12 reasons people are so negative these days (and how to not let it affect you)

Have you heard the latest awful news?

Me either.

But going about my daily life I seem to meet so many people who are swamped and consumed by negativity.

It can become a real drag, which is why this has been on my mind so much lately.

Here are some solutions to the negativity that seems to be invading all of our lives these days.

1) They believe worrying will keep them safe

One of the biggest reasons people are so negative these days is that they believe it will keep them safe.

With all the talk of viruses, wars, climate disasters, and economic collapse, the worry becomes like an old trusted friend.

When they don’t know what to rely on, they can always lean back on negativity and anxiety.

“Negative people survive on worry – a very unhealthy diet,” writes Robert Locke.

“This mindset is geared towards the need to feel protected and aware to an extreme degree.”

There are plenty of things you can upset yourself about and focus on.

Choosing to continue focusing on them, however, can become like a nasty habit you just can’t kick.

Unfortunately, it’s a habit that our media and politicians are more than happy to keep encouraging.

Minimizing the impact: remember that no amount of worrying by you or anyone else will keep you safe. Take it all with a grain of salt and remember that sometimes worrywarts are just people who are very stressed by life.

2) They’re addicted to the drama

Another one of the top reasons people are so negative these days is that they’re addicted to the drama.

The trauma and tragedy draw their attention and keeps it, until it becomes a kind of addiction.

It’s natural that we’ll remember and want to tell people about dramatic or awful things we experienced or heard about, because it’s noteworthy.

But in far too many cases we can turn into a sort of disaster tourist, subconsciously thriving off the bad things that happen.

Ordinary and peaceful life isn’t always exciting or glamorous, so people may then turn to the excitement of the negative for kicks.

As the Black-Eyed Peas sing in their song “Where is the Love?”

“I think they all distracted by the drama 

“And attracted to the trauma, mamma.”

Minimizing the impact: start watching positively-oriented comedy and doing activities that are productive and fun. Offer happy stories in place of someone else’s negative ones.

3) They’re trapped in social media madness

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There’s no doubt that one of the main reasons people are so negative these days is social media.

Seeing all the rumors and drama online is enough to drive anyone into a spiral of toxic gossip and fixation.

The fact is that it can also make us more depressed and anxious to see slices of the best parts of other people’s lives.

We’re much more likely to show the best parts of our lives online, not the days spent lying in despondency in our room or the boredom of a long weekend spent alone in a new place.

This showcasing of the best parts of our lives then gives others that awful fear of missing out, or FOMO.

The FOMO, in turn, can lead to a lot of negativity.

After all, if you believe you’re missing out on the best things in life then it’s normal to feel upset about it.

As Alex Daniel notes:

“Social media can stress out a negative person who views things in extremes, assuming that others are enjoying life more than they are.”

Minimizing the impact: stay away from social media whenever possible. When you do go on, share inclusive and supportive messages rather than controversial or provocative content. Take everyone else’s online sharing with a grain of salt.

4) They think victimhood brings power

We live in a society that’s very focused on victimhood and injustice.

One of the more controversial reasons people are so negative these days is that they think victimhood brings power.

The truth is that being a victim can bring power to a limited extent.

It can cause pity and be weaponized against the “bad” people to prove that you occupy moral high ground or “deserve” to get things.

But at the end of the day, victimhood is a losing game.

It leaves you with a hollowed-out identity that’s comprised of grievances.

It swarms your soul with bitterness to focus on the wrongdoing of others or even life itself.

Minimizing the impact: take ownership of your life and leave the victimhood mindset behind. All of us are victims in different ways, but it doesn’t have to define us. Help negative people to see this and always keep it in mind for yourself.

5) They follow the path of least resistance

One of the biggest reasons people are so negative these days is that they do what’s easy.

We’re raised in a society which increasingly values going along to get along and not rocking the boat.

All of our stressful daily lives provide plenty of fodder to get negative or to dig a little deeper and find things to get excited about.

In a certain way, negative people are just those who take the low-hanging fruit.

They go for the easy options due to emotional laziness.

On some days you just can’t help but curse existence, but when you’re looking at reasons that society is collectively getting more negative it’s definitely partly the fact that it’s just…very easy to be negative.

How to fix it?

“Each time your brain switches to a negative thought after a conflict or some dissonance at work, bounce it into a positive reaction and a positive thought instead,” observes John Brandon.

Minimizing the impact: think of negativity like the easy setting on a video game. Do other people really want to just go through life on “easy mode” and never see how much more rewarding and cool it would be at a higher level? If so, then they won’t make good friends of yours…

6) They buy too much into their mind’s “story”

Experiencing pain, anger and sadness are inevitable.

Choosing to believe a “story” about the pain we experience is a different matter, however.

Common stories include things like “I’m the only one who feels this way,” “love never works out for me,” “life is shit,” and so on.

These are speculations, dramatizations and mental projections.

There’s no real way for you to know if you’re the only one who feels that way, if you’ll meet the love of your life tomorrow, or just how great your life may be shaping up to me.

For this reason, stay away from the kind of thinking that dramatizes everything as doom and gloom or complete perfection.

Life doesn’t work that way, and it’s fine to feel bad without predicting the rest of your life on that basis.

“If you’re sad, feel the sadness. But don’t tell yourself that you have always felt this way and are doomed to feel sad forever,” notes Kathleen Romito.

“Sadness passes. A negative thought can linger… until you let it go.”

Minimizing the impact: encourage others to realize that everything is temporary. Remember that all that’s permanent is change. Plus: what may seem like a very negative era now may one day be remembered as a sort of Golden Age in retrospect.

7) If it bleeds, it leads

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We live in a click-driven world these days, and news organizations and online content are very focused on generating traffic.

One of the best ways to get those numbers up is to pump the negative content.

