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The 'untranslatable' emotions you never knew you had

Behaviors for well-being

  • Dadirri (Australian aboriginal): a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
  • Pihentagyú (Hungarian): literally meaning “with a relaxed brain”, it describes quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions
  • Desenrascanço (Portuguese): to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation
  • Sukha (Sanskrit): genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances
  • Orenda (Huron): the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate.

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    The 'untranslatable' emotions you never knew you had

    The 'untranslatable' emotions you never knew you had


    Key Ideas

    The Positive Lexicography Project

    It aims to offer a more nuanced understanding of ourselves, by capturing many ways of expressing good feelings from across the world.
    It is directed by Tim Lomas at the University of East London, who is working towards getting many "untranslatable" experiences get in our daily vocabulary.

    Highly specific positive feelings

    ... that depend on particular circumstances:

    • Desbundar (Portuguese): to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun
    • Tarab (Arabic): a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
    • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese): the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
    • Gigil (Tagalog): the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
    • Yuan bei (Chinese): a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
    • Iktsuarpok (Inuit): the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived.

    Complex and bittersweet experiences

    • Natsukashii (Japanese): a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer
    • Wabi-sabi (Japanese): a “dark, desolate sublimity” centered on transience and imperfection in beauty
    • Saudade (Portuguese): a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist
    • Sehnsucht (German): “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable.

    Behaviors for well-being

    • Dadirri (Australian aboriginal): a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
    • Pihentagyú (Hungarian): literally meaning “with a relaxed brain”, it describes quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions
    • Desenrascanço (Portuguese): to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation
    • Sukha (Sanskrit): genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances
    • Orenda (Huron): the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate.

      Emotional granularity

      It's our capacity to distinguish between the particularities of our emotions. This then determines how well we cope with life.
      Some of us use different emotion words interchangeably, while others are highly precise in their descriptions.


      First words to learn

      In English, just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. We use those words a lot, and that’s the case in every other language as well.

      Use flash cards of the mo...

      Learn cognates

      Cognates are “true friends” of words you recognize from your native language that mean the same thing in another language.

      For instance:

      •  Words like Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, and thousands of other -tion words are spelled exactly the same in French, and you can quickly get used to the different pronunciation. Change that -tion to a -ción and you have the same words in Spanish. Italian is -zione and Portuguese is -ção.
      • Many languages also have words that share a common (Greek/Latin or other) root.
      • Even languages as different as Japanese can have heaps of very familiar vocabulary. 
      Interact in your language daily
      • To hear the language consistently spoken, you can check out for a vast selection of live-streamed radio from your country of choice. 
      • To watch the language consistently, see what’s trending on Youtube in that country right now. 
      • To read the language consistently, you can find cool blogs and other popular sites on Alexa’s ranking of top sites per country.

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      It is the sentimentality of our past, usually for a particular time and place associated with positive emotions, etched in our memories. Historical texts state it was termed as homesickness ...

      A Time Machine

      The feeling of nostalgia is like traveling in a time machine. The activities that were once cherished are no longer done, and the world that is remembered no longer exists.

      Nostalgia can be a form of self-deception, giving a rosy tint to the past, creating a paradise out of the moments of our lived lives.

      Deep nostalgia fosters a sense of serene melancholy and spiritual longing.


      The deepest form of suffering is a feeling of extreme dissatisfaction about the impermanence and the insubstantiality of everything around us.

      Buddhism mentions suffering as inevitable as long as there is desire, lust and a sense of coveting/craving in our lives. Once we grasp this fully, we stop craving and struggling in hope and fear.

      Step 4: Bring In The New

      Focus on getting rid of the unnecessary and harmful, so you can make way for the new beliefs and ideas about yourself, not based on the past, but on the future you are creating.

      If you...

      Step 3: Feel That Old Pain

      We tend to avoid thinking of painful things. But if you stay with the feeling, the feeling eventually dissipates.

      Allow yourself to feel what's associated with past experiences to make the pain and the behaviors it causes go away, leaving only the memories.

      Step 2: Identify The Feeling’s Source

      The emotion you are feeling today is rooted in the past, in a story that repeats itself because the original feeling has never been dealt with.

      The person you think is causing all this pain is just the catalyst for you to uncover your emotional triggers, so you can move past them in a balanced way. Adopting this mindset allows you to go from victim/perpetrator to empowered self-knowing creator.

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      Gain Control Over Your Mood
      • Label Your Emotions: There are times that you might feel different emotions. Pay attention to what's really going on inside you to help you take a lot of sting out of that em...
      Mood Control = Positive Outlook

      Emotions are powerful and managing it is tough at times. But by gaining control over them makes you mentally stronger.

      You'll gain confidence in your ability to handle discomfort while also knowing that you can make healthy choices that shift your mood.

