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Towards a positive cross-cultural lexicography: Enriching our emotional landscape through 216 ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being

Abstract

Although much attention has been paid to culture-specific psychopathologies, there have been no comparable attempts to chart positive mental states that may be particular to certain cultures. This paper outlines the beginnings of a positive cross-cultural lexicography of ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being, culled from across the world’s languages. A quasi-systematic search uncovered 216 such terms. Using grounded theory, these words were organised into three categories: feelings (comprising positive and complex feelings); relationships (comprising intimacy and pro-sociality) and character (comprising personal resources and spirituality). The paper has two main aims. First, it aims to provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of well-being, thereby enriching our understanding of well-being. Second, a more ambitious aim is that this lexicon may help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers (and indeed speakers of all languages), and consequently enrich their experiences of well-being. The paper concludes by setting out a research agenda to pursue these aims further.
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... Some of these studies used unidimensional (Joshanloo, 2019) or multidimensional (McMahan & Estes, 2011b;Peterson et al., 2005) scales. Many of these scales measure aspects of both hedonic and eudaimonic HWB definitions, which are present in lay people's HWB definitions across cultures (Delle Fave et al., 2011, 2016Lu & Gilmour, 2004;Pflug, 2009). Hedonic definitions describe HWB as the experience of pleasure and other positive emotions, positive cognitive evaluations of one's life, and the absence of negative emotions or experiences. ...
... Qualitative studies revealed additional HWB definitions that lay people view as important. These studies investigated free-response associations with happiness (Delle Fave et al., 2016;Lu & Gilmour, 2004;Pflug, 2009) or language use related to HWB (Lomas, 2016;Oishi et al., 2013). For example, some people consider HWB as favorable external circumstances that cannot be controlled by an individual, like good luck or fortune (Oishi et al., 2013;Pflug, 2009). ...
... However, Oishi et al. (2013) showed that luck and fortune were present in dictionary definitions of happiness in many nations. Historically, luck was a dominant aspect in HWB definitions (Oishi et al., 2013) and many words that refer to happiness states are etymologically derived from luck (Lomas, 2016;McMahon, 2004). In sum, people seem to agree that "Happiness […] is what happens to us" (McMahon, 2004, p. 8) and that this is at least to some extent dependent on random and uncontrollable external factors. ...
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People differ in how they define and pursue happiness and well-being (HWB). Previous studies suggested that the best way to achieve a high level of well-being might be to pursue different facets of HWB simultaneously. We expand on this idea and introduce the concept of complexity of HWB definitions to describe how many HWB definitions people endorse simultaneously, and the complexity of HWB-related intentions to describe how many unique facets of HWB people intend to pursue in everyday life. To operationalize these novel concepts, we developed two parallel measures that integrate psychological and philosophical definitions of HWB. In two independent studies (total N = 542), exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses revealed eight reliable and valid factors for both parallel scales: absence of negativity, positive attitude, tranquility, personal development, luck, joy and desires, purpose, and belonging. Complexity of HWB-related intentions was positively associated with all facets of well-being, whereas complexity of HWB definitions was only positively associated with some facets of well-being. HWB-related intentions and their complexity emerged as more important for the experience of well-being than HWB definitions and their complexity. These studies highlight the importance of a multifaceted conceptualization of HWB when investigating how the pursuit of HWB is related to actual levels of well-being.
... Kuykendall, Tay, and Ng 2015;Walker 2020). This is problematic because people across various cultures conceptualize 'well-being' somewhat differently (Lambert et al. 2020;Lomas 2016). Examining leisure's relationships with non-Western well-being concepts can broaden our theoretical understanding of leisure-SWB linkages (Iwasaki 2007), which could help leisure practitioners better serve increasing diverse populations (e.g. ...
... Furthermore, non-Western cultures appear to be particularly rich in EWB-like constructs (e.g. pro-sociality, character; Lomas 2016). Thus, the research on leisure and EWB can benefit from incorporating non-Western perspectives. ...
... This is a missed opportunity given that non-Western cultures appear to be particularly rich in EWB-like constructs (e.g. Lomas 2016). Moreover, a large number of studies addressed tourism contexts (e.g. ...
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Many studies have examined the relationships between leisure and subjective well-being. However, eudaimonic (e.g. meaning) and non-Western perspectives are lacking. Moreover, comparing leisure with other life domains could clarify leisure's unique roles in the pursuit of well-being. This study explores leisure's relationships with ikigai, a Japanese eudaimonic well-being concept. A purposeful sample of 27 Japanese university students provided 247 pictures of ikigai which they categorized into leisure and non-leisure groups. Photographic data were analysed via content analysis. The majority of ikigai pictures were associated with leisure. Compared with non-leisure pictures, leisure photographs were more frequently coded with 'hobby/ leisure' and 'nature', while less frequently coded with 'relationships', 'organizational activities', 'education', and 'values'. Leisure's unique roles in student's pursuit of ikigai relate to providing casual and enjoyable experiences, private time and space, and nature-based experiences. Our findings are discussed in relation to leisure studies, ikigai studies, and research on meaning in life. ARTICLE HISTORY
... The existing research on leisure and SWB, along with overall leisure studies, has been criticized for its lack of non-Western perspectives (Iwasaki, 2007;Walker, 2020). Different cultures have somewhat differing ideas and experiences of "well-being" (Lomas, 2016). In Japan, there are two well-being concepts called shiawase (similar to happiness) and ikigai (roughly translated as a life worth living), which Kumano (2018) found to possess characteristics of HWB and EWB, respectively. ...
