Well-being is not the Absence of Distress

Human’s are often referred to as ‘Social’ Animals, which means our basic instinctive biological need of being connected socially is innate and important for our well-being

In recent times a lot is being talked about Psychological well-being especially in this Covid-19 era when people are on the edge, exhausted and stressed out. The reasons are many: The fear of the disease, grief due to loss of lives, financial dip, loss in business, loss of jobs and most importantly loss of the endearing human touch.

I often tell people we must replace the term social distancing with physical distancing. It’s important to be responsible and practice all safety measures of physical distancing, but socially we must remain connected from our hearts and minds. Human’s are often referred to as ‘Social’ Animals, which means our basic instinctive biological need of being connected socially is innate and important for our well-being, and an 80 year long Harvard Study led by Dr Robert Waldinger at Harvard University confirms the same.

It is said, that things get better when right efforts and adequate resources are pumped in; then why is it despite putting in exorbitant funds, the best human minds and intense efforts, stress is only increasing? It’s becoming a global epidemic, with overwhelming figures quoted by The World Health Organization in it’s 2018 Mental Health Report which quotes that about 1 in 5 individuals are suffering from Clinical Depression, 1 in 3 from Clinical Anxiety and 80% of people from general stress, which might have significantly shot up further now due to the Corona Virus fear.

The flaw is in the direction of the effort. Psychological issues are assumed and mistaken similar to physical ones. The flawed ideology being followed is the approach of getting rid of stress or psychological discomfort, to cure the problem. Interestingly, this approach might work for physical diseases but does not work for psychological distress, on the contrary it just exacerbates it. This is best explained by what I call the Pink Horse Paradox. What happens when I instruct you of “Not to think of a Pink Coloured Horse.” The only think that comes to the mind is a Pink Horse. This is similar to saying, don’t be sad, don’t be afraid, don’t worry… Don’t Think of a Pink Horse, and the only thing that comes to mind is the exact same thing.

Getting around The Pink Horse paradox, needs building of positive strengths in individuals as well as organizations. It is important for a system to move towards a positive outlook to experience wellbeing and health. Science says actively building positive strengths and virtues such as Hope, Gratitude, Trust, Equanimity and love for self is a better way to move towards well-being and happiness, this approach is built on the foundations, ‘Wellbeing is not the absence of Stress.’

We need to put in efforts to attain the state of well-being and move towards a more positive outlook towards life. Regularly practicing Mindfulness Meditation is a good way to develop relaxation, patience and peace. Routinely following a physical exercise routine fosters secretion of Serotonin in the body, which is also called as a happy hormone and it makes you feel good, besides of course regular exercise is also beneficial for the body. Being compassionate towards others and helping people when in need develops the positive virtue of compassion and similarly being thankful to all the little things in life that one has and has achieved inculcates the positive virtue of Gratitude. A cumulation of each of these virtues develops an important aspect of well-being called as resilience, which eventually helps you feel true lasting happiness in life.

Lastly, we talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else in the world, so it’s important to give ourselves a healthy self talk and positive messages all the time to become healthier, confident and happier human beings. “Never Let a great crisis go to waste” Winston Churchill might have quoted this in a different context, but these words have never been more relevant than in the current situation. Just a few days back the world was moving at a maddening pace, where none had time to stop, rest and think of the consequences, we are heading towards. “Be the Change you want to see in the World”, Mahatma Gandhi’s words echo in our minds today when we crave to come out of this Global Crisis. The times ahead are challenging, we as a Global community need to dissolve our differences, unite as one, for we all share something which is basic to all living; A will to survive, A will to Live and The Will to flourish in well-being.


1. Martin-Joy, J. S., Malone, J. C., Cui, X.-J., Johansen, P.-Ø., Hill, K. P., Rahman, M. O., Waldinger, R. J., & Vaillant, G. E. (2017). Development of adaptive coping from mid to late life: A 70-year longitudinal study of defense maturity and its psychosocial correlates. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 205(9), 685–691. Retrieved from link:

2. World Health Organization. (2018). Out of The Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Developmental Priority. Retrieved from link:

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Mental Health COVID-19


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