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

This is one of the biggest reasons people are so negative these days: because they get fed negative news and perspectives by hyper-mongers who make money from keeping us all stressed out.

I’m not saying the world is sunshine and roses or that we shouldn’t ever be stressed, but a steady diet of CNN or Fox is basically guaranteed to leave your stomach twisted in knots.

Give yourself a break and remember that not everyone around you has your best interests at heart.

Some of those feeding you negativity from your screen are quite simply doing it for the money.

You’re under no obligation to watch what they produce.

Nor are you under any obligation to closely follow the scaremongering of public health authorities who constantly move the goalposts and try to make life into an ongoing drama.

As Amina Khan writes:

“A new study involving more than 1,000 people across 17 countries spanning every continent but Antarctica concludes that, on average, people pay more attention to negative news than to positive news.”

Minimizing the impact: consciously seek out positive news and repeat it. Stop subscribing to drama-addicted news outlets and turn off the negativity-obsessed cable news. You’ll survive.

8) They’re lonely and alienated

One of the top reasons people are so negative these days is that they’re lonely and alienated.

As technology accelerates, work becomes remote and community becomes more and more abstract, it’s harder and harder for some people to feel a sense of solidarity and belonging.

It’s fully possible to feel lonely around other people, so this isn’t just about physical aloneness.

It’s about that feeling inside that you’re not really part of a tribe, that you’re not really sure how to contribute or where to use your gifts.

It hurts.

And when it combines with a mental story about not fitting in or being misunderstood, then it can lead to a lot of bitterness and negativity.

Minimizing the impact: do your best to be inclusive and kind to those you come across. Our digital age has left many lonely souls desperately seeking for belonging and a kind face. You can be that person for others.

9) They’re trapped in an evolutionary feedback loop

One of the strongest reasons people are so negative these days is that we’re not as evolved as we think we are.

We may think of our early ancestors as bison-eating brutes, but their DNA is still in us and their neurological patterns still live on in our survival system.

Part of why people focus on the negative is that we’re designed to do so for survival.

Choosing to ignore an approaching storm in prehistoric times could be the end of your entire tribe.

“For starters, our proclivity for paying attention to negative rather than positive information is an evolutionary hand-me-down from our cave-dwelling ancestors.

“Back then, alertness to danger, AKA ‘the bad stuff,’ was a matter of life and death,” notes Margaret Jaworski.

In our limbic system, it still is.

It’s up to us to use things like breathwork to free ourselves from remaining stuck in that evolutionary era forever.

At the same time, it’s also up to us to realize that things like fear, sadness and anger are perfectly healthy and normal to feel at times and we need to respect and validate these states.

Minimizing the impact: when you find others or yourself focusing on the negative, remember that it isn’t entirely your fault. Then calmly redirect your attention with the conscious awareness that you don’t need to focus on the negative to survive.

10) They want to have a failure party

Ask yourself this simple question: broadly speaking, do you want to win at life?

I really mean it.

Far too many people have decided that life itself is not worth it, or is hopeless.

Once that decision is made, people seek out others who will reinforce and confirm their view that life is basically a losing proposition.

If you’re not careful, you can easily be swept up in this as well.

You may find yourself being convinced by the idea that the difficulty and frustrations of life mean it’s not really worth trying in the first place.

This is one of the worst mistakes you can make, because the truth is that the mistakes and setbacks of life are how we hone our strength and resilience.

As Elle Kaplan notes:

“Don’t wait until a toxic person in your life has brought you so far down that you forget how to get back up.

“You need to surround yourself with people who inspire you, encourage you and help you realize your potential.”

Minimizing the impact: avoid those who want to celebrate failure and disappointment. Seek out those who want to celebrate success and overcoming difficulty. You’ll be in much better company.

11) They’re suffering from depression

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Another one of the top reasons people are so negative these days is that they may be suffering from depression.

I believe that fracturing social bonds and social and family collapse are part of what’s leading to such high depression rates.

At the same time, I think there is a contingent of people who suffer from clinical depression that’s nothing to do with society and does require treatment.

The form that treatment may take is up to the individual, but my point here is that pretending everything is fine won’t do the trick.

Being sad or feeling despair at times is normal in my view.

Having it dominate everything you do and no longer wanting to be alive is when it crosses the line into a state of being that doesn’t serve you or the universe.

Minimizing the impact: do your best every day to be a more empathetic and compassionate person who includes others. Try to be a good listener, but always remember to care for your own wellbeing as well. You can’t always be the world’s therapist.

12) They get hooked on black-and-white thinking

Another one of the biggest reasons people are so negative these days is that they get hooked on black-and-white thinking.

This way of thinking is very tempting, because it simplifies complex situations and events into a binary proposition.

A is bad and B is good.

As Emma-Marie Smith says, black-and-white thinning is “also known as ‘polarized thinking.’ Seeing everything as either one extreme or the other.”

The problem with black-and-white thinking is it’s inaccurate and harmful.

It creates confirmation bias and all sorts of oversimplified outlooks on what’s around us.

It’s also addictive and rewards us with feelings of self-righteousness and vindication.

Minimizing the impact: remember every time you hear black and white thinking that there’s a world of vivid color out there as well. Just because some people choose to see the world in such a way does not mean that you do.

Turning down the negative noise

It’s not easy to turn down the negative noise, but it is possible.

Life will always have ups and downs, but extreme negativity is a mental game that’s not worth playing.

When you come across negative people, avoid reacting strongly in any way.

Use them as a mirror to uncover those parts of yourself that are also fixated on the negative rather than as somebody to blame for being a downer.

We all have ways to improve, and we all go through dark patches.

By not reacting to the negative noise, you begin to clear a space for others to also push forward on the path to personal power and self-actualization.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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