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Understanding and coping with the ill-effects of negativity

Updated on September 19, 2013

By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

Overcoming anger and resentment - Anthony Robbins

“It is not what happens to you that matters it is how you feel about it that does.”

― Shannon L. Alder

Shannon L Aider, the author of successful books on relationships such as 300 Questions LDS Couples Should Ask Before Marriage and 300 Questions A Couple Should Ask For A More Vibrant Marriage, phrased well how we should deal with the negativity and curveballs that will sometimes hit, whether we want them to or not.

Negativity is ill-feeling that, should we want, can cease to be part of our lives. Our perspective of situations, however negative, can determine our states of mind and health.

Negativity, when present in large amounts in the mind, can have ill-effects that can be detrimental to one’s well being, be it on health, body, or mood. Knowing the causes of negativity can help us to deter it. Positivity, naturally, would lead to better health and happiness.


What causes negativity?

Limiting beliefs

Some of us may have the misfortune of being brought up in an environment where negative beliefs are inculcated. They may have been told that they are “useless”, “worthless”, or simply made to feel that their presence does not amount to anything. In certain cases, verbal abuse might cause limiting beliefs or in worse situations, make a person feel as if he or she has no right to any form of positivity or esteem.

Negative people

Some of us may be surrounded by negative family or friends. They constantly reiterate their negative feelings and cause a person to feel the same. That naysaying attitude can easily become a part of one’s life and psyche.

Negative environment

A negative environment where ill-circumstances are a norm will cause one to belief that they are cycles that are difficult to break out of. It is natural for a person to assume that he or she has no power to make changes. Belief that one is powerless over the environment will inculcate less than positive attitudes.

The grass-is-always-greener attitude

Constantly reminding oneself that one could be better off in another circumstance would encourage feelings of dissatisfaction that cause negativity. Always comparing oneself to others will also lead one to feel discontent, jealous and have a cynical attitude towards the possibility of positive change.


The effects of negativity

Negativity has ill-effects on the mind, body and spirit. In short, one becomes ill because they think they are. It is toxic and has less than desired consequences.

The placebo and nocebo effects

Many of us may have heard of the Placebo effect. Patients in clinical trials are lulled into thinking that they are benefiting from a new drug or surgery when they are actually getting false treatment.

Unethical as it may seem, Placebo actually has some positive effects. Thinking that a drug is working positively on them causes the dilation of the bronchi, lowers blood pressure, and even makes bald men who think that they are getting treatment grow hair.

Placebo has an evil twin, the Nocebo effect. The same patients actually experience the side effects of the ‘drug’ they are given as if they are actually consuming them in reality. Injections of saline, thought by them to be chemotherapy treatments actually caused them to have nausea in the way the real treatments would.

How does explain the ill-effects of negativity?

These patients became well because they believed they were becoming better, and in the reverse situation, became ill because they perceived themselves as experiencing the side effects of the “drugs” they were taking. The Placebo and Nocebo effects show the profound implications of perspective. Positivity enabled improvement of their health conditions because these patients believed they were experiencing positive effects. The reverse happened as well.

A negative perspective does have a undesired effect on health.

Effects on mood

It goes without saying that negativity will have uncomfortable effects on one’s mood and spirits. Such feelings, experienced in the long term, will cause fatigue and illness.

Negativity can cause one to experience:

  • Anxiety

  • Restlessness

  • Lack of motivation or focus

  • Irritability or anger

  • Sadness or depression

Effects on behavior

Consequently, unsettled feelings, negativity and stress lead to unsettling behavior. A person can behave in an anti-social and damaging fashion because of negativity, as we are well aware. The effects on his family and society can be detrimental and profound.

Negativity leads one to:

  • Overeat or undereat

  • Burst out in unreasonable anger

  • Abuse drugs or alcohol, in extreme cases

  • Use tobacco

  • Withdraw from society

Effects on health

With the disruption in mood or behavior, it is not surprising that negativity can cause undesired consequences to one’s health.

It affects the body with:

  • Headaches

  • Muscle tension or pains

  • Chest pains

  • Fatigue

  • Changes in sex drive

  • Stomach upsets

  • Sleep problems

These unwanted consequences should be enough to discourage anyone from developing negative attitudes!


The importance of positivity

Being aware of what negativity entails, one should be further encouraged by the loving effects of positivity.


Forgiveness and the determination to relinquish any negative feelings can enhance one’s physical health. The Standford Forgiveness Project trained 260 adults in the techniques and importance of forgiveness. At the end of the study:

  • 70% experienced a decrease in their feelings of hurt

  • 13% saw a reduction in anger

  • 27% experienced fewer physical complaints like headaches or stomach upsets.

Other studies reported a lowering of the blood pressure in patients who forgive and an improvement in their cardiovascular health.


Acknowledging the good aspects of life has a profound effect on well-being. It is not joy that brings gratitude, but just the opposite! In a study, those who counted their blessings felt happier, exercised more and had fewer physical complaints.

Emotional resilience

Those who are emotionally resilient are able to look at their curveballs with optimism and hope. They see challenges as a chance for growth.

The positivity that they retain helps them counter the ill-effects of negative emotions, which all of us will experience from time to time.


How to counter negativity

All of us know that negativity is bad for us and so develop strategies to counter it. As does the piano, forcing negativity out of the way takes a lot of practice.

Find the positive aspect of a negative situation.

As soon as we experience something negative, we should look for its positive aspects. For example, we feel cranky when we are late for work because we oversleep. Recognize the positive aspect of that - we become less tired and more efficient because of the extra sleep we get!

