Does curiosity promote happiness?

The dozens of questions asked by my grandchildren make me wonder if curiosity promotes happiness. When provided with an answer, their eyes sparkle.

I often struggle to find an appropriate answer to the questions. What’s more, once provided with an answer more questions ensue.  

Children’s endless questions demonstrate their eagerness to discover the world. They have an insatiable desire to know how things work. Their sentences usually begin with the words why, how, who or when. 

Thank goodness, I’m a grandparent and not subjected to the daily tirade of questions that parents tolerate.  Perhaps that’s why I have more patience. I try to answer without getting frustrated as I know that children’s questions are valuable for learning, building relationships, and developing critical thinking skills.

Curiosity and Learning

Good teachers understand that encouraging curiosity in a classroom promotes better learning outcomes. Children who are motivated to discover how things work are likely to seek information through their questions. Teachers can guide their students to answers/information to fill the gap between what they know what they do not know. 

New experiences also stimulate children’s curiosity. Especially important are stimulating experiences in the early years when children’s brains rapidly develop neural pathways that form the foundations for continuing development over a lifetime.

Curious children grow to become lifelong learners and high performers. The scientists and scholars who received 2021 Nobel prizes, attributed their motivation for undertaking a specific area of research to curiosity regarding their field of study.  Curiosity led to questions about how the world works and how humans respond/react.  These research questions then led to important discoveries.  Sometimes it was prior knowledge of a topic that prompted questions.  Sometimes questions came from inconvenience. Finding answers often meant years of research and failed attempts before verifying a suitable answer. Finally, the prestigious Nobel prize rewarded effort, tenacity, and intellect. 


Curiosity and Happiness — photo courtesy of Rebekah Blocker on Unsplash

Curiosity and Positive Affect

Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, identified curiosity as one of the strengths most highly associated with overall life fulfillment and happiness.

It’s easy to understand that curiosity is crucial for happiness. It creates motivation for learning, enthusiasm for what’s ahead in life and positive emotions that increase happiness.

Curiosity helps us to see things differently and feel the joy, delight, and wonder of new discoveries.

Curiosity and Ageing

Sadly, as we grow older curiosity wanes. We’re embarrassed to ask questions about how things work.  We lose the childhood sense of wonder. We may be less willing to expose ourselves to unfamiliar experiences. This is unfortunate as curiosity can help us find solutions for some of the challenges of growing older. 

For example, if walking becomes difficult, curiosity may spark exploration of mobility aids.  It may encourage the use of a cane or a walker rather than sitting on the sidelines and foregoing opportunities to stay engaged with life.  Improved well-being, reduced risk of falling, and enhanced quality of life are added benefits from using a mobility aid.

To promote curiosity in adulthood and later years, we can learn how to look at the world with the fresh eyes of a child.  As in the example of mobility, we can use our curiosity to find solutions to the problems of ageing by trying new things. We can ask questions, even ‘dumb’ questions, in order to keep learning new things. Searching for answers brings new ideas as well as the excitement of interesting possibilities especially when we reach outside our comfort zone.

Ideas that I’m Trying

To improve my curiosity and happiness, I’ve begun to include questions to spark curiosity in my daily journal.  Sometimes the questions emanate from something I’ve read or experienced.  Or the questions link to things for which I express gratitude. The questions may take me on a google search, or lead to setting an intention/goal for the day.  Often one question leads to many others and I’m bursting with new ideas for a hobby or a blog post.

Ted talks, podcasts, books, and continuing education opportunities are easily accessible tools to find answers to my questions. Trying new things, engaging with hobbies, and developing new skills keep cognitive juices flowing. Socializing with people of diverse ages and backgrounds is also useful for keeping curiosity alive. All require some effort but result in novel experiences as well as consideration of unfamiliar ideas, all of which spark curiosity. 

Maintaining curiosity as one grows older is a sure-fire way to promote happiness and amplify well-being. Life satisfaction improves when we can answer those big beautiful questions, learn new stuff, and stay abreast of what’s happening around us.

I’m not sure that I’ve achieved that childlike sense of wonder but I know that curiosity and my daily questions leave little time for boredom!





6 Replies to “Does curiosity promote happiness?”

  1. Wonderful post! I like how you talk about curiosity in the young and then when aging, but then you apply the concept to yourself in your daily life. I do think effort is involved, and perhaps that is the downfall of those who lose their curiosity. It takes an effort to pursue that curiosity, but that effort can lead to life enrichment. I like how you think about curiosity on a daily basis. Making each day the best it can be leads to overall lifetime happiness. I like to think I try to make the most of each day, but I will be on the lookout for opportunities to pursue my curiosity. Thanks for your post – thoughtful and enjoyable as always. Hope you have a good day!

    1. There is research that supports a decline of curiosity as one grows older. Ageing seems to mean we take fewer risks and are happy to accept things as they are instead of questioning. I’m intrigued that so many Nobel prize winners are older people. It has taken them a long time to satisfy their curiosity — or to get to the finish line with proven research projects!

  2. Your blog email made me smile and as always it was an interesting read. One thing I’ve been curious about recently is simple steps to improve well being and I’ve been listening to “Just One Thing” by Michael Mosley – the podcasts are < 15 minutes and each one explores just one thing – from eating dark choclate each day to cold showers (not for me) via keeping house plants….

    1. I was listening to the ‘Just one Thing’ podcast but abandoned it. Your comment encourages me to go back to him as he does explore many interesting topics. Thanks for this reminder!

  3. I remember in the days before the Internet a couple of very elderly gentlemen who used to take turns to set themselves a daily question to resolve before proceeding to the library together to establish the answer. Their mobility and eyesight were both impeded but they retained their curiosity throughout and it certainly kept them happy.

    1. Those two must have enjoyed a rewarding relationship as well as some interesting forays into the library shelves! I’m sure they found great joy and purpose as they researched answers!

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