The mind is like a muscle: it becomes stronger with exercise, and there is no better mental exercise than curiosity.
Here are some ways that curiosity enhances our well-being and the quality of our lives:
- Curiosity helps us survive. The urge to explore and seek novelty helps us remain vigilant and gain knowledge about our constantly changing environment, which may be why our brains evolved to release dopamine and other feel-good chemicals when we encounter new things.
- Curious people are happier. Research has shown curiosity to be associated with higher levels of positive emotions, lower levels of anxiety, more satisfaction with life, and greater psychological well-being. Of course, it may be, at least partially, that people who are already happier tend to be more curious, but since novelty makes us feel good, it seems likely that it goes the other direction as well.The Gallup organization recently reported the results of a survey conducted with more than 130,000 people from some 130 nations, a sample designed to represent 96 percent of the world’s population. The poll identified two factors that had the strongest influence on how much enjoyment a person experienced in a given day: “being able to count on someone for help” and “learned something yesterday.”What this poll confirms is that developing good relationships with other people (see above) and growing as a person are foundational components of a “happy” life. Both factors are supported by curiosity.In fact, in one of the largest undertakings in the field of psychology, two pioneers in the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, PhD, and Chris Peterson, PhD, devised a scientific classification of the basic human strengths. This system was the end result of reading the works of ancient philosophers, religious texts and contemporary literature, then identifying patterns, and finally subjecting these ideas to rigorous scientific tests. Their research eventually recognized 24 basic strengths. And, of those 24 strengths that human beings can possess, curiosity was one of the five most highly associated with overall life fulfillment and happiness.
- Curiosity boosts achievement. Studies reveal that curiosity leads to more enjoyment and participation in school and higher academic achievement, as well as greater learning, engagement, and performance at work. It may seem like common sense, but when we are more curious about and interested in what we are doing, it’s easier to get involved, put effort in, and do well.
- Curiosity can expand our empathy. When we are curious about others and talk to people outside our usual social circle, we become better able to understand those with lives, experiences, and worldviews different than our own. Next time you have the chance to talk with a stranger, especially someone who may be quite dissimilar to you, try engaging with them on a personal level (respectfully, of course) and showing them that you are interested in what they have to say.
- Curiosity helps strengthen relationships. One study asked strangers to pose and answer personal questions, a process scientists call “reciprocal self-disclosure.” They found that people were rated as warmer and more attractive if they showed real curiosity in the exchange (while other variables like the person’s social anxiety and their levels of positive and negative emotions did not affect the partner’s feelings of attraction and closeness). This implies that demonstrating curiosity towards someone is a great way to build your closeness with them.It is far easier to form and maintain satisfying, significant relationships when you demonstrate an attitude of openness and genuine interest. One of the top reasons why couples seek counselling or therapy is because they’ve become bored with each other. This often sparks resentment, hostility, communication breakdowns and a lack of interest in spending time together (only adding to the initial problem). Curious people report more satisfying relationships and marriages. Happy couples describe their partners as interested and responsive.Curious people are inclined to act in ways that allow relationships to develop more easily. Curious people ask questions and take an interest in learning about partners, and they intentionally try to keep interactions interesting and playful. This approach supports the development of good relationships.
- Curiosity improves healthcare. Research suggests that when doctors are genuinely curious about their patients’ perspectives, both doctors and patients report less anger and frustration and make better decisions, ultimately increasing the effectiveness of treatment.
- You Will Clarify Yourself – Curiosity allows you to shed light on your troubles, thoughts, and personal circumstances. It motivates you to uncover the truth about the nuances of your life. When curiosity is properly honed, it serves as a vehicle for establishing personal goals.
- You Will Uncover the Truth – All that seems obvious in life is not necessarily true. A curious person doesn’t just take someone’s word for it; they discover the truth for themselves. The curious dig deep into the details, and when they finish their detective work, they don’t only know “what” or “when”, they know “how” and “why”.
- You Will Release Your Inner Child – Children are curious. They are like an empty canvas, waiting to be filled with knowledge and experiences. They don’t have predetermined expectations fogging their judgment. Children absorb the world around with an open mind driven by sheer curiosity. Curiosity can help open your mind too.
- You Will Experience Something Fresh – New experiences are one of the most exciting acts of living. They simulate your mind and free your creative emotion, thus liberating your thoughts from the tension of a daily routine. Be curious, be daring, be alive! Go discover something fresh.
- You Will Increase Your Productivity – A curious mind dives beneath the surface of common acceptance to unravel the details driving the process. The more you comprehend the details, the better you will understand the process. Thus, the more productive you will be.
- You Will Learn More Often – When your curiosity steers you into the unknown you will return with a greater wealth of knowledge. You will stretch the boundaries of your mind. The more you learn, the more you will want to know. Every new awareness will lead you to another stimulating challenge.
- You Will Become More Efficient – Curious people look at a challenge from multiple angles. They discover alternative ways of accomplishing the same task. The greater the pool of possible solutions, the more likely it is that they will expose a better way to get things done.
- You Will Experience a Spice of Variety – Variety is the spice of life, at least that’s what the curious folks understand. There is nothing more boring than repetition. When you allow your curiosity to send you in new directions you add variety into your life. This could be as simple as eating at a new restaurant or taking a new route to work. Don’t confine yourself, go explore.
- You Will Be More Positive – It is much easier to be negative about something than it is to be positive. If you don’t understand something, or it is unusual to your senses, it’s easy to write it off as being useless or dumb. Only when you truly understand something will you be able to appreciate it. Human beings tend to be more positive toward the things they understand. Curiosity naturally broadens a person’s horizons, and thus their understanding of the things around them.
- You Will Establish New Relationships – Your curiosity will lead you down roads you would otherwise not have traveled. On occasion you will almost certainly want to stop and look around. You never know, you may bump into someone you have a lot in common with.
- Curiosity gives you more meaning. If we are going to find a meaningful purpose or calling in life, chances are good we will find it in something that unleashes our natural curiosity and fascination. Indeed, curiosity is the entry point to many of life’s greatest sources of meaning and satisfaction: our interests, hobbies and passions.While being passionate about something naturally renders you curious to know as much as you can about it, it also works the other way around: The more curiosity you can muster for something, the more likely you are to notice and learn about it, and thus the more interesting and meaningful it will become for you over time.This is true of people, books, sports, skills and conversations. Often, the more curiosity and energy we invest in exploring and understanding them, the more compelling they become.This has important implications for how much meaning and passion we experience in life: The greater the range and depth of our curiosity, the more opportunities we have to experience things that inspire and excite us, from minute details to momentous occasions.
- Curiosity Increases our Intelligence. Studies have shown that curiosity positively correlates with intelligence. In one study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2002, researchers correctly predicted that high novelty-seeking (or highly curious) toddlers would have higher IQs as older children than toddlers with lower levels of curiosity. Researchers measured the degree of novelty-seeking behaviour in 1,795 3-year-olds and then measured their cognitive ability at age 11. As predicted, the 11-year-olds who had been highly curious 3-year-olds later scored 12 points higher on total IQ compared with low stimulation seekers. They also had superior scholastic and reading ability.Curiosity is the engine of intellectual achievement. Studies show that those who are more curious about a topic tend to learn faster. For example, this study shows that curiosity essentially primes the brain for learning. Renowned psychology professor George Loewenstein proposed that curiosity is not only a mental state but also an emotion that pushes us until we complete gaps in our knowledge.
- Curiosity improves your Health.In a 1996 study published in Psychology and Aging, more than 1,000 older adults aged 60 to 86 were carefully observed over a five-year period, and researchers found that those who were rated as being more curious at the beginning of the study were more likely to be alive at its conclusion, even after taking into account age, whether they smoked, the presence of cancer or cardiovascular disease, and so on.It is possible that declining curiosity is an initial sign of neurological illness and declining health. Nonetheless, there are promising signs that enhancing curiosity reduces the risk for these diseases and may even reverse some of the natural degeneration that occurs in older adults.Studies have shown that being open to new experiences keeps your brain active and alert, which can be immensely helpful in old age.
Source: marcandangel.com, psychcentral.com and the University of California, Berkeley