions of the positive things and the negative things in life changed as a result of this post?
  • Or do you have any great news to share? Please do! 🙂

Love and Treasure This Moment of Introspection

So now that you know that your surroundings are a lot more positive than you might have thought, let’s look again at you. As a way to invite you to internalize the information you learned via this post, I have designed a PDF with heart-stirring questions that you can print out or send to your annotation mobile apps (that allow you to highlight and write on PDFs) so that you can learn more about yourself and create a more fulfilling life based on a very important study— the study conducted by you.

Download the Love and Treasure This Moment of Introspection: Positivity vs. Negativity (PDF File)



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