How to practice curiosity when we don’t feel it
One of the most useful therapeutic tools I have learned through my study of psychology and in my own life is curiosity. I has helped me and my clients slow down, increased compassion and reduced anxiety and irritation. But even with all of that, sometimes, we just don’t feel like it. Being burnt out, exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed can be huge obstacles to practicing and wanting to practice curiosity no matter how helpful it might be. So how can we overcome this? Well, first we start with having some compassion for ourselves and our own mood. Below are a few more ideas AFTER you’ve rested and been kind to yourself.
A great place to start is by changing your perspective. Instead of seeiing curiosity as a chore or a burden, try to see it as an opportunity to learn something new or a chance to deepen your understanding of a situation. And be easy on yourself, don’t start with a topic you “should” be curious about, start with one you daydream about or that is random. Then ask yourself, “What can I gain from being curious about this?” or “What might I be missing if I don’t explore this further?” The second question is great for places where we are struggling to care. This shift in mindset can make a big difference in your willingness to even practice curiosity.
Using an external prompt, from cards, the internet or from an app can be another great way to practice when it feels daunting to find our own way to curiosity. These prompts can sometimes spark your curiosity which will then lead you down a path of exploration and discovery. Finally, set yourself a ridiculously low bar of time. I will read up on this technology for one minute. I will watch one minute of this You-Tube workout video. I will do a one minute internet search. Most of us will keep going once genuine curiosity kicks in but all the arguments and obstacles become hard to believe in when the bar is “only one minute”.
Playfulness can be your best friend when you are feeling anxious or depressed. Rather than feeling like you “should” or “have to” while being serious and analytical, try to approach the situation with a sense of wonder and intrigue. You can start small with questions like, “I wonder why this is happening?” or “What would happen if I tried this differently?” Or that feels too monochromatic and boring, try using your senses. Going to the Monterrey Aquarium, Academy of Sciences or the Exploratorium all give you opportunities to get your hands on the science and wonder. Closer to home, pick up some plato or even break out some colored pencils and just see what happens on a sheet of paper. So often the obstacles in our life come from a need to constantly feel productive or efficient leading to dead feelings. Give yourself permission to play.
I’ll say it again because it is so important, give yourself some grace and don’t judge yourself for not feeling genuinely curious. Celebrating the small moments of curiosity and building on them over time will ultimately lead you back to the wonder and intrigue you felt in the world before all the stress and worry. With practice, curiosity will even become a natural and enjoyable part of your daily life.
Kashdan, T. B., & Silvia, P. J. (2009). Curiosity and interest: The benefits of thriving on novelty and challenge. In Positive psychology: The second wave (pp. 367-378). Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780203893750
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