Health and Wellness

Want to be a happier person? The secret may be hidden in these 9 fascinating words from around the world

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Old Town Square Romerberg in Frankfurt, Germany
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Happiness in America is plummeting. But learning an untranslatable word in a foreign language just might change that.

Since 2015, Tim Lomas, a psychology lecturer at the University of East London, has been collecting words that describe pleasurable activities or feelings in ways that might be unfamiliar to an English speaker.

"Even if we don't completely understand them, they can still give us insights into other cultures, other people, and other ways of taking pleasure in life," Lomas tells CNBC Make It.

Here are nine fascinating words that serve as a useful reminder to slow down, focus on the present and take part in the simplest joys in life:

1. Sisu

noun (Finnish)

At a positive psychology conference five years ago, Lomas heard a speaker from Helsinki describing this Finnish word, which refers to the psychological strength that helps people overcome huge challenges.

Although sisu is similar to the popular concept of grit, it has no exact translation in English.

 2. Ohanami

verb (Japanese)

Gathering to enjoy and appreciate cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossom viewing is a centuries-old tradition; these flowers are a symbol of beauty and impermanence that is profoundly meaningful to the Japanese.

3. Craic

noun (Irish)

Fun, revelry, good times. It is often used with the definite article — the craic — as in "What's the craic?" (meaning "How are you?" or "What's going on?").

Craic brings back the fun, music and camaraderie of Irish pubs, which (at least in non-pandemic times) are the center of Irish life. But really it's that feeling of people joining together anywhere to share stories and laughs — even if they can only do it via Zoom.

4. Entrückt

adjective (German)

Enraptured and absent; transported into one's own universe; lost in thought; absentminded; meditative.

This word might refer to a state when you're writing, reading, walking or just daydreaming. Entrückt is how we become less hurried, more creative, and more calm.

5. Estrenar

verb (Spanish)

To use or wear something for the first time, and perhaps imbuing the wearer with a sense of confidence.

We've all had this feeling with a new and cherished possession. For me, it happened when, after years of wanting one, I finally got an electric car. For the first few weeks, getting behind the wheel filled me with pure joy.

6. Flâner

verb (French)

Leisurely strolling and experiencing your surroundings. One of the best places for this pleasurable activity is, of course, Paris. But any safe and walkable city will do.

Put on a pair of comfortable shoes, find a neighborhood you don't know too well, and explore without any particular destination or agenda. You'll likely find something to surprise or amuse you along the way.

7. Jayus

noun (Indonesian)

A joke that is so unfunny (or told so badly) that you just have to laugh.

We all have at least one relative, friend or colleague who does this on a regular basis. (Check out this video clip of a TV news host trying to tell the Dalai Lama a joke.)

8. Shinrin-yoku (森林浴)

noun (Japanese)

Bathing in the forest — literally and/or metaphorically. Research consistently shows that simply being around nature yields measurable health benefits. (Forest therapies are even covered by health insurance in Japan.)

Head to a forest or a park where you'll be surrounded by trees. Once there, don't hurry anywhere. Stroll slowly, or stay in one place. Take deep breaths, look around you, and listen to the sounds of the forest. You're almost guaranteed to feel better and happier by the time you leave.

9. Vakidioot

noun (Dutch)

Often refers to a "professional idiot"; someone maniacally obsessed with their work. This untranslatable word teaches you what not to do. I've been guilty of being a vakidioot many times, and I bet you have, too.

If you can relate, put down your pen or step away from your computer or phone. Then go indulge in one of the other eight words. You'll be refreshed and better able to tackle your work when you get back.

Minda Zetlin is a freelance writer covering business and lifestyle. She is also the co-author of "The Geek Gap" and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow her on Twitter @MindaZetlin.

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