The Happiness Connection  

It's good to be more than a little curious

Curiosity matters

Last night, I was reading a piece in the Globe and Mail, about Laylah Fernandez. She’s the nineteen-year-old Canadian who advanced to the U.S. Open tennis final. (By the time this is published, she will either be a grand slam champion, or runner-up.)

The paper quoted her dad and coach as saying, “The art of being a great coach is understanding that you know nothing. And when you know nothing, all you do is get hungry to find out.”

This caught my attention and started me thinking about curiosity.

What comes to mind when you think about this word? I’m willing to bet that the saying “Curiosity killed the cat” entered the heads of many of you. That’s where my mind went.

Although that was the saying I thought of first, it’s about the only one I could find that frowns upon curiosity. There are many quotes that encourage us to question.

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Curiosity is the engine of achievement.

Ken Robinson

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein

Dr. Jean Piaget defined curiosity as an urge to explain the unexpected. It’s one of the precepts for wellbeing that I share in my book Modelling Happiness.

Humans are natural learners. If you allow your inquisitive nature to roam freely, you’ll boost your sense of happiness.

It has other benefits as well. Curiosity encourages creativity and makes it easier to adapt to new situations. It fosters the discovery of novel solutions. It reduces conflict and encourages communication.

Research also shows that curious people are less likely to fall into a confirmation bias. This is the tendency to notice information that supports your already held opinions and overlooks things that don’t. If you find yourself becoming judgmental as you go on your quest for knowledge, you may be falling prey to this bias.

I wonder if our pandemic experience would change if we assumed we knew nothing and instead decided to get curious. Of course, that would involve letting go of our currently held beliefs, assumptions, and judgements.

It’s not about whether other people agree with you. It’s about gaining a clearer understanding of multiple perspectives, and maybe uncovering something totally new in the process.

This is the strangest time I’ve ever lived through. When there was talk about a second wave of Covid-19 last fall, I didn’t for one second consider a year later we’d be experiencing a fourth wave. Now I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about an eighth one.

Rather than getting caught up in politics and negativity, try fostering an open mind and get curious about yourself, your life, and your world. In the words of Debasish Mridha, “Curiosity is the origin of knowledge. Experience is the origin of wisdom.”

Let’s replace fear of the unknown with curiosity. It’s a perfect time in history to become both wiser and better informed.


When it comes to vaccines, make your choice but respect others

Tough choices

I don’t know about you, but my heart is heavy.

The pandemic has been bad enough in its own right, but the division that’s been instigated by the vaccination debate is even more exhausting. It feels like we’re in a no-win situation.

I had an appointment on Wednesday that meant I was in the vicinity of the hospital. I knew something was happening when I couldn’t find anywhere to park and could hear car horns and cheers.

It wasn’t until I asked the receptionist what was happening, that I discovered there was a protest.

I’ve been trying to live in my own bubble by limiting my news intake and social media engagement.

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to see for myself what was happening. So, I drove past the hospital on my way home

I’ll be honest. I was a little confused by some of the signs I saw.

There were the expected anti-vaccine and anti-vaccine passport ones, as well as some about personal freedom. I noticed one or two people holding signs that were protesting the protesters.

The signs that caused me to look twice were the ones saying we should support the nurses and other health care workers.

I’m totally in favour of doing that. But in my mind, that would involve not protesting outside their place of business. Covid-19 is putting an incredible strain on nurses. In my head, getting vaccinated is an action of support for them.

I wasn’t thinking about the healthcare workers who are being asked to choose between their jobs and their principles. Those were the individuals these signs were supporting. It was a freedom of choice statement.

I suspect the main reason I find the vaccination situation so distressing, is because there doesn’t seem to be a win-win solution available.

If you flip everything and say the public can do whatever they want, there will be protests about the government not protecting their people.

So, what can we do?

We can make the choice that’s best for us, without outside influences making us feel that one decision is better than the other.

We can stop arguing about why we are right and other people are wrong. It’s very unlikely that anyone is going to change their mind, based on a debate with another person. As I’ve written about in the past, believing you’re right, is part of your survival mechanism.

We can remember that decisions always come with consequences. As the old saying states, “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”

I choose to view the world as a benevolent place. One of my most fundamental beliefs is that life is happening for me, not to me. As a result, I decided to trust the experts and the vaccine.

If it turns out that I’ve poisoned my body, I’ll have to live with that in the future. For now, this feels like the best option for me and the community I live in.

If you decide not to take that chance, or can’t stand to have your perceived freedoms curtailed, don’t get vaccinated. But accept that for now, this option may affect how you live.

We’re all being gifted with the opportunity to really go within ourselves to make a choice.

What do you believe? Do you believe it enough to stop eating in a restaurant, or to look for a new line of work? Do you trust your choice enough to risk your future health?

In a perfect world, you want to make a choice that doesn’t restrict you, but life is often imperfect. You may feel none of this is fair, but that’s nothing new either.

We’re each responsible for our own decisions and for taking responsibility for what happens as a result.

If you’re on the fence, listen to both sides and then take time to listen to your heart. Choose what’s best for you, not what you think is right, based on what your friends and family say.

Once you commit, try to be courteous towards people who don’t agree with you. Choosing to be respectful and compassionate, may be the most life-changing decision any of us will make as we navigate these tumultuous times.

Resisting change is futile

Technically, September isn’t the start of a new year, but in my head, it is. I guess with being either a student, a teacher, or parent of school-aged children for so long, this makes sense.

For many years, August brought with it, dreams about teaching. They were usually nightmares that involved being trapped in the school with my students, or them refusing to listen to me.

I no longer face the prospect of another year of school, but even so, I’m always sad to sense the end of the season. I love the sunshine, long days of sunlight, and warm weather of summer.

