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.
Five Questions with David Fryburg
What Makes You Come Alive?
Relevant to today's talk, helping people and seeing them lead better lives. It may sound "cheesy", but it is why I went to medical school--to be able to help people through the application of science (I'm also a nerd who loves science). That's a rush.I also come alive through photography--and art in general-which allows my brain to "breathe" and be revitalized after doing so much science and analytic work. And finally, the study of multiple Eastern arts, especially Tai Chi Chuan and Taoism. All of this, would have far less meaning if I did not have a great family to share it (and life at large) with.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
There is no single pivotal turning point in my life. It has been a progressive series of learnings as I have studied different disciplines and been blessed with a variety of different experiences. The most central learnings are that we are all connected to each other and that the beauty of life (nature) contains that most incredible "stuff" to be in awe of. Everything else are derivative concepts for me. For if we are all connected to one another with the same amazing energy that flows through the universe, then how can we not respect and be kind to one another? With that realization, ego melts away because we are all the same and there is little need for ego. As ego recedes, cooperation, social justice, equality, happiness, and the quality of human life can soar. Problems go away. The challenge, of course, is to share that with others in an unbiased way so that they can experience it too and let go of the modern illusion of individual success and achievements.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
There are many to choose from, especially of late as Envision has evolved. In studying kindness, altruism, compassion, and empathy, I have read a lot of research and a lot of stories. The most impressive one is of a homeless and disheveled man who had found a substantial amount of money (cash). Soon after finding it, he gave it away to people whom he thought needed it more. He is an enlightened person and taught me about the true nature of giving.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
To travel the world with my wife, meeting new people, seeing and photographing new places, and experiencing kindness in different cultures.
One-line Message for the World?
Everything good flows from kindness.