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Recent research shows that curious people generally report “higher levels of subjective well-being which, in turn, is associated with lower levels of depression.”
Does this mean cultivating curiosity can help alleviate depression? Maybe it can, but when someone is severely depressed nothing seems worth investigating and there is little energy to explore. Perhaps the best that depressed people can do is become curious about why they are not curious.
Maybe depression inhibits the trait of curiosity or maybe a lack of curious exploration leads to a depressive state, or both. Or, maybe depression is a natural disillusionment with the external world, inviting us to dive into the hidden depths of our being.
The research into curiosity and depression suggests that those who are curious are less likely to be attentive to the negative aspects of life. This orients them toward areas of life that are naturally rewarding. However, even researchers admit this may only apply to individuals who have curiosity as a character strength.
Maybe individuals become depressed when they are unable or unwilling to exercise their character strengths, whatever they might be: curiosity, leadership, creativity, organization, or any other trait. If so, a depressed individual might need to dive into their depths to discover what aspects of their self long to be used.
This is worth considering if you believe, as many Eastern-oriented healers do, that symptoms of illness and distress are part of the healing process. If sadness, feelings of worthlessness and lethargy (symptoms of depression) are part of a healing process, depressed individuals need to be attentive or be curious about them instead of trying to get rid of them.
Yet, by getting rid of depressive symptoms, it is easier to pursue those things we are naturally curious about, or interested in doing, isn’t it? Unfortunately, with depression, there are no easy answers.
Whatever your thoughts about curiosity, if you are suffering from depression there is no need to be alone with it. Seek help and try different coping strategies and treatments until you find something that makes a difference. If you think that you cannot care for yourself or keep yourself safe, call a family member, a crisis line, go to an emergency room or call 911.
Photo credit: Gilad Rom / flickr creative commons
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