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Study Well, Stay Well

The Study Well, Stay Well guide brings together information, guidance and resources on how you can balance your wellbeing with your studies.
Emotions and Mood

It is not what happens to you, but how you react that matters - Epictetus

For most of us, happiness is fleeting. Our days may bring a combination of moods and emotions. Researchers investigating happiness around the world tell us that once you have enough money for your needs, exponential surpluses do not deliver extra doses of happiness. We cannot expect to be happy all the time, but we do need to be aware of our moods. Positive mood is bound to have a beneficial impact on our effectiveness, productivity, and sense of competence, which is why cultivating a positive state of mind is important to your studies. 

Emotions and mood: The Basics

What affects our mood? We live in a fast-paced society and we are influenced by our environment. We are all different; for some of us the news brings us down, or the weather, being too hot or too cold, can ruin our day. There are some lifestyle factors that can create negative moods such as too little sleep, poor nutrition, too much sugar, tiredness, overwork or burning the candle at both ends. Our mood can also be affected by hormonal fluctuations, depression, anxiety or using alcohol. 

Our brains have a wired negativity bias. Here’s an example of how that works. You get 65% when you receive an assignment back, but you can guarantee your brain  will  probably focus on the 5% of marks you did not receive, that would have taken your overall mark to 70%. Sixty five percent is good enough and you should probably spend time congratulating yourself. Naturally, a review of how you could improve your mark is also worthwhile, but our brains tend to focus more on negatives than positives which is why we need to work actively on positive thinking. 

We cannot avoid negative states of mind and occasional low mood. It’s important to be aware of our moods and patterns and to take timely action if we feel the need for support. Our moods are often created by our methods of emotional processing and it can therefore be effective to develop skills in self-questioning and have knowledge of techniques that can help us manage our moods. 

Look out for negative thinking styles and question your thoughts before they create your reality:


When you are likely to expect the worst case scenario or you let one small negative event set the whole tone for your day in terms of expectations. 

‘Should’ thinking

Driving yourself hard with lots of ‘shoulds’ that create pressure and high expectations. Are your expectations realistic and can you spread tasks out to release some pressure? Are there times when you can go easy on yourself? Perhaps you don’t need to go to the gym every morning when you are busy writing assignments. You are in control of reprioritising and even letting some things slide occasionally. Change a few ‘shoulds’ into ‘I don’t have to….’. 


Perceiving events as wholly positive or negative. Most of the time there’s a middle ground: an assignment mark maybe wasn’t as high as you hoped, but within it there was some very positive feedback, such as recent references, a good critical argument in places and it was well-structured. 

Learn more: Monitoring your mood

It is useful to watch for changes in your mood, like highs and lows, or swings that could indicate you need to take action. If negative or difficult feelings lead to negative emotions, we need to realise that often these emotions do not last and we can choose how to react to circumstances to regain control.

To learn more, watch a short video or read an article on avoiding negative 'thinking traps'.

Develop your understanding

Boost your positivity

Tune into your mental chatter and notice how you speak to yourself. Do you hear a critical voice? Are you expecting the worse from situations? If good things happen, do you minimise your contribution or consider it chance circumstances. Do you put yourself down, rather than talking yourself up? If you notice yourself tending towards negative self-talk, mindfulness practices can help boost your positivity and objectivity:

  • Mindfulness reduces stress and promotes relaxation. 

  • It improves attention, concentration, and cognitive flexibility. 

  • It is associated with positive changes in brain structures related to memory and learning. 

  • It aids in regulating emotions and building emotional resilience. 

  • Mindfulness helps enhance sleep quality and reduce insomnia. 

  • Regular practice can lead to positive changes in brain areas related to self-awareness, empathy, and stress regulation.

Learn more - Mindfulness

If you're new to mindfulness and want to find out more, explore these introductory resources and exercises to see if it makes a difference to your emotions and mood:

  • To make a start with daily mindfulness, learn how to bring your attention to the present with a short grounding exercise
  • Try out free meditations and mindful practices of different lengths.
  • Apps like Headspace can be useful for building mindfulness exercises into your daily routine - you can often try out a free version before committing to a subscription or membership.

Further reading