The Happiness Connection  

Curiosity aids our mental health

Stay curious

Did you know that having a strong sense of curiosity is considered a sign of good mental health?

When humans are born, they’re naturally inquisitive. You just have to watch young children for a while to see the truth of that statement. Swiss psychologist Dr. Jean Piaget defined curiosity as the urge to explain the unexpected. This impulse to find out more aids learning and development. Sadly, many people lose this natural curiosity as they age.

Why? Research links the awareness of others evaluating you with the decline of inquisitiveness. Children enter school as thirsty sponges ready to absorb new information, until they realize they’re being compared to other children and then graded for their performance.

Suddenly it becomes more important to achieve the goals the teacher sets out than to figure out how many ways you can make noises with your chair. Schools also tend to focus on finding the “right” answer rather than exploring possible answers. That approach discourages creativity.

Not that many decades ago, it was believed brains developed and grew until a certain age, and then their cells slowly started to die off. It was thought that as you aged, you became less able to learn new things. More recent research is disproving that theory. Scientists are learning the older human brain has a much greater capacity for learning and development than previously thought possible.

The study of neuroplasticity shows the pathways in your brain can develop and strengthen, even when you’re older. Your brain is a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Likewise, if you don’t exercise it, it’ll get weaker.

There’s no reason for your curiosity to die as you grow older, but it does. You may have stopped learning or striving for new goals, choosing instead to rest on your laurels and enjoy what you’ve already achieved.

If you think your level of curiosity could use a boost, here are just a few ways that can help you spark it back into life.

Ask questions

This can occasionally feel like a dangerous thing to do, but it isn’t. The only way to take a conversation to a deeper level is by asking questions. Ask and listen with an open mind full of curiosity rather than judging the responses.

Explore somewhere new

This can be a new holiday destination, but it can just as easily be a local restaurant or park that you’ve never visited. New environments are full of opportunities to encourage a curious mind.

Do something unexpected

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Consciously choose to do things differently. Take a different route on your daily walk or go to a different grocery store where you have to hunt for the items you need.

Learn about something new

This can be as simple as Googling a player on your favourite hockey team to find out more, or can involve randomly choosing a person, place or thing and seeing what you can discover.

Revisit childhood pastimes

What did you love to do when you were a child? Maybe you loved to colour, you’d spend hours on a swing, or go skating. How does it feel to do the same activities at your current age? This is a great topic to journal about or share with a friend.

Happy people are life-long learners. Learning comes when you allow yourself to be inquisitive. It doesn’t’ matter how old you are, it’s never too late to rediscover a sense of curiosity.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories