Recognising thinking processes that affect our wellbeing – Tips for Researchers

Posted on: 29 June 2021 by Helen Dos Santos (Length: 613 words - Read time: 3 minutes) in Blog posts

Helen Dos Santos

Our thinking process can either be destructive or empowering.

Editor’s note: Ahead of Researcher Wellbeing Week 5-9 July 2021, we will be publishing a series of blog posts that reflect some of the sessions that will be on offer for researchers. In this post, we hear from Helen Dos Santos about the types of thinking processes that can cause us to worry and why it is important to identify them.

Our thinking process can either be destructive or empowering. It validates our existing knowledge which can manifest itself in emotions. Our thought process enables the exploration of perceptions and possibilities too.

I should, I must – with this negative thought pattern, people tend to find themselves constantly falling short of their own expectations – however realistic or unrealistic they may be “I must go to the gym more”, “I should be doing spending more time with the kids”. This style of thinking can lead to a lot of guilt & unhappiness. Instead we could say “I aim to exercise whenever I can” and “I make the time I spend with the kids really enjoyable”. This removes the pressure we would otherwise be applying to ourselves.

Black & White – It’s rare that a situation is completely bad or completely good or that there’s only one right solution to a problem. This can cause you to miss the nuance of the situation, only seeing it in terms of extremes rather than being able to neutrally evaluate all the possible solutions. 

Emotional reasoning – We create our thoughts and emotions – they are not facts. When we use emotional reasoning, we’re interpreting a situation based on how we feel at that given moment. For Example if you feel nervous, you may interpret the situation as dangerous and one to escape from – even when that is not the case. 

Mental filtering – Our brains are anything but impartial. It tends to pick out information that suits our own perspective or even liking an idea more because it’s our own – so we see the world in a biased way.

With mental filtering we often ignore the positive things or flip side to an argument in favour of information that confirms how we already feel or what we belief. This then creates a body of evidence that convinces us we are right. Being aware of this allows for us to be more open to other ideas and suggestions that may not be ours.

Catastrophising or Awfulising – This is when we see a situation and jump to the worse case scenario.  This worry style means we end up using our energy thinking about unlikely and extreme scenarios and allowing our worry to grow and grow. When catastrophizing becomes a habit it can lead to being in a constant state of worry about everyday situations and a constant feeling of being nervous.   To put things into context, ask yourself on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is death) how bad is this situation. 

Overgeneralisation – Sometimes our past experiences, or perceptions have a big impact on how we think about our current situation. Overgeneralising is when we use one small experience or piece of evidence to make a very broad assumption.  For example, you made a small mistake the last time you were doing a presentation at work, & say to yourself “I’ll do a terrible job again this time, I’m awful at presenting, maybe I shouldn’t be doing this job and perhaps I should leave”. The alternative thought process maybe what can I learn from my first experience of presenting, or is there anyone I can ask for some support. 

If we can recognise which of these thinking processes we are using, we can then start to consider whether is it having a negative and destructive impact instead of being helpful and serving us in a positive manner.  If we can identify how we are feeling, we can work towards reframing our thoughts.

Researcher Wellbeing Week 2021 takes place 5–9 July. For more information, visit:

About the author

Helen Dos Santos is a Wellbeing & Resilience Life Coach specialising in supporting the emotional and mental resilience of staff. Qualified as a Neuro Linguistic Programming Master and Master Life Coach, Master Hypnotherapist, Havening Techniques Practitioner®, and Belief Change Practitioner, Helen’s aim is to make a positive difference to the lives of the people she works with. 


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