But we aren’t in a usual sort of year. Along with all the other strange things that are going on, I found myself ready to move into fall several weeks ago. That’s never happened before.

I love the lazy days of summer. This year they were a bit too hazy and definitely too crazy to really enjoy.

I heard Chris Walker of CBC radio sum it up by saying we spent the first half of the summer in an oven, and the second in a chimney.

That’s a pretty accurate summation.

However, being ready for something to end doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen more quickly. If we had the power to change the weather, we might not be in this situation.

Summer always comes to an end at some point. How we feel about the transition has no effect on the outcome.

This lack of control applies to many things in life.

Almost everything dies eventually. It may take millions of years, or a matter of minutes, but few things last forever. Planets, seasons, and people all fall into this inevitable conclusion.

The only thing you have power over is your attitude towards the ending. Resisting change doesn’t make it easier to deal with its evolution.

Instead of trying in vain to stop the progression of time, take steps to make the transition easier.

Accept that change is inevitable and look forward.

The movement of time is what brings growth and excitement of the unknown. Can you imagine how boring life would become if there was nothing new to experience?

Our environment needs all four seasons, so take time to envision the benefits and pleasures that lay ahead. Look forward to cozy times in front of the fire, days on the slopes, and your warmer clothing.

Don’t go from lazy to crazy in one fell swoop.

Gently ease yourself into the transition from one season to the next.

Try not to throw your family into all the activities that come with a new school year. Set some time aside just to kick back and relax, rather than nonstop rushing around.

If you have children, make small changes to gradually re-establish school-time routines.

Adapt some of your favourite summer activities, so they’re more fall friendly.

Just because it isn’t as warm, that’s no excuse not to get outside, go out on the lake, or have a picnic. Aim for some lazy, crazy days of autumn.

Change and transition doesn’t have to be hard. You get to choose how you want to progress through it. If you want to feel differently, change your perspective.

If all else fails, remember how quickly time passes. Before you know it, summer will be back, and you’ll be another year older.

Your walk of shame

Have you ever been in a situation that left you wanting the ground to open and swallow you up?

Of course, you have. You’re human.

Some people are more easily embarrassed than others. For many years, I was one of those people. I think it’s because I was raised to care too much about what other people thought of me.

I was trying to be the person I believed I should be, rather than who I really am. That person needed to be kept from view.

I learned to deal with embarrassment when I was in my 20s. I used these experiences as dinner party entertainment. No situation was too mortifying to share with my friends, who laughed uproariously.

Everybody loves to hear about another person’s cringe-worthy experiences. We can all relate and imagine ourselves in a similar situation.

I wonder if I’d be so quick to share things that I’m truly ashamed of.

That thought emerged because embarrassment is a mild version of shame.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

In other words, shame surfaces when you say or do something that re-enforces a deeply hidden belief that you’re in some way broken or not good enough.

You don’t want others to realize this, so your first instinct is to distance yourself from whatever happened. This usually entails running away from it or burying it deeply so you can pretend it never happened.

I think of shame as being an emotional mushroom. Fungi doesn’t like direct sunlight. It prefers a shady environment.

So does shame. It doesn’t want you to bring it into the open, because then it would die.

It prefers to lie in the darkness, waiting for any chance it can find to resurface. Usually when you’re least expecting it. Every time it arises, you remember how inadequate you are.

The lower your self-esteem, the easier it is for shame to materialize. When you already believe you’re less than you should be, you use that lens to interpret your experiences.

As long as you keep shame hidden, it’ll thrive. The best way to deal with it is to bring it out into the open.

I’ve been experimenting with this idea. Is it possible to stop shame in its tracks, simply by choosing to acknowledge and look directly at the source of it?

What better place to start my trial than with my long-time foe, my body image?

I’ve been ashamed of my figure for most of my life. It didn’t fit with the images I was surrounded by when I grew up. The media had me convinced that I needed to look like Twiggy.

Being stick thin and flat chested was the ideal body shape, back in the day. That was never going to be me. Even when I was very slender, I was always curvy.

I’m sure you can relate to looking back at old photos and regretting not appreciating what you looked like. If you’ve always loved and valued your physical self, think about something else you’ve judged as not good enough.

I decided the best way to kick this destructive emotion to the curb, was to stop hiding myself – from me. I needed to bring what I believed was broken into the light and let it be seen. Not just once, but regularly.

It was time to stop behaving as if my body was something to hide. Instead of looking away from the mirror when I stepped in or out of the shower, it was time to lock eyes with my reflection. I wanted to be able to look at myself without the usual lens of criticism.

I added more opportunities to bring my physique out in the open by performing my morning and bedtime routines without anything on. It was uncomfortable at first, but like anything, I got used to it.

One morning I was shocked to see the body that was reflected back to me looked different. I no longer saw a woman who was the size of a barn. Instead, I was greeted by someone with a tall, long-limbed build.

I’ve spent my life looking through a distorted lens. Yes, there are fat deposits and wrinkles, but they don’t make me ugly or substandard. They’re simply part of me and the choices I’ve made.

My attitude has changed because I was willing to uncover my shame and expose it to the light.

Regardless of what your body looks like, it still deserves to be nurtured and treated with love and respect. You don’t have to look like a model to be worthy of admiration and affection.

It’s time to stop thinking you’re broken. You do not need to be fixed. This applies to mental and emotional aspects of you, as well as your physical appearance.

Treat shame with a strong dose of light. It can only thrive if you hide it in the deep, dark shadows.

For me, the process was painful initially. But the end result was worth every moment of my suffering.

You are undoubtedly your harshest critic. It’s unlikely anyone else is judging every flaw and concluding you aren’t good enough.

In the off change that someone is, don’t worry about it. What they think, isn’t part of your journey. That’s on them.

The only one you should care about accepting you, is you.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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