I heard a beautiful quote from Elizabeth Gilbert recently that really resonated with me. During a conversation with podcaster Jonathon Fields, she said, “curiosity is the opposite to depression; you cannot be curious and depressed.” I’d always assumed happiness was the opposite to depression, but I realised that, while you can’t be happy all the time, the absence of happiness does not mean you are depressed. So what stops us from sinking into depression when we’re are challenged or flat?
Here’s what I realised, via Liz’s wisdom: curiosity has often been the very thing that has lifted me out of depression. The Eat Pray Love author gives her own example: “During a time of deep depression, I spent every afternoon crying on the couch – I would literally be sitting in the same spot on the same couch at the same time every day, crying. It was like Groundhog Day. Then one day, I got curious about it and thought, what if I stand on one leg in the middle of the lounge room. So I did it, and I was still crying, but it changed something. That was the beginning of me slowly inching myself out of depression.”
When I am curious, I am not always happy, but I am vibrant and alive. Curiosity fuels my creativity and allows me to solve insurmountable problems. It is curiosity that whispers in my ear, “have you thought about why you feel rushed all the time? Let’s see what we can let go of. Let’s see how much space we can open up for you. Maybe you don’t need to go to that event? Maybe you don’t need to enrol the kids in extra sport? What if we tried this?”
Curiosity is not dogmatic. It doesn’t dish out shoulds. It doesn’t thrive on guilt. Curiosity is truly wild and original, and whenever you’re curious, you won’t be able to stay depressed for long.
HOW TO DEVELOP CURIOSITY
- Question everything
Here are some good questions to begin with.
– Why do I feel the need to distract myself when I eat. What would happen if I just ate without reading, watching the net etc? Let’s try it.
– I wonder what would happen if I started prioritising exercise over work? Would I be any less productive? Let’s try it.
– I wonder if I could decrease my work hours and still make the same amount of money? Let’s explore this.
– I wonder what would happen if I cuddled my son the next time he has an angry outburst instead of chiding him? Let’s experiment.
By questioning yourself this way, you allow the soft, playful attitude of experimentation to permeate your day.
Prayer is what I resort to when I have exhausted all my mental faculties and picked the brains of all my loved ones. But right now, I’m experimenting with praying first – before the shit hits the fan. Prayer changes the energy around the problem immediately, allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief. This works for me because I’ve turned my problems over to source before, and always emerged with an outcome I’m happy with. This I know: The universe is bigger than me, and curiosity reminds me to tap into its infinite creatively and problem-solving magic.
- Flip negativity on its head
Try this exercise: List all your greatest faults and imagine that they were actually amazing virtues that you feel super grateful for. Here are some of mine:
– I am so grateful for the fact that I have few friends and am not part of a girl gang. I love that I am an introvert who is not always open and friendly. This allows me to spend plenty of time alone or with my family, which I find both relaxing an energising. I am an amazing, curious, wonderful introvert!
– I am so grateful that I struggle to be organised. This allows me to have empathy for other people who struggle with organisation and I get to have fun experimenting with organisational tools that work for me – then I can blog about them!
– I am so grateful that I am very sensitive and emotional. This means I have empathy for others and really care about how people feel. My emotions communicate so much wisdom to me. I love this about me!
Aaah, that felt good. Suddenly, your greatest faults can become your biggest strengths. Here lies the power of creative curiosity.
I define play as engaging in an activity where there is no goal and you easily lose yourself. People play in different ways. I encourage you to find your way of playing. I play with ideas in my journals – a safe space away from my perfectionist writing judge. In my journal, I don’t write ‘well’, I write for fun. My journal contains plenty of bad poems and crazy mind chatter, but it really is my playground.
While the idea of being ‘happy’ feels pressured and conjures up images of bleached-teeth magazine smiles, ‘curiosity’ feels soft, fun and deep. And more attainable. Experiment with a curious mindset and let it take you where it will. It just might lead you to happiness – for a moment.
Where is your curiosity taking you right now?