Curiouser and Curiouser
I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know where I got it but I would say being curious has been my saving grace.
Statistically there would be a high chance that I would have lost the element of being curious. We are all gifted with it from birth, being drawn to new things, then as a toddler it progresses into question after question of “what’s this?” and then the constant “why?”
Dr Bruce Perry of the Child Trauma Academy states; “that if this curiosity isn’t encouraged, it can start to fade”. This can be due to fear, disapproval or the absence of a caring invested adult. I fell into that category, but maybe because there were so many intriguing stories to unfold from secrets withheld from me; I managed to override the norm.
Sadly this loss of wonder is too familiar and it becomes a distant memory along with the busyness of life. Luckily; all is not lost. At any given moment it can be reclaimed and you too can continue your adventure into Wonderland and find the benefits of being curious.
Let the Story Begin.
If you have ever read the book Alice in Wonderland, you will remember that she falls into a rabbit hole, she then has to work out how to get out again. We become embroiled in her story of challenge, learning and curiosity as she meets many characters, represent the rules, authorities and conditioning in life. When she meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee they tell her the tale of the Curious Oysters, instilling a familiar tale to each of us as they describe the consequences of being curious.
As the tale unfolds she continues to encounter all sorts of peculiar characters reconfirming the disastrous effects of curiosity and giving lots of strange instructions. This causes her confusion as she loses sight of her destination maybe even feeling stuck. She has listened to so many stories that she just doesn’t know herself anymore, which may sound familiar? Fortunately, through the story she begins to learn not to listen to others and listen from within and stand up to the obstacles and fears that others have bestowed on her. She finds that by using her curiosity she reclaims her power, identity and choices, to be who she wants to be.
As children we are like sponges, believing everything we are told to be truth, which at times leaves us losing that sense of self and identity, very much like Alice. When we begin to question our beliefs by revisiting our curiosity and standing back and observing ourselves, amazing things can happen and we start to see the benefit of our curiosity. I am amazed every day by what I discover about myself and then I look back and can’t believe I thought the old belief was true.
So what are the amazing benefits?
Well for me, it is not surprising to learn that curiosity contributes towards happiness. In a survey of more than 10,000 people from 48 countries which was published in ”Perspectives on Psychological Sciences”, happiness was viewed as more important than success, relationships, knowledge, intelligence, relationships, wisdom, maturity, wealth and meaning in life.
So what an outstanding benefit it is, when it is so very much desired. Supporting this benefit is the Dalai Lama who proclaims ”it is the very purpose of our life.” When you begin to encourage a strong desire to know or learn something it cultivates a greater opportunity to experience joy.
In fact, to reiterate this point, Martin Seligman, PhD, and Chris Peterson, PhD, were two pioneers in the field of positive psychology. They created a system undertaken from a result of reading the works of religious texts, contemporary literature and ancient philosophers, and then identified patterns, that they subjected to rigorous scientific tests. Through their research they began to recognise 24 basic human strengths, out of the 24, curiosity was one of the five most highly associated with overall life fulfillment and happiness.
The more we become curious of surrounding people, the more open they in turn become. Our brains require stimulation and connection to survive and thrive. I know when I have had times of darkness in my life and felt anxious about communicating with others, it has had a knock on effect on my confidence, my ability to concentrate and my recall. When I take the plunge and engage, I start to feel the stimulation of positive emotions.
A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Vol. 23, by Todd B. Kashdan, John E. Roberts (2004) found that people were rated as more attractive and warmer if they showed real curiosity when engaging with others regardless of their social anxiety or levels of positive and negative emotion. This is great news so take the plunge like me and reap the benefits.
BUILDS OUR EMPATHY
When we start to build on our relationships by being curious, we find that we have more in common with others than we think. We become more understanding and gain greater insights in other peoples points of view. This can alleviate frustration and build on healthier ways to communicate.
Dr. Matthias Gruber, lead author of a study at the University of California linking curiosity with memory and learning says that
“Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it.”
Wow, that is an incredible statement.
It is no wonder that when Albert Einstein said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious,” he wasn’t kidding. What the great Einstein was stating, I believe, is that we are all given the same given rights to uncover, learn and explore, its down to us to use them.
If we take all the benefits above that we have gained from our curiosity, it is highly likely that we would be rewarded by feeling healthier. A study over a period of five years on over a 1000 adults aged 60- 86 that was published in ”Psychology and Aging,” found that those who were ranked as being more curious at the beginning of the study were more likely to have longevity of life as its conclusion, even after taking into account age, whether they smoked, the presence of cancer or cardiovascular disease, and so on.
Will you jump down the rabbit hole?
I hope you have found this article useful, and realised that if you were once burnt, you don’t have to stay that way. Are you willing to take that adventure just like Alice and create a life full of wonder….curiosity….joy….relationships….empathy….intellect…. and live to a ripe old age being curiouser and curiouser.
I would love to read your comments and let me know if you have found the curiosity in you.
Remember happiness starts with you.
All the best