Curiosity positively impacts our health and well being, protecting cognitive function and adding to our ability to be creative and innovative.
Curiosity and health
Did you know that curiosity stimulates the dopaminergic and nonadrenegic systems in the brain, systems that are susceptible to age related decline. Dopamine and norephinephrine, have neuroprotective effects, including anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is not only associated with increased risk of physical disorders like stroke and infection but with cognitive decline and emotional disorder. It turns out that curiosity, (or the lack of), can predict not only cognitive function and decline, but may also predict depression. Curiosity may play a substantial role in maintaining cognitive functioning, physical health and overall well being as we age, (Sakaki, Yagi, & Murayama, May 2018). Curiosity itself aids learning and the effects of doparmine and norephinephrine helps preserve the structures of the hippocampus, thereby aiding memory.
There have been significant studies looking at the health benefits of positive emotions like curiosity and hope, with one study finding that a curious person had a 57% decrease in the likelihood of being diagnosed with hypertension, (Richman, et al., 2005). In fact, there appear to be a few studies claiming health benefits for being curious.
Now this could be a chicken and egg scenario, it may be that a curious person is less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment because they are structurally more inclined to curiosity, or, it may be that active curiosity helps build that physical advantage. It may be that the curious person is just more aware of information that benefits and enhances their health. No matter what, if curiosity helps maintain cognitive function, physical and mental well being, than it makes sense that we take some time to indulge and encourage our curiosity.
Curiosity and Creativity
It seems obvious that curiosity would support creativity, and given the demanding nature of the modern world, where change and complexity are a constant, and the ability to respond to change and challenge with creative solutions is in demand. It is hardly surprising creativity is the most in demand skill for the 21st century. Recent research, driven by the need to find best personnel solutions, has confirmed the link between curiosity and creativity, (Hagtvedt, Dossinger, Harrison, & Huang, 2019), (Hardy, Ness, & Mecca, 2017). Employers now actively recruit for curiosity, as it is an indicator of creativity and intelligence, another reason to indulge and foster your curiosity.
In the information age it is easy to indulge your curiosity from your PC and dive down the digital rabbit holes of the internet, but if you are looking for some additional resources to inspire your curiosity you could check out Curiosity.com, they have a daily podcast that summarises news of curious research into a ten minute podcast, or TED talks are great for curiosity inspiration, what I call happy wandering on the digital byways. But what my reading on curiosity showed me was that the real benefit might come from indulging more specific interests and satisfying a specific information need, Having a specific question you need an answer for seems to have a pretty beneficial impact on your creativity, (Hagtvedt, Dossinger, Harrison, & Huang, 2019). So maybe find something that arouses your curiosity and pursue it, it may leave you more creative and have a positive health impact as well. Let’s not forget that travel is a form of curiosity, at least it is the way I do it. I love the novelty and adventure of travel, the exposure to new things. Travel sparks and indulges my curiosity, whether it be adventurous overseas travel or a local bush walk.
How did I discover all this? Well, I was curious, and I work in an information environment, so accessing information was easy. Why do I indulge in this unnecessary research, well I was curious, and now I can feel pretty justified in giving into my nosy nature, curiosity is protecting my cognitive function, positively impacting on health factors and adding to my ability to be creative, why wouldn’t I be curious. So what are you curious about?
Hagtvedt, L. P., Dossinger, K., Harrison, S. H., & Huang, L. (2019). Curiosity made the cat more creative: Specific curiosity as a driver of creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 150. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.10.007
Hardy, J. H., Ness, A. M., & Mecca, J. (2017). Outside the box: Epistemic curiosity as a predictor of creative problem solving and creative performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 230-237. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.08.004
Richman, L. S., Kubzansky, L., Maselko, J., Kawachi, I., Choo, P., & Bauer, M. (2005, July). Positive emotion and health: Going beyond the negative. Health Psychology, 24(4).
Sakaki, M., Yagi, A., & Murayama, K. (May 2018). Curiosity in old age: A possible key to achieving adaptive aging. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 88, 106-116. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.03.007