... For example, working adults may report more pronounced effects of leisure on HWB and/or EWB because their lives tend to be more compartmentalized between leisure and paid work than students'. We also encourage future researchers to explore other non-Western well-being constructs (e.g., w u w ei or being in accordance with Tao and effortless in Chinese and mudit a or sympathetic joy in Sanskrit; Lomas, 2016), especially eudaimonic ones while using ESM. Diary methods may also be an interesting option, especially focusing on significant events and activities of a day. ...
Article
Research on leisure and subjective well-being has focused on hedonic well-being (e.g., positive affect). Leisure’s relationships with eudaimonic well-being (e.g., meaning) remains underexplored. The literature also lacks non-Western perspectives. This study examined leisure’s relations with shiawase and ikigai, Japanese concepts that represent hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, respectively. A smartphone-based experience sampling method was used. A total of 2,207 responses were collected from 83 Japanese university students. Multilevel linear modeling showed that free time (e.g., lunch, evenings) predicted higher levels of daily shiawase and ikigai, while ikigai appeared to stay higher during afternoon. Various leisure activities positively predicted shiawase and ikigai levels, with event/ trip, eating/drinking, socializing, and hobbies being the best predictors. A few activities (e.g., exercise) differentially predicted the outcomes. Among subjective experiences common during leisure, intrinsic motivation, enjoyment, stimulation, and comfort were positively correlated to shiawase and ikigai, whereas effort predicted only ikigai.
... These categories are merely those that English-speaking scientists have defined and studied the most frequently. A child exposed to English might use a label of sadness to organize an experience of loss, a speaker of Tagalog might use gigil to make sense of their irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze something cute (Lomas, 2016), and the Ilongot might categorize their feeling of an exuberant surge or burst of energy as liget (Wierzbicka, 1992). Rather than focusing on any subset of emotion linguistic categories, our aim is to understand how children develop the capacity to infer emotional meaning from observable cues in their environments. ...
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During the early postnatal years, most infants rapidly learn to understand two naturally evolved communication systems: language and emotion. While these two domains include different types of content knowledge, it is possible that similar learning processes subserve their acquisition. In this review, we compare the learnable statistical regularities in language and emotion input. We then consider how domain‐general learning abilities may underly the acquisition of language and emotion, and how this process may be constrained in each domain. This comparative developmental approach can advance our understanding of how humans learn to communicate with others. In this article, we consider infants’ acquisition of foundational aspects of language and emotion through the lens of statistical learning. By taking a comparative developmental approach, we highlight ways in which the learning problems presented by input from these two rich communicative domains are both similar and different. Our goal is to encourage other scholars to consider multiple domains of human experience when developing theories in developmental cognitive science.
... Seligman (2011)]. In alignment with being well and living well (Lomas, 2016), this initial embrace of the positive was referred to as the "first wave" of PP. This focus of Positive Psychology can enrich approaches to career development (Robertson, 2017) when considering the wide range of different career development theories mapping career development and career choice (Coetzee and Schreuder, 2021). ...
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Leisure engagement, especially sports experiences, has been identified as a robust predictor of subjective well-being (SWB). Two aspects of SWB are hedonic well-being (HWB) and eudaimonic well-being (EWB). HWB emphasizes pleasure and positive affect, whereas EWB involves meaning, purpose, and virtue. The majority of empirical leisure and sports studies, however, have focused on HWB, underexploring leisure’s and sports’ relevance to EWB. Moreover, most studies are limited to Western well-being concepts, whereas people across cultures may conceptualize and experience well-being somewhat differently. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine how sports experiences relate to Japanese well-being concepts, shiawase (happiness, HWB) and ikigai (life worthiness, EWB) among Japanese university students, and how these relationships differ between sport club members and non-members. In Study 1, we analyzed online survey data from 672 students, using partial least squares structural equation modeling. Sports satisfaction had direct links to shiawase and/or ikigai, whereas the effects of sports participation and commitment were mediated by diverse valuable experiences such as enjoyment, stimulation, and comfort. Sports commitment appeared particularly important for sport club members, while sports participation sufficed for non-members. In Study 2, we collected data through a smartphone-based experience sampling method with 83 students for one week. Hierarchical linear modeling results showed that sports participation was associated with greater daily ikigai, while it was unrelated to shiawase. The association between sports participation and daily ikigai was stronger among sport club non-members. We discuss overall findings in relation to student mental health and campus recreation administration.
Chapter
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