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What Curiosity Really Kills

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Curiosity Kills The Neurodegeneration

Of the seven things that Leonardo da Vinci considered most important for developing and maintaining the mind, number one on his list was curiosity, and we’re going to be focussing on that today.

In case you are curious about what seven things made Leonardo’s* list, they were:

  1. Curiosità: an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning
  2. Dimostrazione: a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes
  3. Sensazione: the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as a means to enliven experience
  4. Sfumato: (lit: “gone up in smoke”) a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty
  5. Arte/Scienza: the curated balance of art and science, imagination and logic
  6. Corporalità: the cultivation of physical grace, ambidexterity, and fitness
  7. Connessione: a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of phenomena (systems-based thinking)

*In case you are curious why we wrote “Leonardo” and not “da Vinci” as per our usual convention of shortening names to last names, da Vinci is not technically a name, in much the same way as “of Nazareth” was not a name.

You can read more about all 7 of these in a book that we’ve reviewed previously:

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day – by Michael J. Gelb

But for now, let’s take on “curiosity”!

If you need an extra reason to focus on growing and nurturing your curiosity, it was also #1 of Dr. Daniel Levitin’s list of…

The Five Keys Of Aging Healthily

…and that’s from a modern-day neuroscientist whose research focuses on aging, the brain, health, productivity, and creativity.

But how do we foster curiosity in the age of Google?

Curiosity is like a muscle: use it or lose it

While it’s true that many things can be Googled to satisfy one’s curiosity in an instant…

  • do you? It’s only useful if you do use it
  • is the top result on Google reliable?
  • there are many things that aren’t available there

In short: douse “fast food information” sources, but don’t rely on them! Not just for the sake of having correct information, but also: for the actual brain benefits which is what we are aiming for here with today’s article.

If you want the best brain benefits, dive in, and go deep

Here at 10almonds we often present superficial information, with links to deeper information (often: scholarly articles). We do this because a) there’s only so much we can fit in our articles and b) we know you only have so much time available, and/but may choose to dive deeper.

Think of it in layers, e.g:

  • Collagen is good for joints and bones
  • Collagen is a protein made of these amino acids that also requires these vitamins and minerals to be present in order to formulate it
  • Those amino acids are needed in these quantities, of which this particular one is usually the weakest link that might need supplementing, and those vitamins and minerals need to be within this period of time, but not these ones at the exact same time, or else it will disrupt the process of collagen synthesis

(in case you’re curious, we covered this here and here and offered a very good, very in-depth book about it here)

Now, this doesn’t mean that to have a healthy brain you need to have the equivalent knowledge of an anatomy & physiology degree, but it is good to have that level of curiosity in at least some areas of your life—and the more, the better.

Top tips for developing a habit of curiosity

As you probably know, most of our endeavors as humans go best when they are habits:

How To Really Pick Up (And Keep!) Those Habits

And as for specifically building a habit of curiosity:

  1. Make a deal with yourself that when someone is excited to tell you what they know about something (no matter whether it is your grandkid, or the socially awkward nerd at a party, or whoever), listen and learn, no matter the topic.
  2. Learn at least one language other than your native language (presumably English for most of our readers). Not only does learning a language convey a lot of brain benefits of its own, but also, it is almost impossible to separate language learning from cultural learning, and so you will learn a lot about another culture too, and have whole new worlds opened up to you. Again, more is better, but one second language is already a lot better than none.
  3. Make a regular habit of going to your local library, and picking out a non-fiction book to take home and read. This has an advantage over a bookshop, by the way (and not just that the library is free): since library books must be returned, you will keep going back, and build a habit of taking out books.
  4. Pick a skill that you’d like to make into a fully-fledged hobby, and commit to continually learning as much about it as you can. We already covered language-learning above, but others might include: gardening (perhaps a specific kind), cooking (perhaps a specific kind), needlecraft (perhaps a specific kind), dance (perhaps a specific kind). You could learn a musical instrument. Or it could be something very directly useful, like learning to be a first responder in case of emergencies, and committing to continually learning more about it (because there is always more to learn).

And when it comes to the above choices… Pick things that excite you, regardless of how practical or not they are. Because that stimulation that keeps on driving you? That’s what keeps your brain active, healthy, and sharp.


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