This is part three of the guest blog series on Resilience by Nancy McCranie. This series looks at resilience and explores self-care practices you can use.

A basic support for a joyful mind is curiosity, paying attention, taking an interest in the world around you. Happiness is not required, but being curious without a heavy judgmental attitude helps. If you are judgmental, you can even be curious about that. ~Pema Chodron~

For our tenth wedding anniversary, I decided I wanted a tune-up. Not for my car, mind you, but for our marriage. Nothing was particularly wrong. It’s just that we had been many miles (literally and figuratively) since that July day in 1988 when we both said, “I do.” We had traveled together outside the United States for many years, living on a shoestring budget. After our return, we started all over, going back to work, buying a piece of land in Bastrop County, moving into a beat-up old trailer, adopting some dogs and cats, planting an orchard of blueberry bushes, and welcoming a bouncing baby boy. We were thinking about another baby. And it just seemed like the right time to pause and revisit old patterns of communicating; to reconsider well-worn habits; to figure out who we were now that we weren’t just husband and wife, but mom and dad.

Admittedly, my need to “verbally process” is much, much higher than Bill’s. But he loves me and agreed, albeit reluctantly, to six sessions with a marriage and family counselor.

It was harder than I thought it would be. There were some uncomfortable moments. I had to look at some things about myself. I did not want to see, and so did Bill. But the thing that stuck with us; the thing we still remember 22 years later is that, when we would arrive at an impasse, our counselor would always say to us, get curious. In other words, don’t get stuck in one point of view; don’t get fixated on being right; lean in with a sense of wonder and openness. It didn’t solve all our issues. He is definitely a strong-willed redhead, and I can still smolder and sulk like nobody’s business. But it gave us another tool for our proverbial tool chest. And since curiosity is a first cousin to playfulness, it helped us remember to lighten up instead of digging in.

When you’re in a tight spot, getting curious can create enough space to find a way through. When you are so angry that you’re about to blow a gasket, getting curious can release enough pressure to prevent an explosion. When you’re feeling hurt or disappointed, getting curious can clear a path for forgiveness and reconciliation. Getting curious is a great way to enhance your resilience.

Cultivating a curious and inquiring mind has been linked to the following:

  • lower levels of aggression
  • higher intelligence
  • enhanced neurological health
  • longevity
  • happier relationships
  • greater satisfaction with life
  • decreased belly fat *

To Practice: Try looking at someone (or something) in your life from a fresh perspective. Learn three interesting things about them. Listen more carefully. Look for something new to appreciate and tell them what it is.

*Ok, I made that up, about the belly fat. 

Visit our grief resources page for additional tools that may provide comfort through your grief journey.

Nancy McCranie is the author of our guest blog series on Resilience. She began working for Hospice Austin as a chaplain in 1996. Since 2009 she has served as the Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services. Nancy is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and holds an M.Div. Degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is Chair of the Clinical Pastoral Education Committee at The Seton Family of Hospitals, a member of Mission Presbytery, and Parish Associate for the First Presbyterian Church, Elgin, Texas. Nancy is married to Bill, an organic/bio-dynamic farmer & rancher who raises blueberries and beef. They have two sons, three dogs, two cats & a donkey.

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