They say that one of Miguel de Unamuno’s greatest hobbies (apart from writing and teaching) was origami, more specifically, making paper bow ties. He called it cocotology and wrote a rather curious book, Apuntes para un tratado de cocologia (Notes for a Treatise on Cocotology) about it.
It’s also said that the poet, Emily Dickinson, had a passion for baking bread. Indeed, she adored the aroma of freshly made dough and, after inventing various recipes, was inspired to start writing poetry. One of Agatha Christie’s passions was also rather striking. It was archeology. As a child, she had a revealing dream in which she saw herself unearthing ancient cities and artistic vestiges from remote times. From that moment on, she always had a fascination with that world.
Although her life took her in other directions, at the age of 40, she traveled to the ancient city of Ur, in Iraq, an important nucleus of ancient Mesopotamia. She wanted to spend some time among that world of sand, rocks, and underground mysteries. It was there that she met the love of her life, the renowned archaeologist, Max Mallowan.
It seems that the little things that fascinate and excite us and end up becoming small obsessions, often give way to great events in our lives. Therefore, finding what excites you allows you to move forward and even feel self-fulfilled.
We’re programmed to seek rewarding experiences. This allows us to find meaning, motivation, and pleasure in our existence.
Our daily chocolate ice cream
The person with depression carries with them something more than simple sadness. In fact, they’re trapped in constant anhedonia. In other words, they’re not capable of experiencing any pleasure, curiosity, enjoyment, or satisfaction. Nothing excites them, and even everything that they used to be passionate about and that entertained them no longer makes any sense. Few sensations can be more devastating.
This is because, as human beings, we’re programmed to seek rewarding sensations and flee from unpleasant ones. Positive valence emotions are the ones that give us stimulating contributions of dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline, essential for our well-being, motivation, and learning. If those neurotransmitters aren’t present, something in us switches off.
The psychologist, Silvan Tomkins, explained with his affect theory, the idea that mental health depends, to a large extent, on the ability to maximize rewarding experiences. Consequently, finding what excites you will be your daily lifeline, no matter how insignificant it is. It’s rather like treating yourself to a moment of calm while enjoying a chocolate ice cream.
A motivated brain, a mind that’s able to find motivators on a regular basis, develops a more flexible and change-oriented cognitive approach to achieving well-being and new goals.
Getting excited favors cognitive flexibility
Often the things that excite us are the most elementary and inconsequential. Emily Dickinson was obsessed with the smell of freshly baked bread, but it also fueled her inspiration to compose poems. Agatha Christie always had a fascination for archaeology, and this helped her to develop the odd novel. It was also responsible for her finding the love of her life.
Finding what excites you opens your mind, broadens your perspective and breaks your negative thought patterns. In fact, research highlights that positively valenced emotions favor cognitive flexibility.
In other words, they make it easier for your brain to adapt to unexpected and changing situations through new ideas and behaviors. On the other hand, those who are trapped in the prison of anxiety, discouragement, and anguish, are incapable of reacting to challenges or of bringing innovative ideas to the simplest problems. They only experience fear, avoidance, and feelings of discouragement.
Emotions such as joy, curiosity, passion, or pleasure make us more prone to action and change.
Be daring: look for what excites you
Sometimes, after a bad day, everything looks better when you’ve taken a walk while enjoying a delicious chocolate ice cream. At other times, music is your savior or a good book serves as your refuge. Or, finding a new hobby opens up new horizons for you. This is because there are some emotional states that triumph over grief, making you reformulate your limiting thoughts and beliefs.
So go for it, find out what excites you. Look for what awakens in you the magic word of enthusiasm and you’ll see how, gradually, your mental schemas become more flexible. To achieve this, it’s worth fostering the states that psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, defines as ‘star emotions’. They’re those gratifying states that have the power to mediate your well-being, success, and happiness. They’re as follows:
1. Look for what gives you joy
Joy is more than just laughing. It’s feeling effusiveness and positivity in an intense way. After all, you only have to be with someone who always brings out the best in you with their thoughts and ideas to see life in a brighter and more hopeful way.
2. Serenity gives you calm
A walk, a reading, a nap, meditation. We can all find serenity in the simplest possible ways. They’re those moments when you feel grateful, safe, and at peace.
3. Interest, the curious mind
Psychological and mental well-being requires that you never let go of that childish look that wants to know everything. Curious people are awake beings, connected with their environment. They always have something new to learn.
4. Stay hopeful
Look for what excites you and allows you to maintain hope in any circumstance. When you discover something that gives you meaning and are passionate about, you feel more tied to the present, united to life and the future.
5. Be proud of yourself
Occasionally, you find a new hobby, something that you’re particularly good at, that suddenly opens up new perspectives. Realizing that you’re competent in a certain area affects your psychological well-being because it helps you raise your self-esteem.
6. Have fun, don’t let go of your inner child
When was the last time you had fun? When did you laugh and enjoy yourself like you used to do when you were a child? Never stop enjoying these kinds of moments in the company of special people with whom you feel happy.
7. Look for what inspires you
Inspiration is a force halfway between the emotional and the cognitive that expands your mind. It elevates and guides you toward new behaviors. It’s essential that you find areas, disciplines, or practices in your life that generate this sensation.
Indeed, when you have inspiration in your mind and heart, your sorrow fades and your desire to move, seek more stimuli, and achieve certain goals is ignited. Inspiration means pleasure. It’s a flame that you should never allow to be extinguished.
Finally, if you’re feeling low in mood and energy, look for what excites you. It doesn’t matter that you don’t feel like it at the moment. Desire will appear when you get active, go beyond your everyday thresholds, and find something challenging and new. It could even completely change your life.
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