Intro to Envision Kindness and the Science of Kindness blog
David Fryburg, MD
onestly, I am a nerd, a professor type, who is still a child that loves science and medicine. Long coat, gray hair: I’m sure you can imagine it. As part of the professor of medicine gig, I love to teach and share what I know with others—from other professionals to medical students, as well as high school students (absolutely love teaching high school students). I love to teach because the possibility of enriching someone else’s life is huge for me; a real gift. And then that person makes the teachings his or her own and does the same for someone else, by teaching evidence-based science that raises the quality of life for many others. Very cool.
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with kindness? About 10 years ago, I became depressed after reading the news a lot. And when I realized it was due to how much mainstream news I was reading, the nerd in me began to study it. I learned a great deal —about how the images and stories we see and hear about impact us. How easy it is for photographs of negative things—violence, greed, conflict—to make people anxious, fearful, stressed, or depressed.
I thought (and still do) that how the news represented the world wasn’t right. Most people are good. Most people are kind. Most love their families and treat others with respect and tolerance. While most (including myself) are not kind to the level of Mother Teresa (pick your own favorite humanitarian), there is good inside so many people. And because of the pressures of modern life, especially with the torrential flood of negative news, I worry that it can make people less kind, less connected to others, even within their own communities or families. That meant people would not be able to enjoy the full potential of a human life.
So how do we change that? It made me think that if we could rebalance what people saw, we could help inspire them to be even kinder and to be able to see and appreciate kindness. I have loved photography since I was 6 years old—and thought—what if we could share images of kindness, compassion, and empathy from around the world with people? Share their stories and experiences? And that’s how Envision Kindness was born. With help from my eldest son, Jesse, we co-founded Envision Kindness, a non profit to promote kindness, compassion, and empathy through image-based stories, in the pursuit of a kinder and happier world.
As Jesse and I worked on Envision, the nerd in me continued to show itself. I began studying the biology and psychology of kindness. And wow—it became really clear that kindness wasn’t just a nice and moral quality. It was baked into our biology. You can see it in toddlers and in many species of animals, including insects. Darwin referenced it as key to survival of a species. And when I learned that people who volunteered regularly had death rates 20-40% lower than those who did not, I was floored. All this biology meant that people’s mental AND physical health were strongly benefitted by kindness and that kindness wasn’t just a “nice or moral” thing to do, but as influential to their health as clean water or vaccinations. This is huge. Many of these factors are shown in the cartoon.
And then, I realized that this is why I became a doctor. People’s health could benefit in so many ways from kindness. So in addition to developing these programs to gather and share images and stories of kindness, we are creating this blog—to give people the science-based view on why kindness is so powerful. We will cover topics like why kind people live longer, the evidence for people being born kind, why laughter induces kindness, how kindness ripples, and even why kind guys get more dates. If we do it well, it will help put a modern scientific face on the ancient wisdom of, “it is better to give than receive.”
David Fryburg, MD
David Fryburg, M.D., is the President and co-founder of Envision Kindness, a non-profit to promote kindness, compassion, joy, and love in healthcare and elsewhere through kindness media. Fryburg is also the author of a blog series entitled the “Science of Kindness,” distributed by Psychology Today and other outlets. In his other professional work, Fryburg has led teams of scientists from to solve problems in how we measure disease for the Foundation for the NIH Biomarkers Consortium. Fryburg was previously faculty at the University of Virginia, as well as head of translational medicine for cardiovascular, metabolic, and endocrine diseases at Pfizer.