If you were a master propagandist, and you wanted to depress an entire nation and coax people from mild optimism into a full-blown depression, what would you do?
Some things you might be tempted to try:
Sound familiar? Feels a bit like that here at the moment, certainly if you read the papers and watch TV any day of the week, then pessimism is the diet of now.
Journalists might well argue that they merely cover what's actually happening out there.
Who could disagree?
But if the net effect of this kind of coverage results in mass anxiety, fear of the future, a lack of optimism and a reluctance to take risks because of the possibility of making things that are bad even worse, then we have a bit of a problem on our hands.
Daniel Kahneman talks about the availability heuristic which, in a nutshell, says that we will make up our minds about something on the basis of available information.
So if we're thinking about starting a business, making a big purchase, investing in something, we might ask ourselves: "how are things out there at the moment?". You might think the same before you go shopping, buy a holiday, or change jobs.
You'd be forced to conclude that they're not good. If too many people think that way, then it's not long before high streets empty and people learn to do without. Jobs go and cities fail soon afterwards.
It needn't be thus. Every negative story could be represented positively.
It's too easy and oddly comforting to make the national conversation some sort of dirge-like drone about all that is wrong with the world. As Bernard Ingham, Mrs. Thatcher's Press Secretary once remarked: "It's being so miserable that keeps him going."
Will it help? Nope. Not a bit.
Will it make us more competitive as a nation? No.
Will it help us make up lost ground in education? Fat chance.
Will it help create a new wave of enterprise? Hmmm. Seems unlikely, don't you think?
Some things must have become clear to anyone who has looked out of the window in the past six months.
We are heavily indebted as a nation. We could spend our way out but we'd have to borrow even more money and doing so could rupture investor confidence driving up the cost of borrowing. The way ahead is going to be tough.
But maybe there's our opportunity to reframe the way we see things.
We're in a tight spot, no doubt.
The UK has no shortage of talent. We already have a burgeoning culture industry. Our culture and language are very attractive to other nations. We have some of the strongest and most attractive brands in the world.
But if we're going to grow our way out of this cul de sac, we need to get people in the UK to believe that we can do so. We all need to believe.
First, by changing the mood music. Let's not fill the air with failure. Its stench erodes confidence and amplifies uncertainty. That goes as much from the issues that get air time as it does to the way we pass the time of day with each other.
Second, let's make it our business, as a nation, to talk up our chances of emerging stronger.
Third, we need to build from our roots by giving young people hope - and now. Lord Sugar has done much to show that young people can succeed in the business world. The Apprentice is great box office. So how can we convert nascent talent into real entrepreneurial activity? By using the resource we already have more effectively. So, if every successful business person gave the young people in his or her area 10 hours of mentoring time a month to local young people, think how many lives could be turned around.
Anyone who has been successful in any way in adult life could give young people free mentoring time. Positive role models help create positive outlooks.
Hope is a delicate flower. For the young it can die quickly and the resulting despair can be very destructive. Once lost it may never return.
Finally, we need to think about what we can sell - not so much to each other - but to other nations. If we could grow our small and medium sized enterprise offer so that it was comparable to, say, Germany there would be no stopping us. Debt would surely evaporate.
Of course, it's simplistic to reduce all this to how we see the world. Life is, of course, much more complicated than that.
But if you really want to achieve anything, then believing you can is a critical first step.
That's as much for individuals as it is for nations.
Follow Mark Fletcher-Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/morque