      Emotional Clarity And Depression

      Studies have found that just having negative feelings isn’t enough to lead to depressive symptoms. You also have to be unable to put a name to your feeling state, and then dwell on trying to ide...

      Emotional Regulation

       Is your ability to modulate or control the type of emotion you’re feeling, how long you feel that emotion, how strong it is, and whether you can turn it from negative to positive. Good emotional regulation, lets you get over negative feelings relatively quickly.

      Having bad emotional clarity is thought to lead to low emotional regulation, which is linked to depression and rumination.

      Emotional Clarity

      Involves your ability to identify what you feel with ease. It affects mental health by predisposing people to depression.

      This is a “subjective” ability. There is no external objective reference point for naming your emotions. Emotions are also relative qualities, meaning different people have different definitions and experiences for a given emotion. 

      Emotions lead to feelings

      Being aware of the constant dance between emotions and feelings could improve your decision-making ability.

      1. Every feeling begins with a stimulus.
      2. The stimulus leads...
      Focus on the resulting feeling

      We need to understand how any particular emotion (root cause) will translate into a feeling (symptom).

      The six emotions are broad categories, while the feelings are specific to describe what is going on in our bodies. For instance, disgust (emotion) may result in 'loathing' or 'detestable' feelings.

      When you have to make a decision, always track your feeling to the resulting emotion to find the root cause.

      Develop a working awareness
      1. Name what you are deciding.
      2. Name all the feelings you are experiencing in connection with the decision.
      3. Identify the root cause of the feelings you are experiencing in connection with your decision.
      4. Identify the emotions connected to these feelings.
      5. Process the emotion.
      6. Consider if you want to make a decision from this emotion or change course.
      Meta-emotions are feelings about feelings
      A meta-emotion is an emotion that occurred in response to another emotion: Perhaps you teared up while watching a sappy movie with friends, then felt embarrassed about feeling sad. Or perhaps w...
      4 Types of Meta-emotions:
      • negative-negative (e.g., feeling embarrassed about feeling sad)
      • negative-positive (e.g., feeling guilty about feeling happy)
      • positive-positive (e.g., feeling hopeful about feeling relieved)
      • positive-negative (e.g., feeling pleased about feeling angry). 
      Negative-negative meta-emotions

      ... are the most common type. This indicates that many people get upset, nervous, or angry about their own negative emotions, in particular.

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      Human Emotions

      An emotion is an objective state that exhibits itself in many ways like behavior, facial expression, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels. Broadly speaking, we kn...

      New Kinds of Emotions

      • Mix N match Emotions: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a newly coined mix of envy, fear, and sadness.
      • Social Emotions: Feelings like guilt, shame and embarrassment are social emotions, and can even be found in dogs.
      • Fear: Emotions like fear and anxiety are hard to pinpoint in the brain's geographical area, due to the presence of multiple fear circuits.

      If our emotions are constructed by our minds, it means they can also be de-constructed or even reconstructed.

      Labelling Emotions

      The brain loves to identify, tag, or label all the feelings and emotions that are being experienced.

      New studies show that changing the name of the emotion can change the feeling that is produced by hearing that emotion, and the brain may be able to create or make up emotions that don't have a label yet.

      How to know if you're depressed

      Depression symptoms can vary, but it always results in living in a negative state. 

      Common signs include:
      • Feeling hopeless or a lack of energy and interest in things that ...
      Ways to deal with depression

      Understand the common triggers. Once you understand which one is behind your depression, you can better learn how to cope with depression.

      Feelings of loss, “less than” and “never going to happen” are the major reasons that most people dip into depression. Loss can result from a loved one dying or losing a job; feelings of “less than” can be triggered by comparing yourself to others you view as having more than you and “never” occurs when you start believing that your goals and dreams are completely out of reach. 

      Address your limiting beliefs

      Many of those trying to find ways to deal with depression have formed limiting beliefs that negatively affect how they think.

      If you come from a family who has never had a member attend college, you might believe that you are not smart enough to achieve your goals. Another common limiting belief is that they are supposed to be sad because depression or anxiety runs in their family. 

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      Emotional intelligence (EQ)

      EQ is the ability to be able to recognize and regulate your own emotions, while also empathizing with others and maintaining an awareness of their reactions.

      EQ can be developed with p...

      Know thyself

      Having a deep understanding of yourself provides you with more accurate perceptions of how you are coming across to others. 

      To increase your self-awareness, make an effort to reflect on your strengths, developmental opportunities, triggers, values, and the like so that you are intimately familiar with what makes you tick. 

      Be open to feedback and criticism

      Weighing feedback can help you guard against blind spots. It can assist you in recognizing if your behaviors are having the effects you are intending.

      If they aren't, you can adjust your actions or apologize accordingly (or mindfully choose not to do either).

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