Understand the cause of your negativity

Without understanding the causes of negativity, any amount of positive thinking will be of not much use. Whether because of incidents from the past or toxic surroundings, acknowledging the situation is the key to greater awareness. Once we are aware, we are in a better position not to live in the shadow of unhealthy negativity.

Causes are sometimes internal rather than external.

For instance, family might be a cause of negativity and its root. Prolonging that, however, will cause projection of even more negativity on the family, which may already have moved past previous hurts. Worse will be projecting that negativity onto others who have no responsibility for one’s negativity at all.

To that effect, the cause is internal - oneself, who is largely responsible for one’s negativity and the best person to be responsible for removing it.

Encourage positivity

If you are in the position to advise someone to be positive, acknowledge their feelings instead of being a "look on the bright side" sort of person. It does not make the person you are trying to counsel feel a sense of positivity and may in fact breed further feelings of envy and resentment.

Which form of negativity are you most familiar with?

See results

Types of negativity

People show their negativity in these stereotypical ways, or more often, display a blend of all traits. If you spot yourself in any of these traps, try to get out of them quickly!

The silent killer

This is by far the most devilish and most toxic of negative people. They understand psychology. Via a little manipulation of conversations, they introduce feelings of low esteem. Little remarks they make about how a person looks or deliberately talking about past achievements in front of someone they know to be sensitive about the subject enables them to sow seeds of negativity.

The drama queen

The drama queen is someone who has deep feelings of insecurity and constantly seeks assurance. She is someone who would constantly ask whether she has said the right thing, or complain incessantly that someone has hurt her feelings. They will do it outlandishly and try to be the centers of attention with their complaints. They throw things in a fit when they cannot get what they want, making the other party feel guilty.

Woe is me

These people like to put themselves down constantly because of their failures and do so to get attention for themselves. They will always have a word about how unfair life is. Their stories can do a lot of damage because their toxicity draws others into a negative world.

The paranoid type

These folks imagine others to be constantly worsening their lives. Somebody is always trying to cheat them, or manipulate them in some fashion when it is not the truth.

Their behaviour is a result of bad experience and a “once bitten, twice shy” attitude. They fear the same thing happening again, and need to have feelings of assurance and trust inculcated.


We all have, at some point in our lives, bred negativity. It is time to do the opposite! Do share your thoughts in the comments section.


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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Glim. Yes, we all know someone who has exhibited some form of negativity. It does nothing but bring us down! Thanks for sharing!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Interesting hub. I think everyone knows someone who has a lot of negativity and I also think everyone has a little (or a lot) of negativity in them. I know I do sometimes. It's always beneficial to rise above it!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, DDE!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      You went on with your question to write a great hub Michelle. Some negativity creeps into our lives at different points but the more positive we become the easier it is to handle that negativity.

      I think I've said in another comment, always look at the glass as half full, never half empty!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting. Pinned.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Understanding and coping with the ill-effects of negativity a well accomplished hub and so helpful to most individuals, useful and interesting

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Pamela!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an interesting hub. The placebo effect has been very well studied. I too have little paitence with negative people. I wrote about the nocebo effect quite a while back also. Positive versus negative is always very interesting to compare. Voted up!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes. We have to make friends and be positive for others to be so with us!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Ow. That must have been a tiring experience, Dianna. It's hard to listen to those constantly complaining instead of doing something about it!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      You make some very good points in this hub about negativity. If you want to make friends or get people to like you, you have to be positive about things as much as you can. Voted up as awesome. Sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Midget, I recently visited with a few negative-prone people and found myself wanting to escape from their company. I am a person who prefers to see life on the positive side, it is healthier. Great post and so on target with what makes for a better world.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it certainly can make us ill! Thanks for sharing, janet.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Oh, no such thing as having an overdoes of positivity indeed, kidscrafts! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      We should. We should really seize each day and our own happiness! Thanks, Martie!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Srsddin, oh, it certainly stands in the way of that!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      That it is, Nessa!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      It's hard to be patient with a negative person. I guess that what they've to sort through is overwhelming for them, Bill!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, kuttingedge, it has that domino effect! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      I guess they were wrong there, Hatter!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      7 years ago from Georgia country

      Very interesting topic to write about. I always try to think positive even in hard times. Too much negativity can make you ill like you indicated in your hub which is very well-written and informative. Thank you for sharing.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great hub, Michelle!

      Negative people can suck all your energy and you are left with nothing. I lived through that and that was just too much. I prefer to be as positive as possible and surround myself with people with a positive mind! Positivity is almost a super vitamin for the soul! No limit to the quantity you can take .... no risk of having an overdose :-)

      Thanks for sharing!

      Voted up and interesting!

      Enjoy y0ur weekend, Michelle!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      In my most recent blog/bubble I have covered this very same topic. I can't stand negativism. Although negative feelings may come and go during the course of a day as we handle whatever life has in stock for us, we should start every day with a positive attitude.

      “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.” - Willie Nelson

      Comprehensive, well-written hub about negativity!

    • srsddn profile image


      7 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      midget38, I think this is a great idea. Too much of negativity and for too long can be detrimental to one's own success.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Negativity is so insidious.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have written about this before. I have no patience with a negative person. I surround myself with positive people and eliminate the negative ones. Life is too short to be around that.

      Great points Michelle.

    • kuttingxedge profile image

      Steven P Kelly 

      7 years ago from Tampa, FL

      I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make about negativity multiplying itself. One thought leads to another, and another, until the whole mind is wrapped in that singular capacity. Once there, it is difficult to find a silver lining in any situation. Thank you for this great article and the perspective you offer on the subject.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. That oil company I worked at, taught (and brainwashed) there really was no such thing. ...and so off we went to get your money.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Tips on understanding and coping with negativity


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