Learning new words; a cool way to boost your happiness!

Learning new words; a cool way to boost your happiness!


Sometimes life, with the aid of an unrelenting news cycle, can feel like an exercise in parsing out the particular kind of bad we are experiencing. Are we anxious or depressed, lonely or stressed?

Tim Lomas, a lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London — and a man who signs his emails “Best Wishes” — is engaged in the opposite endeavor: analyzing all the types of well-being that he can possibly find. Specifically, Lomas is searching for psychological insights by collecting untranslatable words that describe pleasurable feelings we don’t have names for in English. “It’s almost like each one is a window onto a new landscape,” Lomas says of words like the Dutch pretoogjes, which describes the twinkling eyes of someone engaged in benign mischief.

So far, with the help of many contributors, Lomas has amassed nearly 1,000 terms in what he calls a “positive lexicography,” and he recently published a book on the project called Translating Happiness. It’s not very light reading; at its core, the book is an academic argument that Western-centric psychologists have much to learn by considering the ways that far-flung cultures speak and think about well-being. But the collection itself has universal appeal: In his book, Lomas describes each word as an invitation for people to experience happy phenomena that may previously have been “unfamiliar to or hidden from them.”

There is widespread obsession with untranslatable words, as countless listicle-makers can attest. Why do we find these items so entrancing? They’re novel, for one. Untranslatable words can give us the sublime feeling one enjoys when briefly comprehending the size of the universe, reminding us that there are infinite perspectives to have and that there is a depth to things that we might not be comprehending. They can provide catharsis, crystallizing a hazy sentiment the same way a good dictionary definition does. They’re also useful: How could we talk to each other about the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude without schadenfreude or the bizarre disorientation of déjà vu without déjà vu?

Those are the kinds of “hidden” phenomena Lomas speaks about, feelings we have experienced but couldn’t — or never thought to — name. In his collection is the Spanish estrenar, which conjures the feeling of confidence one gets when wearing new clothes, as well as the Finnish hyppytyynytyydytys, which refers to the satisfaction one gets from sitting on a bouncy cushion or comfortable chair. There is the Arabic tarab, which describes musically-induced ecstasy and the Creole tabanca, a word for the bittersweet feeling one has when being left by the person they love.

By having a name at the ready, we may be more capable of recognizing and reveling in the good things, trivial and grand, better than if we vaguely described the concept…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE