Our eternal quest for happiness has a tendency to get a bit complicated. There are just so many caveats that crop up in pursuit of this golden standard.
Happiness comes from connecting with people, but not on Facebook. We need some friends, but not too many. Helping others is critical, yet so too is spending time alone. A certain amount of money brings us satisfaction, but there’s a threshold to this effect; and it’s better spent on freeing up time rather than material possessions.
It’s great to have such a cacophony of info; yet, it’s also enough to make anyone’s head spin.
So, it was with relief that we stumbled upon an intriguingly simple approach to this enormous and thorny topic.
The Hawaiian approach
According to a new article in Forbes, the Hawaiian language is brimming with different words that capture happiness. And one of these is “niele” – or the art of being curious.
“The Hawaiians believe everyone has a purpose in life; that’s a given,” explains writer (and avid traveller)
“So, it’s important to be curious and explore different avenues to figure out what that is. This sense of curiosity makes the present moment more exciting as you’re constantly on a journey of finding fulfillment.”
Openness to experience
There’s nothing big or flashy about being curious, and yet it opens up so many doors. And therein lies its genius.
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Time and again, we hear that new experiences are the key to happiness. Trying something different – whether that’s travelling to a new country, or learning a fresh skill – facilitates flexible thinking. It helps us to see the world in a different and more creative way.
And this entire process begins with being curious.
New people, new horizons
With curiosity also comes the opportunity to reach out to new people. It’s the driving force that compels us to reach out and tap into the stories of others.
Even little day-to-day encounters with people we hardly know gives a sense of belonging to a larger community.
Meeting strangers broadens our horizons, challenging us to think from a different point of view. Sometimes, those people become friends – which, of course, is an even bigger win in the happiness stakes.
Staying in the present
When you’re curious about the things and the people around you, you’re more likely to stay in the now. And living in the moment – rather than daydreaming or dwelling – really does make us happier.
“Human beings have this unique ability to focus on things that aren’t happening right now,” says Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard University, who contributed to a major study on mental wellbeing. “It seems that human beings often use this ability in ways that are not productive and furthermore can be destructive to our happiness.”
Being curious guards against becoming too lost in your own head. You look out to the world, rather than inwards to yourself.
Ask and you will find out
They say ignorance is bliss, but the opposite is actually true. Being curious means we ask more questions – and our thirst for knowledge is sated.
This, in turn, builds self-esteem and resilience.
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“Learning can help us build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy,” says Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness. “As human beings, we have a natural desire to learn and progress. Psychologists call it mastery.”
So, there you have it. Four ways for happiness to flourish, from the simple act of being curious.
Go forth and let your inner nosiness loose…