Speaker: Richard Davidson

Helping to Heal: the Science of Well-Being

"Why is it that certain people are vulnerable to life's slings and arrows and why are other people more resilient?" Dr. Richard Davidson, Ph.D, felt guided by this question, and dedicated himself to developing insight into how our brains regulate our emotions.

But in 1992, Richard was inspired by the Dalai Lama to revise his initial question and instead consider: What qualities foster well-being? "His Holiness challenged me and asked why we are not using the tools of modern neuroscience to study qualities such as kindness and compassion rather than negative qualities of the mind such as depression and anxiety. I had no good answer, and on that day, I made a commitment to His Holiness and to myself that I would do everything within my power to help place these positive qualities on the scientific map," Richard said.

That renewed and refocused commitment has generated ripples of goodness. Named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2006, Richard founded in 2008 the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has served as a faculty member and professor since 1984. Richard's research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices. A prolific researcher, he has authored more than 570 articles, numerous chapters and reviews, and edited 14 books. His research has identified four keys to well-being - resilience, outlook, attention, and generosity - that can be strengthened in each of us through practice.

Richard founded Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI), a nonprofit affiliate of the Center for Healthy Minds, in 2014. HMI translates well-being science into tools (including a Kindness Curriculum and the Healthy Minds program and app) to cultivate and measure well-being.

"I really feel a moral calling [to help people develop well-being as a skill], because I feel most people would agree that the trajectory we've been on is not a particularly healthy or sustainable one. Everyone has a role to play in this, everyone can be a participant, just like with climate science. Everyone can play a constructive role in helping the planet heal," said Richard.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Richard earned his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from NYU before completing his Ph.D in Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychophysiology at Harvard University. He authored (with Sharon Begley) the New York Times bestseller, The Emotional Life of Your Brain and co-authored Altered Traits with Daniel Goleman. In 2000, Richard was the recipient of the American Psychological Association's prestigious Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award in 2000. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017, and appointed to the Governing Board of UNESCO's Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) in 2018.

Join us on February 3 for a conversation with this transformative psychologist and well-being advocate.

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