Christopher Ruhm’s first contemplative practice included relaxation techniques, learned over thirty years ago during a college study abroad year in the United Kingdom. He has since engaged in a variety of practices including meditating regularly for the last two decades. He states: “I meditate every morning and, even though it is usually for ten minutes or so, it’s hard for me to imagine beginning my day without it. When others ask me about meditating, I tell them pick an amount of time that you can stick with. It’s better to practice consistently for a short period than to attempt to establish a longer practice that you cannot maintain”. Chris believes that one of the greatest benefits of meditation is that it has made him more patient, a useful skill in his new position as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Public Policy & Economics at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Professor Ruhm’s recent research has focused on examining how various aspects of health are produced – including the rise in obesity and relationship between macroeconomic conditions and health – and on the role of government policies in helping parents with young children balance the competing needs of work and family life. Although not obviously related to his contemplative practices, he believes that the latter have contributed to his scholarship in at least two ways. “First, I believe in practicing ‘economics from the heart’, which involves using ‘hard headed’ analytical techniques to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. I believe that my contemplative practices have increased my empathy and compassion for others, raising my interest in this type of scholarship. Second, much of my research examines the determinants of health behaviors and is informed by my understanding of the mind-body connection and the role of diverse mental processes in decision-making in these arenas.”