Speaker: David Fryburg

You are What You See: Inspiring Kindness through Images

We live in a world where news stories are riddled with negativity; wars, crashes, political and social strife fill our living rooms and enter our most personal of space, our homes.  What are the implications for our neurological and physical health to be exposed to such negative news, and what are the effects when this is turned around and people are exposed to positive news, see acts of kindness and learn of human goodness?  

This was the question that Dr. David Fryburg asked himself after experiencing what he calls a “sort of news-induced depression”. He learned of studies suggesting the negative physiological effects that negative news could cause, and he began wondering about the importance of balance.

So David, a physician and research scientist, as well as a keen photographer with published works and solo exhibits – together with his oldest son Jesse in 2014 – started a non-profit to promote kindness, compassion, and empathy. The organization, Envision Kindness, brings together David’s foundations as an accomplished scientist with his creative energy and belief in the power of the visual.

Envision Kindness has the mission to promote kindness, compassion and empathy through the sharing of photographs and videos. Using image-based stories, the organization introduces the audience to positive actions to consciously counterbalance the stressful and negative aspects of life that are depicted in the news. It provides people with a connection to the good happening in their communities and around the world. Whether featuring individual acts of kindness or business activities, Envision Kindness shares inspiring tales of how people are doing things in their daily lives that have an incredibly meaningful impact. Based on the neuropsychology of how the brain is hard-wired to interpret images and be affected by them, as well as that most people are born kind, David believes we can allow people to tap into their innate capacity towards altruism.

“We wanted to provide a complementary approach [to existing kindness portals], one in which our prototypic guy, [an average] Joe, would be able to get a quick hit of inspiring material and move on with his day,” David says.  “Driven by my love of photography since I was 6 years old, we decided to concentrate on still and video photography as our means for inspiring people. As the brain can interpret images a lot faster than written language and that media delivery has transitioned from mostly text based to mostly image based, we decided to try to deliver image-centric content quickly.”

With a gallery of acts of kindness, a photography contest and a Kindness Lab that researches the scientific effects of altruism, joy, gratitude, and optimism, Envision Kindness combines inspiration with engagement, research and learning.  David has come to appreciate that “the [public] programs themselves, that is the [crowd-sourced] PROCESS of making kindness still and video photography, yielded wonderful responses in all those who participated.”

Dr. David Fryburg is an endocrinologist and research scientist who has held medical school faculty and pharmaceutical industry leadership positions and now works as a consultant leading teams of scientists from around the world to solve common problems/questions in biomedical science to benefit the development of new therapies.

In addition to Envision Kindness, David's other passions include photography (he has had several one person shows and has self-published multiple photo books), martial arts, particularly Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung, and his family.

As we enter a new year and set our intentions, this is an opportunity to learn from David’s experience and journey and explore how our small acts of kindness can influence not only others, but also ourselves, in the most surprising of ways.

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