Request a demo
Back to Blog

Scaling compassion to reduce suffering

May 24, 2021 - 7 min read

Dr. Amit Sood, Professor of Medicine (Retd.), Mayo Clinic is a leading researcher, author, and practitioner in the field of resilience. BetterUp is delighted and humbled to welcome Dr. Sood to our Science Advisory Board.

woman and man talking-build resilience-eliminate stress

Imagine a hungry lion chasing a gazelle in a thick forest. The young gazelle is in her top form and escapes. What would she be doing five minutes later? Back with her herd munching grass, isn’t it?

Now, imagine a lion chasing a human being in the same forest. The person escapes. What would he be doing five minutes later? Most likely anxious and hyperventilating. He might never go back to a forest and will likely need therapy for years.

Two species, same experience, but a very different emotional outcome. Why is that? It’s because of our brain’s phenomenal ability to think, remember, and imagine. Our brain’s tremendous cognitive power keeps the memory of our struggles fresh. The great gift of our brain often hurts us emotionally. 

No species on the planet struggles emotionally as much as humans. This awareness fills me with compassion.

Compassion is a very powerful force. It has driven me over the last two decades to pursue this simple question with a singular focus: How can we repurpose the human brain, a tool designed for survival and safety, to deliver lasting peace and happiness?

The answers that I have stumbled upon on this journey give me hope. The hope that understanding the neural basis of emotional suffering and finding and sharing creative solutions can transform every person’s life experience. This hope-fueled striving helps me pursue my life’s mission – to eliminate optional stress.

Stress can be optional in situations where our mindset has a large role to play in our experience. For example, spilled milk on the dining table can be a moment of laughter or anger, depending on how you react to it. 

Stress, however, isn’t so optional for those caught in challenging life situations such as poverty, illness, and trauma. Such situations, if they become chronic, redesign our brain. Poverty, for example, causes atrophy of the hippocampus (memory area of the brain) and the pre-frontal cortex (our central executive). Without intervention, these changes become permanent and  can lock people and families in the poverty cycle for generations.

Yet, having lived amidst a low-income population in a developing country for the first three decades of my life, I know that trauma and atrophy are not inevitable. I have seen countless times, with just a little help, well-being and resilience blooming despite challenging life situations.

This awareness gives me another reason for hope – that as society changes realities for the resource-deprived and the well-being world shares its learnings globally – we might create a level playing field where every person has the opportunity to thrive. The scientific studies I have read and helped conduct and the related perspective drive my life’s second mission – to democratize resiliency and well-being. 

Democratizing resiliency and well-being will provide every person access to resiliency and well-being solutions, irrespective of their ability to pay. 


quotation mark
I know that trauma and atrophy are not inevitable. I have seen countless times, with just a little help, well-being and resilience blooming despite challenging life situations.


In today’s world, when a deluge of cognitive and emotional load challenges our vulnerable brain (an instrument that wasn’t designed to lift so much load), mission-driven companies like BetterUp can provide essential support and tools to people globally. They can move the conversation and awareness around mental health, as well as deployment of practical tools and interventions to improve well-being and resilience on a larger scale. 

Resilience and well-being solutions and coaching aren’t optional anymore. They are vital to help your mind breathe.

I am truly privileged and grateful to join and serve as a scientific advisor to BetterUp and look forward to continuing our journey together – to bring you solutions that help eliminate optional stress and democratize resiliency and wellbeing.

Sign up to receive the latest insights, content, and resources from BetterUp.



Published May 24, 2021

Dr. Amit Sood MD MS FACP

BetterUp Science Board

Read Next

12 min read | January 25, 2021

How to stay socially connected: Your life depends on it

Learn how to stay socially connected and why your life depends on it. Social connection is our lifeline for resilience, belonging, and inclusion at work. Read More
Leadership & Management
9 min read | May 3, 2021

Build resilience like a (silver medal) winner

Resilience is a frequent topic these days, but often we focus on the short-term. This article and video explore the long-term benefits of resilience-building moments. Read More
Leadership & Management
5 min read | October 8, 2020

3 Reasons investing in employee resilience pays off

A new study shows how resilience boosts your bottom line. Plus, three questions to ask yourself about resilience. Read More
8 min read | July 9, 2020

Recipe for resilience: 5 key ingredients

This is the first post in our six-part series on resilience. Learn the key drivers in building resilience for yourself, your teams, and your workforce. Read More
7 min read | May 20, 2021

Is poor mental health and well-being contagious?

Poor mental health and well-being at work can be contagious. Learn how we can spread positive well-being and build resilient teams. Read More
15 min read | August 23, 2022

Learn how to cope: 6 factors that promote resilience

Discover the factors that promote resilience and how you can practice them each day. Plus, learn why positive thinking is important for resilience. Read More
12 min read | July 11, 2022

How to develop a resilient mindset: Recovering from setbacks

Looking to develop a resilient mindset? Learn key tips on how to strengthen your resilience. Plus, discover how to let go of things you can’t control. Read More
16 min read | August 30, 2022

What is resilience training and why does your team need it?

Wondering what resilience training is and what it teaches? Learn how resilience training benefits your team, and signs that your team needs more of it. Read More
12 min read | September 21, 2022

Here’s how resilience can help you cope with stress

Feeling stressed? Learn how resilience can help you with stress management. Plus, discover how you can use your resilience to cope with workplace stress. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.