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Accentuate the positive

Angela Catterns
Friday, October 16, 2015

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By Angela Catterns

 “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between” 

You might remember this golden oldie. It was written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer and first recorded way back in the 1940’s. Since then it’s been covered by everyone from Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters to Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin and Paul McCartney. Its message never seems to go out of date.

The song came to mind as I was again marvelling at just how much sentiment affects the financial market.

In a world of hard facts and finite numbers, it seems counter-intuitive that a stock can rise or fall, indeed the entire economy of a country can depend on something as nebulous as sentiment. Both positive AND negative.  

As you will have heard, consumer confidence here in Australia increased by 4.2 percent to 97.80 this month, a rise from 93.90 in September. It was a strong result and it beat market forecasts. It’s been attributed to the change of Prime Minister, recent recoveries in the Australian dollar and the stock market, and a steady improvement in the labour market. 

But it’s also the vibe. The feeling of the market and the sentiment of consumers. Are we feeling happy about our personal financial situation and the overall state of the economy? Or is there a feeling of doom and gloom?

Right now it seems, the vibe is good. So if we all concentrate very hard on accentuating the positive, can we make it even better? 

The news media has a big role to play in the way we feel about the economy and how our confidence is formed. Apart from reporting the latest economic data we ‘get the vibe’ from the tone of the reporting and from the opinions of professionals. Reports of a possible recession obviously elicit much more negative reaction than reports of a good day on the stock market.

It’s also true that the more economic news is published and broadcast, the more we update our expectations. So our confidence in the economy is fluid and constantly changing according to what we read and hear.

Of course how we feel about the economy and our own personal financial situations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the news on the economy is consistently negative, it follows that consumers will respond to surveys negatively even if their personal situation is not that bad. 

A lack of confidence can ensure that the dreaded declines actually occur, while steadfast optimism can really lead to a better economic environment.

This week I read a story about a woman from the UK who decided to prove the power of positive thinking. She took an apple, cut it in half and sealed each half in a glass jar. One she labelled with the word LOVE and the other she labelled with the word HATE. For the next two weeks, she directed all her kind, affectionate and positive thoughts on the LOVE apple, and all her angry, mean and negative thoughts on the HATE apple. The result? While the hate apple turned brown and became rotten to the core, the love apple decayed far more slowly and stayed reasonably intact. The experiment has caught on. Apparently more than 2,000 people have now done the apple test and 86% have had the same result. 

I don’t know what the science is, but there’s definitely something going on. We hear so much about the power of positive thinking, and this seems to be living proof. So let’s all get an apple and a couple of jars and do the experiment.

If we’re able to induce decay in an apple with our negative thoughts and emotions in two weeks, imagine the effect our thoughts must have on our bodies and wellbeing across a lifetime. 

Not to mention the effect we could be having on the economy! 

Published: Friday, October 16, 2015

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