There are just some words that defy translation. Sanskrit words such as karma or avatar for this reason, have become globally-used words. These are religious concepts primarily based on Hinduism, that have found their way in the global lexicon.
( karma: action, work, deed )
In English, karma is captured by the saying “you reap what you sow”.
This seems like such a common concept now in Western society, but the idea that our actions dictate our lives rather than some higher power deviates from the Judeo-Christian tradition. It’s not the wrath of God that causes our pain, but ourselves. Redemption is also not as easy as confession.
( namas: to bow | te: you )
Namaste is another one. Whether you’re taking a yoga class in a studio or the gym, anywhere in the world, namaste has become the de facto way of ending a yoga class.
Namaste, literally means “bowing to you” and is used as a form of greeting. It’s usually accompanied by a hand gesture, putting the palms together either on the face or chest.
After yoga class, saying ‘namaste’ with the hand gesture is a way to show gratitude to yourself, your teacher, and all that’s around you.
Can you think of other ways to incorporate namaste into your life aside from the physical yoga practice?
Embracing words not only means that we use them in conversations, but they have the power to influence our way of thinking and those around us.
Happiness and the Danes
Two Danish words that have crept up the global vocabulary are hygge and pyt. Psychologists believe that these concepts are key in relieving stress and making people happier.
Denmark continues to occupy the top 3 happiest countries in the world. There are macro-socioeconomic elements that can predict happiness such as universal healthcare and crime rates, but we can always glean from other’s cultural attitudes about life that seem to have a positive collective effect.
Pronunciation | [pyd]
Pyt is cultural concept that cultivates healthy thoughts to deal with stress and avoid anger. According to Danish psychologist Marie Helweg-Larsen, it’s English equivalent is “Don’t worry about it,” “stuff happens,” or “oh, well.” It’s a word you can tell yourself whenever something stressful happens.
“You might shatter a glass in the kitchen, shrug and say, “pyt.” You might see a parking ticket lodged under your windshield wiper and, just as you become hot with anger, shake your head and murmur, “pyt.”
source | Marie Helweg-Larsen, Popular Science
In these situations, I’ll probably use the swear English word “sh*t”. Ironically, my go-to word has the same monosyllabic punch of “pyt” but it means completely different. The word “sh*t” comes from a place of surprise and frustration. On the other hand, pyt is one of “accept and reset”.
Dealing with Daily Hassles
When it comes to having a good day, it’s the daily hassles that can be transformative. A good day doesn’t mean we need to have an extraordinary moment, but a fine day can easily turn sour with a simple experience such as missing a green light because we think the person in front of us is driving too slow.
The “tendency to blame others” is a source of anger in our daily lives. In these situations, we may start looking at strangers as incompetent or personalizing their behavior. We blame others and might conjure malicious intentions to explain the inconveniences we experience. The world, in our heads, becomes a meaner place.
source | Marie Helweg-Larsen, Popular Science
Pyt, the concept and the word can be useful in changing some of our knee-jerk reactions to unfavorable situations, but psychologists warn that it’s not an invitation to ignore wrongdoings or turn a blind eye. Not sweating the small stuff, doesn’t mean you stop caring all together.
audio source | Oxford Dictionaries
Pronunciation | [hʊgə]
Hygge is another Danish word that psychologists believe alleviates daily hassles. Translated as “intentional intimacy”, the Oxford dictionary defines it as:
“A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).”
Soure | Oxford Dictionary
This can be as simple as having coffee with people you care about, cooking and eating together in candlelight, playing games. The point is to make moments that seem mundane and consciously bring some hygge into it. Hygge builds deep trust and closeness, which results to more sources of happiness.
What I find most useful about hygge is that if we set hygge as the main intention, we can turn a simple dinner at home into a comforting experience. The dinner is not the end goal, but the means to hygge
And if hygge doesn’t happen, there’s always pyt.
In Case You’re Wondering
How Do You Measure a Country’s Happiness?
The Gallup World Poll conducts a massive global survey using a scale from 0 to 10, asking people to rate their lives, with 0 being the worst and 10 being the best possible life.
Some argue that instead of happiness, the results should rather be labeled as “life satisfaction”. Regardless of the label, the results of this poll have been instrumental in indicating large-scale social disruptions such as revolutions and political outcomes.
Ubuntu, a South African noun that means:
“A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity.”
Source | Oxford Dictionary
The word has been integral in international political language when it comes to peace building and diplomacy.
An example sentence would be: The world needs more ubuntu.