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The spectrum of positive affect: A cross-cultural lexical analysis



Although wellbeing tends to be associated with positive affect, the phenomenological terrain in this regard is often poorly differentiated. In the interest of bringing further granularity to this area, an enquiry was conducted into relevant concepts found across the world’s cultures, focusing specifically on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with conceptual snowballing, 134 relevant terms have been located so far (with the process of enquiry ongoing). Through a process of grounded theory analysis, seven main themes were identified: peace/calm; contentment/satisfaction; cosiness/homeliness; savouring/appreciation; revelry/fun; joy/euphoria; and bliss nirvāṇa. The analysis highlights the need for a more expansive and granular conceptualisation of positive affect, one that recognises the depth and breadth of the subjective terrain that it covers.
The spectrum of positive affect: A cross-cultural conceptual analysis
International Journal of Wellbeing
Dr. Tim Lomas
University of East London
Note: This draft may not exactly replicate the final published version. It is not the copy of record.
Although wellbeing tends to be associated with positive affect, the phenomenological terrain
in this regard is often poorly differentiated. In the interest of bringing further granularity to
this area, an enquiry was conducted into relevant concepts found across the world’s cultures,
focusing specifically on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of
academic and grey literature, together with conceptual snowballing, 134 relevant terms have
been located so far (with the process of enquiry ongoing) . Through a process of grounded
theory analysis, seven main themes were identified: peace/calm; contentment/satisfaction;
cosiness/homeliness; savouring/appreciation; revelry/fun; joy/euphoria; and bliss/nirvāṇa.
The analysis highlights the need for a more expansive and granular conceptualisation of
positive affect, one that recognises the depth and breadth of subjective terrain that it covers.
Keywords: positive emotion; wellbeing; cross-cultural; language; lexicography.
The spectrum of positive affect: A cross-cultural conceptual analysis
Positive Affect
Affect is commonly conceptualised in terms of valence. This occurs, for instance, in the two
dominant naturalistic models of emotions, the circumplex (Russell, 1980) and basic emotion
(Ekman, 1999) theories. The former holds that affective states are generated by the
interaction of two independent neurophysiological systems: valence (i.e., pleasant-
unpleasant) and arousal (i.e., active-passive). Conversely, the latter holds that a ‘discrete and
independent neural system subserves every emotion,’ and that these emotions differ in terms
of valence, as well as factors including antecedent events, physiology, appraisal, and probable
behavioural response (Posner, Russell, & Peterson, 2005, p.715). For instance, Ekman
identifies one positively-valenced basic emotion (enjoyment), and four negatively valenced
ones (sadness, anger, disgust, and fear). Drawing on such models, theories of wellbeing
generally depict positively-valenced emotions as reflective of wellbeing, and negatively-
valenced ones as antithetical to it. For example, the concept of subjective (or hedonic)
wellbeing has been theorised as comprising two main dimensions (Diener, 2000): cognitive
(judgements of life satisfaction) and affective (the ratio of positive to negative affect). Thus,
in the affective component, positively-valenced emotions cumulatively contribute to
wellbeing, while negatively-valenced emotions detract from it.
However, positive affect covers a considerable amount of ground. As such, efforts
have been made to delineate this territory with greater detail. For instance, Delle Fave et al.
(2016) undertook a comprehensive cross-cultural analysis of lay perceptions of happiness,
involving 2,799 adults across 12 countries in 5 continents. The researchers obtained 7,551
definitions of happiness, of which around 44% were psychological definitions, with the
remainder split between 10 different contextual definitions (of which the highest ranking
were family and interpersonal relationships, health, daily life, standard of living, and work).
Within psychological definitions were 13 subcategories. The dominant one was ‘harmony’ –
accounting for nearly 30% of the definitions which comprised four components: (a) inner
peace (including peace of mind, emotional stability, detachment, tranquillity, and serenity);
(b); balance (including inner balance, inner harmony, acceptance of life, being attuned with
the universe, and balance between wishes and achievements); (c) contentment (in general and
with oneself); and (d) psychophysical well-being (a single-item component). The second
subcategory was satisfaction, encompassing attainment of life goals, realization of dreams
and expectations, and satisfaction with life and oneself. Third was positive emotions, which
predominantly featured high arousal positive affect (HAP) feelings such as joy and elation,
plus a lower percentage of low arousal positive affect (LAP) feelings like comfort. Fourth
was positive states, referring to general state well-being, plus more specific experiences such
as flow. The remaining subcategories were optimism, meaning, absence of negative feelings,
awareness, engagement/growth, purpose, mastery, and autonomy. Interesting cross-cultural
differences were also observed. For instance, to an extent the findings corroborated the notion
that people in Western nations have a greater tendency towards emphasising HAP, and East
Asians towards LAP (Lee, Lin, Huang, & Fredrickson, 2013).
Granularity of a somewhat different sort is provided by Ekman’s recent Atlas of
Emotions project (, although the website doesn’t provide detail as to
how this granularity was arrived at. Methodological uncertainty aside though, he usefully
deconstructs enjoyment according to a spectrum of intensity: sensory pleasure; rejoicing;
compassion/joy; amusement; Schadenfreude (German: ‘enjoyment of the misfortunes of
another person); relief; pride; fiero (Italian: ‘enjoyment felt when you have met a challenge
that stretched your capabilities); naches (Yiddish: ‘pride in the accomplishments, or
sometimes just the existence of, your actual [or mentored] offspring’); wonder; excitement;
and ecstasy. It is unclear how these types were identified, and whether they have been
empirically analysed. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing attempt to delineate the range of
emotions encompassed within the broad notion of ‘enjoyment.’ Of particular interest here is
that three terms are from other languages, and could be regarded as untranslatable (since if
they were translatable, presumably Ekman would have deployed the equivalent English
term). In that respect, it is possible that there may be other relevant untranslatable terms
which may bring further differentiation to the realm of positive emotions.
Untranslatable Words
This paper draws Lomas (2016) evolving lexicography of untranslatable words pertaining to
wellbeing. While untranslatability is a contested content, it essentially describes a word that
lacks an exact equivalent in a given other language. The interest in such words is manifold.
First, they offer insights into other cultures (Wierzbicka, 1997). The general theoretical
context here is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis developed by Sapir (1929) and Whorf (1940)
which holds that language influences how people experience and understand the world. The
stronger version of this hypothesis is linguistic determinism, whereby language inextricably
constitutes thought, whereas its milder version simply asserts that language shapes thought
and experience (Perlovsky, 2009). In relation to untranslatable words, the stronger view holds
that only people enmeshed within the culture that produced a word can truly understand or
experience the phenomenon it signified (Taylor, 1985). However, the milder perspective
contents that such words are to an extent accessible to people outside the culture, holding
some universal relevance (Wierzbicka, 1997).
This latter point highlights a key point of interest: beyond being informative vis-à-vis
the culture that created a given word, such words can enrich other lexicons. The phenomenon
of cultures ‘borrowing’ words is central to language development (Durkin, 2014). Of the
some 600,000 lexemes in the Oxford English Dictionary, the percentage of these ‘loanwords’
i.e., those not part of the original West-Germanic Anglo-Saxon language (Lehmann, 1962)
may be as high as 41% (Tadmor, 2009). Of particular interest here is why words are
borrowed. Haspelmath (2009) identifies two main reasons: ‘core’ versus ‘cultural’
borrowings. The former is when a loanword replicates a word that already exists in the
recipient language, which tends to happen for sociolinguistic reasons, such as the cultural
capital associated with using foreign words (Blank, 1999). While this type of borrowing is
not of concern here, the second is central. Haspelmath refers to these as ‘loanwords by
necessity,’ where the recipient language lacks its own word for a particular referent. In
Lehrer’s (1974, p.105) terminology, such words fill ‘semantic gaps,’ i.e., ‘the lack of a
convenient word to express what [one] wants to speak about.’ It is this notion of a semantic
gap that makes a given word untranslatable, indicating phenomena that have been overlooked
or undervalued by English-speaking cultures, but which another culture has identified.
Thus, the lexicography is founded upon the idea that such words can enrich English,
and augment the nomological network in psychology. Such augmentation is desirable for
numerous reasons, not least because academic psychology tends to be Western-centric
(Becker & Marecek, 2008). Much of its empirical work has been conducted with participants
described by Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan (2010) as WEIRD, belonging to societies that
are Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic. Moreover, many scholars
themselves are situated within such contexts, which influences their appraisal of the world.
Thus, the nomological network in psychology is arguably incomplete, being largely founded
upon concepts that happen to have been identified in English. The lexicography thus aims to
augment this network with constructs which have not yet been identified in psychology, as
signalled by an untranslatable word. To narrow down its focus to a manageable area of
enquiry, its concern is wellbeing specifically, a key aspect of which is positive emotions.
Thus, this paper aims to provide a more comprehensive understanding of this aspect of
wellbeing through the study of relevant untranslatable words.
Initial Data Collection and Analysis
In the original paper establishing the lexicography, Lomas (2016) identified 216 words
pertaining to wellbeing, located through a ‘quasi-systematic’ review of academic and grey
literature (quasi in that there was insufficient material in academic journals to permit a true
systematic review, utilising conventional academic databases). These words were analysed
using a variation of grounded theory (GT), a qualitative methodology which allows theory to
emerge inductively from the data, via three main coding stages (open, axial, and selective)
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998). In a process of open coding, the data (i.e., the words and their
definitions) were examined for emergent themes. Then, axial coding involved aggregating the
themes into categories based on conceptual similarity. Six main categories were produced,
which in turn were paired into three meta-categories: emotions (positive and ambivalent),
relationships (love and pro-sociality), and development (flourishing and spirituality). Finally,
selective coding saw the identification of a single ‘core’ category, i.e., wellbeing.
Subsequent Data Collection and Analysis
Subsequent to the publication of this initial paper, the lexicography has expanded to nearly
1,000 words currently (the project is a work-in-progress, with new terms being continually
identified and added). However, these additional words have not altered the overall thematic
structure of the lexicography: it has been possible to accommodate these within the existing
framework of meta-categories and categories, although some new themes have been added
within the categories. That is that case with respect to positive emotions the focus of this
paper where the original schema of five themes has now expanded to seven (as explained
below). The new words added to the lexicography arrived partly through contributions to a
website created to host the evolving lexicography ( and
partly through follow-up enquiries into the categories via ‘conceptual snowballing.’ Roughly
speaking, of the nearly 800 words collected since the initial paper, 500 have been provided by
website visitors, and 300 through conceptual snowballing. The term snowballing derives
from recruitment, whereby recruited participants facilitate the participation of additional
people, particularly those who may be ‘hard to reach’ (Sadler et al., 2010). Similarly,
conceptual snowballing refers to the process by which enquiries into a particular concept in
this case a given untranslatable word leads researchers to encounter related concepts. For
instance, although nearly 100 different languages are currently represented in the
lexicography, many words hail from a select group of languages that are particularly well-
studied in psychologically-oriented literature, consisting of Chinese, French, German, Greek,
Japanese, Pāli, and Sanskrit. Thus, an enquiry into a word from one of these languages would
often lead researchers to an academic text, in which related words are discussed. An enquiry
into the Sanskrit term nirvāṇa, for example discussed below leads to texts in which a host
of other interlinked concepts are also mentioned, from karma (a theory of causality with
respect to ethics) to saṃsāra (the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, from which nirvāṇa
constitutes an ‘escape’).
The current paper focuses specifically on positive emotions. It was an a priori
decision to focus on this category (out of the six that currently constitute the lexicography as
whole). This meant that the analysis selectively focused on the words in the lexicography
which have been assigned to this category. This comprises 134 words at present, hailing from
35 languages: German (n = 14), Spanish (12) Chinese, French (both 11), Greek (9), Dutch,
Japanese (both 8), Sanskrit/Pāli (7), Italian, Swedish (both 6), Norwegian (5), Danish (4),
Arabic, Latin (both 3), Basque, Finnish, Gaelic Irish, Hawaiian, Icelandic, Welsh (all 2),
Balinese, Creole, Croatian, Georgian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Inuktitut, Māori,
Ngarluma, Polish, Portuguese, Swahili, Thai, and Yiddish (all 1). It should be noted that this
category excludes words that pertain to love, since this constitutes an entire category to itself,
and warrants its own separate analysis. It should further be noted that although most of these
words signify emotions or qualia more broadly, some are not emotions or qualia per se, but
rather are associated with them. The words were again analysed using the variation of GT
developed in the original paper. In the first stage of open coding, words were examined for
thematic content, and grouped together based on thematic similarity, with seven broad themes
identified. These seven themes build upon and refine the analysis in the original paper. There
only five themes were identified cosiness, revelry, savouring, joy/bliss, and nirvāṇa on
the basis of just 35 words. With the list having expanded to 134 words pertaining to positive
feelings, two additional themes were identified (peace and calm, and contentment and
satisfaction), while the other five were slightly adjusted (for instance, joy is now paired with
euphoria rather than bliss, with bliss joining nirvāṇa in an expanded theme), as elucidated
Results and Discussion
The words analysed fell into seven broad meta-themes: peace/calm; contentment/satisfaction;
cosiness/homeliness; savouring/appreciation; revelry/fun; joy/euphoria; and bliss/ nirvāṇa.
As per Ekman’s analysis, these can be regarded as unfolding along a spectrum of intensity
(from least to most intense). They are briefly discussed in turn, featuring a selection of
relevant words.
Peace / calm
At the tranquil lower end of the arousal spectrum are various words alluding to calmness and
peacefulness. Perhaps pre-eminent in this respect is the Sanskrit term smti, arguably more
widely known by its Pāli cognate sati. Its significance relates to it being the basis as a loan
translation, i.e., semantic borrowing (Durkin, 2014) for ‘mindfulness,’ which has become
somewhat ubiquitous in the West. Technically, smti does not signify an emotion per se, but
rather a state of attentiveness, as captured in Kabat-Zinn’s (2003, p.145) definition of
mindfulness as ‘the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present
moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.’
Nevertheless, it can describe a form of calm abiding, with the practice of mindfulness
associated with outcomes such as equanimity and imperturbability (Grossman et al., 2004).
Much more could be said about smti. For instance, in its original Buddhist context, the term
included ethical and spiritual dimensions which are not necessarily retained in contemporary
conceptualisations of mindfulness (Lomas & Jnanavaca, 2015). Indeed, most terms here
easily justify in-depth treatments, exploring their nuances at length. However, to achieve the
comparative analysis aimed for here, a trade-off between depth and breadth is necessary.
Qualities of mind evoked by smti are found in other terms, including some that have
also been developed in Buddhism, albeit in different cultural contexts (i.e., where Buddhism
has been transmitted to), such as zanshin and seijaku in Japanese. As per its use of ideograms,
Japanese is agglutinative, where lexemes can be easily combined to form more complex
words. Zanshin combines zan, which can be translated as ‘remnants’ and/or ‘that which
endures,’ with shin, meaning ‘heart-mind (Sanchez, 2013, p.54). Together, they literally
mean ‘remaining mind,’ which can denote relaxed mental alertness, especially in the face of
danger or stress, which is relevant in the context of martial arts for instance. Similarly,
seijaku combines sei, translatable as quiet, with jaku, which can connote tranquillity; thus
together they refer to silence, calm, and serenity, especially amidst activity or chaos. Of
course, words pertaining to peace and calm are not only found within Buddhism. For
instance, Taoism a philosophy and way of being indigenous to China features various
terms that tease out further nuances in this arena. These include tīngtiānyōumìng, literally
meaning to listen to life, with an implication of submitting or trusting to fate or the ‘will of
heaven,’ and xīnrúzhǐshuǐ, which describes a mind as tranquil as still water, suggesting being
at peace with oneself. Chinese also features xīnpíngqihé, implying the composure of an even
and harmonious heart, and zìrán zìzài, which connotes an effortless grace and ease. Then,
away from Asia, Classical Greece used ataraxia (ἀταραξία) to describe a robust and lucid
tranquillity, an almost unshakable peace of mind (with parallels with smti in implying
decentring or detachment). The quality was particularly valued by Stoic thinkers, who to an
extent regarded wellbeing as a function of the will, attainable by eradicating desire
(McMahon, 2006). For instance, Epictetus (50-138 CE) wrote that ‘The man who rids his
mind of desire and avers things only within his sphere of choice has virtue and an untroubled
Contentment / satisfaction
Closely related to feelings of peace/calm are ones that fall under the banner of contentment
and satisfaction. To an extent, this overlaps with peace/calm, in that contentment can involve
being ‘at peace.’ Thus, some of the terms above could also fit into this category. For instance,
ataraxia was viewed by Stoics as the pathway to contentment, and indeed as contentment in
itself (McMahon, 2006). However, contentment/satisfaction differs from peace/calm in being
slightly more positively qualified, subjectively ‘warmer.’
A particularly interesting term in this respect is the Danish concept of hygge (which is
also used in Norwegian). This is frequently hailed as the epitome of an untranslatable word,
representing a state of being that is said to be archetypically Danish (or perhaps more broadly
Scandinavian), yet highly difficult to adequately capture in English. Indeed, 2016 saw no
fewer than nine popular books published about hygge, depicting it as the ‘secret’ to the high
levels of happiness in Denmark (Orange, 2016). It is thought to derive from the Old Norse
hugga, which can mean ‘to comfort’ (any may be the basis for the English verb/noun hug).
Thus, to an extent, hygge denotes feeling safe, protected and cared for, and in that respect
could also be situated under the next theme here of cosiness/homeliness. And yet, Danes also
use it to depict the such pleasure as chatting with a friend or cycling in the sunshine. Thus,
whatever hygge signifies, it is not only cosiness. Or perhaps, as some bloggers suggest (e.g.,, it speaks to feeling cosy ‘in one’s heart,’ regardless of whether
one’s material environment is actually ‘cosy.’
One might argue that hygge is not an emotion per se, but rather a judgement on
phenomena that engender contentment. However, this is fine, since this enquiry is also
interested in words related to positive emotions. That said, some words do refer directly to
feelings of contentment. For instance, Danish also has morgenfrisk to describe feeling rested
after a good night’s sleep, and arbejdsglæde literally work (arbejde) happiness/gladness
(glæde) denoting the satisfaction/pleasure gained from one’s occupation. Similarly, fiero
features in Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions as ‘the enjoyment felt when you have met a challenge
that stretched your capabilities.’ Or consider the Hebrew noun osher (רשוא), often described
as a state of contented happiness, but also involving joy, making it more strongly qualified
than contentment per se. Finally, indicating the kind of happy relief one might experience
after successfully navigating challenging times, there is kǔqùgānlái in Chinese, which
literally means to go from pain and to come towards sweetness. Having charted some
interesting territory around contentment, we can now return to the cosiness and homeliness
implied by hygge, which constitute an interesting theme in their own right.
Cosiness / homeliness
Overlapping with contentment/satisfaction is an intriguing class of words pertaining to
cosiness and homeliness. I already noted that hygge can be used to denote such feelings, and
further mentioned its etymological roots in the verb to comfort or hug. In that respect, it has
parallels with the Welsh cwtch, which as a verb means (transitively) to hug/cuddle, and
(intransitively) to ‘get cosy,’ while as a noun it refers to a hug/cuddle (Coupland, 2014).
However, as per hygge, it also evokes cosiness and safety, and describes places that engender
such feelings. The analysis uncovered various words which evoke these experiences. Many
hailed from colder countries, which perhaps indicates an intersection between geography,
culture and language, whereby these qualities are particularly valued in relatively cold and
inhospitable climates (Brits, 2016). I have already touched upon the significance of hygge in
that respect, although, as noted, this cannot be rendered merely as cosiness. Moreover, even
when it does connote this, the English term ‘cosy/cosiness’ does not do justice to its
significance in Nordic culture. Beyond merely denoting warm and comfortable environs, it
seems to speak to an almost existential sense of safety and belonging. Revealingly, its
antonym (uhygge) is not uncomfortable, but frightening or sinister (Orange, 2016). That said,
I wonder if the foregoing remarks do injustice to the English term ‘cosy.’ Personally, the term
also has these existential connotations for me, and it strikes me that the construct has not
received the attention in psychology that it merits (I could not find any articles devoted to it).
Other words bring further nuance to this area. German in particular abounds with
relevant terms. Geborgenheit describes being protected and safe from harm, and perhaps also,
more benignly, ‘snugness’. (It combines geborgen a verb and adjective which can mean
‘safe or sheltered, as well as ‘hidden’ (Hachmeister, 2002, p.66) with heit, which changes
an adjective into an abstract noun.) Another term often translated as ‘cosy’ is the adjective
gemütlich (Gemütlichkeit as an abstract noun). However, again, ‘cosy’ is not quite right here.
The root Gemüt is described by Cassin et al. (2014) as the epitome of an untranslatable word,
used by philosophers like Kant to cover mind, mood, heart and soul, without being reducible
to any one of these. Indeed, von Uexküll (1987, p.175) suggests it has been used in German
philosophy and mysticism to denote ‘the whole inner world of man.’ Thus, gemütlich
conveys friendliness, soulfulness, even mindfulness (as in peace of mind), and is often used
to depict a warm social atmosphere (Whiteoak, 2008). Finally, there is the adjective
Heimlich, often rendered as homely. However, it is perhaps slightly more complex.
According to Freud (1955), it also alludes to that which is or must be concealed from
outsiders; as such, in requiring secrecy, the term can imply uncanny and frightening, and
therefore paradoxically has similar meanings to its antonym unheimlich (Parsons, 2014),
although this is perhaps a rather esoteric interpretation, limited to select contexts like
Savouring / appreciation
As with most themes here, the previous one overlaps with this one, since in deeming a place
cosy/homely, one might certainly be appreciating or savouring it. However, these latter
concepts warrant addressing in their own right, as there is a rich vein of words relating to
these. A quick note on the English concepts that serve as the overarching labels for this meta-
theme. These two are sometimes treated as synonymous. For instance, Lin, Chen, and Wang
(2011, p.166) define savouring as ‘the appreciation of enjoyable life experiences’. However,
savouring is perhaps more active, involving the deliberate enacting of strategies that might
facilitate appreciation. Some words pertain more to savouring/appreciation itself, whereas
others bring specificity to the phenomena that are its focus.
Relating to the state of appreciation is the Icelandic adjective hugfanginn, which
translates as ‘mind-captured, alluding to being enthralled, fascinated or charmed. Its
etymology also implies that this experience may not be entirely voluntary; as per modular
theories of attention (Posner & Petersen, 1990), one’s focus can easily be ‘captured’ by
phenomena that seem compelling or urgent. Then there are terms denoting particularly deep
or profound forms of appreciation, like the Swedish verb njuta, which brings greater intensity
than the English terms that are often offered as rough translations, such as ‘enjoy. Of similar
potency is the Hawaiian noun and stative verb mahalo, which encompasses admiration,
respect, esteem, and regards (Pukui & Elbert, 1986, p.218). However, its etymology also
conveys a notion of ‘divine presence,such that it is used as an expression of deep gratitude
and/or spiritual blessing (Becker, 2016, p.386).
Augmenting these mental states are terms that pertain more to the act of appreciation.
For instance, reflecting once again the intersection of climate, cultural and language, many
temperate cultures have coined words articulating the pleasures of strolling outside, such as
the French verb flâner (and its noun flâneur, denoting one who engages in the activity), the
Italian noun passegiata, and the Greek noun volta. One might counter that ‘strolling’ conveys
something similar. However, this lacks the significance these terms have in their respective
cultures, where they are much celebrated activities and even rituals rather than simply a
generic verb. For instance, in her ethnography of an Italian village, Del Negro (2005, p.16)
describes the passegiata as a vital ‘cultural performance.’ Similarly, Benjamin (1983)
highlights the significance of the flâneur in French culture, coming to prominence in the 19th
Century as a distinct and enviable type of person (e.g., the ‘man of leisure). This latter
example also shows how many words can take on complex associations with factors such as
wealth and class.
Such terms are joined by words conveying an appreciation of nature. There is the
Japanese noun shinrin-yoku literally forest (shinrin) bathing (yoku) for the restorative
feeling of ‘soaking up’ the tranquillity of natural environments. The value to wellbeing of
nature generally has been explored in the West, for instance with Gesler’s (1992) work on
therapeutic landscapes; however, Japanese scholars have studied the health benefits of
shinrin-yoku specifically, deeming it an example of ‘forest medicine’ (Park et al., 2010). A
similar notion is expressed by the Finnish verb maadoittuminen, which translates as
‘earthing’ or ‘grounding,’ and describes the act of going into a forest (or nature more
generally) to ground oneself in the natural world (Ober, Sinatra, & Zucker, 2010). Finally,
there are terms pertaining to a general appreciation of life itself. French is particularly rich in
that respect, from joie de vivre (a ‘love of life’) to bon vivant (one who lives well), a trend
which is commended as being indicative of a vibrant cultural character (Harrow & Unwin,
2009). With these latter terms, savouring/appreciation overlaps with the next theme,
Revelry / fun
The final three themes broach more strongly qualified positive feelings. However, the
nuanced diversity of terms here as in all themes here shows the limitations of simply
referring to these as ‘positive affect, highlighting the value of introducing greater granularity
into our lexicon. This fifth theme pertains to revelry and ‘fun, covering more sensual and/or
light-hearted forms of pleasure. Or, to deploy a term approaching the status of a loanword,
the words here relate to the Gaelic noun craic, which captures a general sense of revelry and
‘good times’ (Grantham, 2009). Incidentally, that I felt compelled to put ‘fun’ in quotation
marks above is indicative of the fact that, despite being a culturally valued experience, the
topic has not attracted much academic attention (Reis, O’Keefe, & Lane, 2016).
To begin with, there are words denoting pleasure relating to revelry/fun. Of course,
many languages have terms directly translated as pleasure. What makes a word of interest
here is that it brings additional nuances not found in the English word. For instance, the
Chinese verb guò yǐn suggests craving and satiety, as revealed by its components (with guò
meaning to pass through or go across, and yǐn referring to addiction, craving or habit). Thus,
it embeds shades of both compulsion and satisfaction that are not found in English terms like
pleasure (which fixes only on the benign outcome), craving (which omits reference to any
such successful outcome), or satiety (which does not especially carry tones of positive affect).
Articulating a sense of gleeful abandon is the Portuguese transitive verb desbundar.
Denoting a sense of exceeding the/one’s limits, this can be used colloquially to refer to a
sense of shedding one’s inhibitions in making merry (Wafer, 2010). Somewhat similarly, in
the Bantu group of languages in Africa, the verb mbuki-mvuki has been described as the act
of shedding or taking off clothes in order to dance (e.g., in a more uninhibited way)
(Holloway, 2005). Likewise, the Greek term kefi has come to describe a culturally-valued
‘emotional state heightened by alcohol,’ usually evoked by social occasions featuring music
and dance (Riak, 2007, p.42). Then, pertaining to music and dancing themselves, there are
literally thousands of untranslatable words some of which are already loanwords
capturing specific styles and genres. For instance, the Caribbean region alone has produced
hundreds of styles/genres (Manuel, Bilby, & Largey, 2012). Finally, a wealth of terms denote
the social occasions that cultures have developed to enable fun/revelry. For instance, the
Balinese term ramé can be used to describe parties that are particularly festive, tumultuous
and lively (as well as signifying boisterous social occasions more generally) (Geertz, 1973,
p.446). Somewhat similarly, the Chinese adjective nào describes something as lively,
boisterous, and bustling with noise and excitement. On a potentially gentler and more light-
hearted note, Chinese also has sànxīn, which literally means to loosen the heart, and carries
suggestions of easing up, being carefree, enjoying a diversion, and driving away one’s cares.
Such examples could be multiplied at length, but are sufficient to allude to the
diversity of terms pertaining to fun and revelry. We now move on to even more positively
qualified experiences of pleasure.
Joy / euphoria
These final two themes cover truly elevated levels of positive feelings. If considered in terms
of the circumplex model, they would be at the high end of either the valence spectrum
(intensely pleasant) or the arousal spectrum (highly active), and in some cases, both. This
penultimate theme addresses feelings pertaining to euphoria, ecstasy, and joy.
These three are themselves loanwords, the former two borrowed from Greek (via
Latin), the latter from Latin (via French) (Bühler, 2005). Both euphoria and ecstasy have
undergone an intriguing process of semantic change over the centuries, thus highlighting the
malleability of language. In its original Greek context, euphoria combined eu (a prefix
denoting ‘good’) and pherin (the verb to bear or carry), thus implying a person was healthy or
of ‘good bearing.’ While usually referring simply to physical health, it could also be deployed
in a moral or developmental sense. For instance, Aristotle used it as a near synonym of
eudaimonia, presenting it as the desirable outcome of a virtuous life (Raftari, 2015).
However, by the time the word entered into English around the 17th century, it was mainly in
a medical context, describing a condition of feeling well and comfortable, perhaps due to the
effective operation of medicine. It was possibly this association with positive mental states,
often arising from psychoactive substances, that gave rise to modern uses of the term, namely
an intense feeling of wellbeing (Bühler, 2005).
Ecstasy likewise has evolved. In its original context, it combined ek (outside/beyond)
and stasis (standing/stature) It thus connoted a person ‘standing outside’ themselves in some
way, from the relatively benign (e.g., being astonished or entranced) to the more troubling
(e.g., insanity or spiritual possession) (Michaelsen, 1989). It entered English around the 14th
Century, and became mainly deployed in religious contexts, depicting an exalted state of
‘rapture’ that could arise from the contemplation of the divine (McGinn, 1987). More
recently, it has tended to simply denote intense pleasure. However, in some contexts like
modern psychiatry both euphoria and ecstasy carry pejorative connotations of being too
intense, e.g., artificial and/or socially inappropriate (Wilmot, 1985). Conversely, joy has
invariably been characterised through the centuries as a wholly benign and even morally
worthy. (It entered English around the 13th Century, from the French joie meaning delight
or bliss which itself derived from the Latin gaudere, meaning rejoice.) For instance, it has
long been used in religious contexts to characterise the just psychological rewards of great
faith and devotion (Ehrenreich, 2007).
Notions of joy, ecstasy and euphoria are augmented by words covering similar
territory. Some align more with the less complicated benign purity captured by joy, such as
the Māori noun/adjective harikoa, which encompasses joyful, euphoric, delighted, exuberant,
elated, and jubilant (Štekauer, Valera, & Kőrtvélyessy, 2012). Somewhat more complex is
the French noun jouissance, deriving from joissant, meaning to take pleasure/delight in.
However, it has also come to have sexual connotations, particularly coital ecstasy (Susam-
Sarajeva, 2006). In that latter respect, it has become a term of interest in psychoanalytic
theory, especially in the work of Jacques Lacan (2006). For instance, Lacan dwells upon its
complex dynamics, suggesting that people have a limit to the amount of pleasure they can
bear possibly because at this zenith there is always the painful realisation of the inevitable
come-down and so beyond this limit, pleasure can become painful. Thus, for Lacan,
jouissance represents the crossing of these limits (Fink, 1997). Relatedly, the Chinese term
lèjíshēngbēi implies that the zenith of joy necessarily begets sadness, in that peaks of
happiness are generally followed by some descent into unhappiness (since it is not usually
feasible to remain at these peaks for an extended duration).
Overlapping with jouissance are terms around ardour and passion. As per jouissance
and indeed euphoria and ecstasy these are somewhat ambiguous, in that while intensely
‘positive,’ they are yet potentially problematic, perhaps being excessive or unstable in some
way. For instance, the Russian noun azart describes excitement and fervour, but is also
associated with recklessness and risk-taking. This brings to mind Lakoff and Johnson’s
(1980) metaphorical model of cognition, whereby subjective states that are characterised
using notions around ‘heat’ are invariably unstable and beyond one’s control to an extent.
Another complex term is the Spanish noun duende, which in an artistic context refers to a
heightened state of emotion, spirit and passion, as seen particularly with the performance (or
even just the appreciation) of art forms like flamenco (Miller, 2012). The term itself derives
from an elf-like creature in Spanish mythology, which perhaps indicates the capricious and
non-rational state expressed by the term. Thus, like azart, duende reflects the tempestuous
dynamics of strong feelings like euphoria/ecstasy. However, a final class of positive
emotions, while perhaps no less intense, are rather more stable, as the next section explores.
Bliss / nirvāṇa
Feelings around euphoria/ecstasy can, for all that they are intensely positive in valence, be
rather unstable, e.g., subject to swift dissipation. This stands in contrast to a range of elevated
feelings that are more lasting and even relatively permanent. Interestingly, these generally
hail from spiritual contexts, implying that these usually may not be attained unless a person
has some kind of spiritual practice. Spirituality constitutes an entire category in the
lexicography, and so warrants an in-depth analysis in itself. However, it would be remiss to
not at least touch upon some relevant terms here, as these represent some of the most potent
positive states that human beings appear capable of experiencing (Wilber, Engler, Brown, &
Chirban, 1986).
Relevant words can be found across numerous traditions, from West to East. For
instance, Christianity has developed terms like béatitude and charis to denote more lasting
states of bliss. These have parallels with eudaimonia a loanword in positive psychology
which in its original Greek context articulated a sense of being graced with a divine spirit
(Cary, 2008). Both béatitude and charis carry connotations of being blessed, and in receipt of
God’s grace, and have been borrowed in that respect (with the latter itself the root of the term
grace). Béatitude arrived from French in the 15th century, and ultimately derives from the
Latin beātitūdō, conveying an ultimate or perfect happiness (McMahon, 2006). With charis,
in its original Greek context it covered similar territory to eudaimonia, conveying a range of
valorised qualities, from kindness and grace to beauty and nobility. Indeed, in mythology, a
charis was the singular form for the goddesses of these qualities, known collectively as the
charities (MacLachlan, 2014). The term was translated into French as grâce - itself adapted
from the Latin gratia which implies favour, mercy, or thanks. Subsequently, the term began
to be deployed in religious contexts to describe being blessed, favoured or otherwise
supported by God. In this sense it overlaps with beatitude, since within Christian teachings,
true (i.e., deep, lasting) happiness is regarded as ultimately only possible through God’s grace
(Tillich, 1967). This type of feeling has recently been recognised in psychology by Wong
(2016), who terms it ‘chaironic’ happiness – thus drawing on the etymology of charis
defining it as a ‘blessing, joy, or gift of happiness of a spiritual nature, which is relatively
independent of positive situations or our own happiness-enhancing efforts’ (Para 2).
A related perspective on the possibility of ‘ultimate’ happiness is found in Eastern
traditions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. These have developed highly sophisticated
lexicons relating to wellbeing, which highlights the depth of insight in their teachings. While
it is far beyond the scope of this paper to elucidate all relevant terms, it is worth at least
touching upon some of the states described in these traditions to appreciate the highest
dimensions of the spectrum of positive feelings. In that respect, I will just mention two
Sanskrit terms, ānanda and nirvāṇa.
Ananda is frequently translated simply as bliss; however, in Hindu and Buddhist
contexts it is usually imbued with spiritual qualities not present in the English word. Thus,
teachings usually contrast it with sukha, which implies satisfaction/contentment (while its
antonym duḥkha translates as dissatisfaction or suffering). However, as desirable as sukha
may be, Hindu and Buddhist teachings tend to portray ānanda as far more elevated and
worthy. For instance, BKS Iyengar (2010, p.153) suggests there is a ‘vast difference’; while
sukha tends to mean merely ease, comfort, or sensual pleasure, ānanda has a ‘spiritual
quality.’ Sukha is often seen as dependent on circumstances, e.g., the extent to which one’s
life is currently conducive to ease/comfort. It is therefore conditional, and is thus depicted as
a ‘worldly’ form of happiness (Singh, 2012). In contrast, ānanda is regarded as
unconditional, independent of vicissitudes of circumstance. Rather, it arises when a person
has developed sufficient detachment usually through spiritual practices that they may
enjoy feelings of bliss that are relatively imperturbable and therefore durable.
As strongly-qualified as ānanda is though, even this is superseded by nirvāṇa. In
Buddhist teachings, this does not merely connote an enduring wellbeing, but a permanent
cessation of suffering (Harvey, 2012). Within Buddhist cosmology, it signifies that a person
has exited the cycle of birth, death, and re-birth known as saṃsāra that characterises
existence (and which is pervaded by duḥkha). This sense of finality and liberation is reflected
in the word’s etymology, which means to extinguish (e.g., as a flame). It thus has similarities
with the Hindu notion of mokṣa. However, Hinduism retains the concept of an individual
‘soul’ – known as ātman, and also translatable as breath or spirit that can be thus liberated.
Conversely, most schools of Buddhism hold that no individual traces of personhood are
preserved in this way, a principle known as anātman (Epstein, 1988). As noted above,
spirituality constitutes its own category in the lexicography, and so merits an analysis to
itself. Nevertheless, the terms included here indicate the far-reaching emotional states that
may be possible, exceeding those denoted by such conventional English terms as pleasure or
satisfaction, and even more intensely-qualified notions like euphoria and ecstasy.
The analysis has revealed a wealth of positively valenced feelings, covering seven broad,
overlapping themes. These were each labelled using two broad, conceptually-similar English
constructs that roughly encompassed the terrain in question: (1) peace and calm; (2)
contentment and satisfaction; (3) cosiness and homeliness; (4) savouring and appreciation;
(5) revelry and fun; (6) joy and euphoria; and (7) bliss and nirvāṇa. These seven themes were
deconstructed into finer-grained elements through the analysis of relevant words. In many
instances, the terms delineate a smaller, more precise phenomenological region than that
covered by the English thematic labels. For instance, jouissance constitutes a quite specific
instance of euphoria, one often connected to sexual activity. Conversely, in a few cases, the
untranslatable word perhaps occupies a larger phenomenological region; for instance, smti
was discussed as having a great range of meanings, including but not limited to peace and
calm. In general, the sheer range of words encompassed by this category highlights the
limitations of simply referring generically to ‘positive affect, and point towards the value of
developing a more fine-grained appreciation of the nuances in this area.
Indeed, the paper builds upon existing theory and research which has likewise sought
to identify nuances in experiences and appraisals of happiness. For instance, in terms of Delle
Fave et al.’s (2016) analysis of lay psychological definitions of happiness, the first theme
here of peace/calm is linked to their dominant category of harmony, and particularly its first
two components (inner peace and balance). Conversely, its third component, contentment,
aligns more with the second theme here (contentment and satisfaction). This second theme
also overlaps with Delle Fave et al.’s second subcategory, satisfaction, as well as the LAP
elements of positive emotions (their third subcategory), while the HAP elements align more
with the final three themes here. The last theme, bliss/nirvāṇa also resonates with Wong’s
(2011, 2016) concept of chaironic happiness. To an extent, this theme also reflects Dambrun
et al.’s (2012) category of authentic-durable happiness, and also Wong’s (2017) idea of
‘mature happiness characterised by ‘peace, contentment, meaning, acceptance, and the
feeling of being connected with God’ (para. 6) as does the first theme of peace/calm. The
concept of mature happiness draws on Frankl’s (1963) notion of ‘tragic optimism,’ which
alludes to the transformative capacity of the individual to flourish even amidst life’s
challenges. Wong depicts this type of equipoise as arising when people cease looking to the
vagaries of circumstance to furnish them with happiness, and instead cultivate the kind of
inner peace characterised by ataraxia above.
This analysis also augments Ekman’s deconstruction of enjoyment in his Atlas of
Emotions. As per Barrett et al.’s (2001) concept of emotional granularity/differentiation, the
words analysed here bring additional detail to this spectrum: although I had only seven main
types of positive feelings (compared to Ekman’s 12), each was further segmented into more
fine-grained forms, with the lexicography as a whole including 134 relevant terms, each of
which brings its own nuances to the realm of positive feelings. For instance, one of Ekman’s
12 types is fiero, which is just one of many terms subsumed within contentment/satisfaction
here. Moreover, the seven themes here include feelings not in Ekman’s list, including
peace/calm, contentment/satisfaction, cosiness/homeliness, and bliss/nirvāṇa. Conversely, I
have not included schadenfreude, since although technically a form of pleasure, it is a
malicious kind that is ultimately detrimental to wellbeing (McNamee, 2007), and so does not
warrant inclusion here. Finally, my analysis does not include terms relating to love, which
constitutes its own entire category in the lexicography, and which encompasses some positive
feelings that Ekman has situated within enjoyment, such as compassion and naches.
Overall then, the analysis above to an extent aligns with emergent schemas and
constructs pertaining to positive affect identified by the likes of Delle Fave et al., (2016),
Wong (2011, 2016, 2017), and Ekman (1999) while also differing in subtle ways. However,
that does not necessarily mean that one schema is more correct or accurate than the others.
There may simply be many valid and viable ways of delineating the experiential territory of
positive affect (and indeed any realm of experience). Many contemporary theories of emotion
subtly blend elements of naturalism (i.e., the idea that humans access a relatively universal
and stable set of affective responses) and constructivism (i.e., the idea that human experience
is socially constructed and culturally-variable). For instance, Feldman Barrett’s (2006)
conceptual-act model proposes that discrete emotions emerge from a conceptual analysis of a
‘momentary state of core affect’ (p.49). While core affect is somewhat naturalistic, its ebb
and flow’ is filtered through culturally-acquired linguistic-conceptual schemas that calibrate
how these emotions are felt, interpreted, and reacted to. In the case of the varied schemas of
positive affect mentioned above, it may be that different researchers guided by their own
preconceptions, agendas, and general cultural situatedness have developed subtly different
frameworks, which are all nevertheless valid on their own terms.
Indeed, it would have been possible for the thematic structure here to have been
configured differently. For instance, within the theme of joy/euphoria was the concept of
lèjíshengbēi, alluding to the way that peaks of happiness inevitable precipitate a comedown
towards sadness. The concept is therefore inherently ambivalent, presenting a dialectical
interaction of positively- and negatively-valenced feelings. As such, the thematic structure
above could have potentially been expanded to accommodate an eighth theme featuring these
kinds of unstable, complex, ambivalent feelings. However, there is an entire category within
the lexicography pertaining to such feelings. Therefore, rather than introducing an additional
theme here, it was felt more parsimonious to situate lèjíshengbēi within joy/euphoria, and
then to view it as a bridging term that intersects the categories of positive affect and
ambivalent feelings. This kind of coding dilemma is common in qualitative and conceptual
analysis. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to classify phenomena such as emotions;
different schemas can simply be more or less plausible, and it was felt that the framework
presented here was the optimal configuration. Other scholars may well approach the situation
differently however, which would also be completely acceptable.
Besides the contingent and somewhat-subjective nature of conceptual classification,
the analysis also has various limitations. First, my treatment of the included words has been
inevitably restricted, limited by attempting to convey an overarching comparative analysis
(i.e., rather than focusing on a small number of terms) within the constraints of a short article.
Moreover, given that translation is such a problematic exercise, it is not possible to arrive at
descriptions that would satisfy all speakers of the donor language. As with any translation,
one aims ‘to catch the spirit’ of the original word (McClaren, 1998, p.128). However, given
the fluidity and complexity of language use, there will always be many possible ways of
defining and interpreting a given word. Thus, the descriptions of the untranslatable words
here are merely one possible way of elucidating these terms, and ultimately are based on my
own reading and interpretation of the source material. That said, I have consulted dictionaries
and scholarly sources in the aim of arriving at viable and valid descriptions of all the words.
In addition to issues around translation and hermeneutics, the analysis, and the lexicography
itself, are by no means exhaustive. For instance, the lexicography only currently features
around 120 languages, out of potentially more than 7,000 currently in existence. The
lexicography, and its analysis, must be seen as works-in-progress. There are likely to be
many relevant terms that are included neither in the analysis above, nor the lexicography as it
currently stands. Moreover, some cultures have been considered in more depth than others
(particularly Eastern ones), which reflects my personal interests, which drove the process of
conceptual snowballing in particular directions. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the analysis may
still offer a useful cross-cultural appraisal of positive emotions, limited and partial as it may
be. Future research may then be able to build on this, developing an even more
comprehensive and nuanced cross-cultural conception of this vital dimension of wellbeing.
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... As noted above, in the initial GT analysis of 216 words that established the foundation for the lexicography (Lomas, 2016b), I identified six main categories. With the gradual addition of over 1,400 new words to date, it has been possible to conduct and publish analyses of each category separately, revealing their internal structure: positive feelings (Lomas, 2017a), ambivalent feelings (Lomas, 2017b), love (Lomas, 2018c), prosociality (Lomas, 2018b), character (Lomas, 2019c), and spirituality (Lomas, 2019a). In addition, the new words have also led to the identification of six further categoriesstill within the three meta-category structureas illustrated below in Figure 1. ...
... In the first meta-category of qualia, the first category is positive feelings (Lomas, 2017a). ...
... In that respect, the analysis as it stands has led to the identification of three meta-categories, each of which now features four categories (which in themselves comprise numerous themes). The first metacategory is qualia, which includes positive feelings (Lomas, 2017a), ambivalent feelings (Lomas, 2017b), and nowin the updated iteration of the analysis, with over 1,400 new words added to the lexicography since my initial analysis (Lomas, 2016b)also cognition (Lomas, forthcoming d) and embodiment (Lomas, forthcoming e). The second is relationships, featuring love (Lomas, 2018c), prosociality (Lomas, 2018b), and now also ecoconnection (Lomas, 2019b) and aesthetics (Lomas, forthcoming a). ...
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Positive psychology has been critiqued as Western-centric, influenced by the mostly Western contexts in which it has developed. English is its dominant mode of discourse, for example, which has shaped its understanding of its subject matter. To generate a more comprehensive cross-cultural 'map' of wellbeing, the author is creating a lexicography of relevant 'untranslatable' words (without exact translation in English). An initial analysis of 216 words, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology in 2016, identified six main categories: positive feelings, ambivalent feelings, love, prosociality, character, and spirituality. Subsequently, over 1,400 more words have been added to the lexicography to date. As a result, analyses have been published of each category separately, revealing their internal structure. In addition, six further categories have been identified: cognition, embodiment, aesthetics, eco-connection, competence, and understanding. This paper summarises these analyses, and outlines their significance in terms of augmenting the conceptual map in positive psychology.
... Indeed, with the new words, the thematic structure in the original paper has been updated. The six categories initially identified are still present, and moreover have been enriched by the additional words, with analyses published on each: positive feelings (Lomas, 2017a), ambivalent feelings (Lomas, 2017b), love (Lomas, 2018b), prosociality (Lomas, 2021a), character (Lomas, 2019c), and spirituality (Lomas, 2019a), plus a theoretical paper on the project itself (Lomas, 2018a). However, six new categories have also been identified, as summarized in a more recent overview (Lomas, 2021b). ...
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Vitality has been underappreciated and underexplored by academia at large. This oversight is potentially explained by the Western-centric nature of most fields, with vitality having been comparatively neglected in the West relative to elsewhere. One explanation for this lacuna is that vitality is not easily pigeonholed within the ontological categories dominant in the West, such as mind and body. This paper therefore aims to learn from cultures that have cultivated a greater understanding of vitality, doing so by engaging with relevant 'untranslatable' words (i.e., those without exact equivalent in English), thus enriching our conceptual map of this topic. Over 200 relevant terms were located and analyzed using an adapted form of grounded theory. Three themes were identified, each with four subthemes: spirit (life force, channels, soul, and transcendence); energy (fortitude, channeling, willpower, and recharging); and heart (desire, passion, affection, and satisfaction). The paper thus refines our understanding of this important topic and provides a foundation for future research.
... The six categories initially identified are still present, and moreover have been enriched by the additional words, with analyses published on each: positive feelings (Lomas, 2017a), ambivalent feelings (Lomas, 2017b), love (Lomas, 2018b), prosociality (Lomas, 2021b), character (Lomas, 2019b), and spirituality (Lomas, 2019a), plus a theoretical paper on the project itself (Lomas, 2018a). However, six new categories have also been identified. ...
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Art and aesthetics have long been understood as central to human well-being and flourishing. However, the academic study of these phenomena has been critiqued for its Western-centricity and general lack of cross-cultural engagement. As such, this article aims to broaden our appreciation of the contours of aesthetics by engaging with relevant “untranslatable” words (i.e., without an exact equivalent in English), thereby enriching our conceptual map of this arena. Over 300 relevant terms from 24 languages were located and analyzed using grounded theory. Four main metathemes were identified, each with several themes: stimuli (spanning the sensory modalities of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and the mind), qualities (harmony, naturalness, simplicity, prettiness, and shock), dynamics (appreciation, understanding, and inspiration), and modes (modalities, movements, and techniques). The article therefore adds to our understanding of this vital arena of human well-being and flourishing, though, as ever, further work is needed.
... Some are closer to more conventional contemporary interpretations of happiness than others. For instance, a narrower conceptualisation of this term might associate it mainly with hedonic happiness, and particularly high arousal forms of positive affect, such as joy or euphoria (Lomas, 2017b). In that respect, ideas like simḥah in Judaism (often rendered as 'joy') are relatively close conceptually. ...
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Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic of interest across numerous academic fields. However, the literature can sometimes imply it is predominantly a modern concern. Relatedly, critics have argued that contemporary scholarship on happiness is Western-centric, yet in so doing can appear to suggest that happiness is mainly a Western preoccupation. However, taking an expansive view of happiness-defining it broadly as a desirable mental experience-one can appreciate that versions of this phenomenon have been of interest to humans across cultures and throughout history. To articulate this perspective, this paper offers a brief overview of 14 different eras, spanning a range of global regions, in each case highlighting concepts and concerns that bear some close resemblance to happiness. In so doing, the paper encourages a deeper and more inclusive understanding of this vital topic.
... Such words indicate phenomena and insights which have not yet been lexicalised in English, and hence tend to be overlooked by psychology, to its detriment. By analysing these words thematically it has been possible to augment the field's current conceptual 'map' of various topics, including positive emotions (Lomas, 2017b), ambivalent emotions (Lomas, 2017c), prosociality (Lomas, 2018b), love (Lomas, 2018c), spirituality (Lomas, 2019a), eco-connection (Lomas, 2019b), and character (Lomas, 2019c). ...
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The development of academic fields is often described through the metaphor of ‘waves.’ Following the instantiation of positive psychology (the first wave), scholarship emerged looking critically at the notions of positive and negative, becoming known as its second wave. More recently, we discern an equally significant shift, namely scholarship that in various ways goes beyond the individual and embraces greater complexity. This includes going beyond the individual person as the primary focus of enquiry to look more deeply at the groups and systems in which people are embedded. It also involves becoming more interdisciplinary and multicultural, and embracing a wider range of methodologies. We submit that these interrelated ripples constitute a form of epistemological ‘broadening’ that merit the label of an incoming ‘third wave.’ This paper identifies the key dynamics of this wave, allowing appreciation not only of the field’s leading edge, but also its developmental potential into the future.
... Indeed, with the addition of the new words, the thematic structure outlined in the original paper has been updated. The six categories initially identified are still present, and moreover have been enriched by the additional words, with thematic analyses published on each (positive feelings [35], ambivalent feelings [36], love [37], prosociality [38], character [39], and spirituality [40]), plus a theoretical paper [28] and monograph [41] on the lexicographic project itself. However, the additional words have also led to six new categories being identified. ...
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The environment is widely recognised to be in peril, with clear signs of a climate crisis. This situation has many dimensions and factors, but key among them are the often-destructive ways in which humans interact with the natural world. Numerous cultures-particularly more industrialised and/or Western ones-have developed predatory and disconnected modes of interaction. In such modes, nature tends to be constructed as a resource to be exploited (rather than, say, a commonwealth to be protected). However, many people-especially, but not only, in less 'developed' nations-have cultivated less destructive modes of relationship. These bonds may be broadly encompassed under the rubric of 'eco-connection'. In the interests of exploring these latter modes, an enquiry was conducted into adaptive forms of engagement with nature across the world's cultures. The enquiry focused on untranslatable words, i.e., which lack an exact translation in another language (in this case, English). Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with additional data collection, over 150 relevant terms were located. An adapted form of grounded theory identified three main dimensions of eco-connection: sacrality, bonding, and appreciation. Such analyses have the potential to promote greater wellbeing literacy with respect to our relationship with nature, both within academia and beyond in the wider culture. This includes enriching the nomological network in psychology, and more broadly building a nature-related vocabulary that is more sustainable and harmonious. In doing so, there may also be benefits to public health, in that developing such literacy could possibly influence people's engagement with nature itself, leading to more adaptive forms of relationship.
... Through the description of these transformational phenomena and the therapeutic processes that systematically give rise to them, we thus resonate with and respond to the call of Shiota et al. (2017) for more differentiation of positive emotions as discrete entities. We also hope our work contributes to Lomas' efforts to catalogue positive emotions in the cultures of the world (Lomas, 2017), by enriching that lexicon with nondenominational words that capture the quality of positive transformational affective experiences that we believe to be both universal and natural. We thus join these efforts to counter the negative bias that has characterized both the lexicon and the clinical practices of our field. ...
This paper explores core adaptive emotions, both negative and positive, and investigates their respective roles in the transformation of emotional suffering into flourishing. We do so through the lens of Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), a mind/body, emotion-focused, healing-oriented model of psychotherapy that has articulated a four state phenomenology of the transformational process. Through such a transformational process, energy-consuming negative emotions are transformed into energy-enriching positive emotions, thus describing an arc that organically links the negative emotions of emotional suffering with the positive emotions of flourishing. AEDP achieves this through (i) amplifying the vitality affects that identify positive neuroplasticity through therapist transformance detection; (ii) experientially processing to completion the “gut-wrenching” emotions of trauma, and then, (iii) “turbocharging” the innate affects of healing to expand transformation through metatherapeutic processing, a technique for working with positive emotions to maximize their therapeutic impact. We conclude with thoughts on how metatherapeutic processing might be used by therapists of different orientations to systematically bring flourishing into psychotherapy sessions and on how AEDP’s descriptive phenomenology of affective states can function as a trans-theoretical vehicle of communication to further the exploration of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying change processes in psychotherapy.
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The past 150 years have seen remarkable advances in the study of wellbeing. To appreciate the value and significance of these developments, this paper offers a historical perspective on their dynamics, arguing that we have seen four great waves of wellbeing scholarship in the modern West. I begin by exploring the wave metaphor itself, and then propose that these waves have been unfurling in a Western cultural ‘ocean.’ As such, I then explore key historical currents that have shaped this ocean, including Greek philosophy, Christianity, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. From there, the narrative considers the emergence of the first wave (psychiatry and psychotherapy), second wave (humanistic psychology), and third wave (positive psychology). The paper concludes by suggesting we are seeing an emerging fourth wave of ‘global wellbeing scholarship,’ in which these Western waters are beginning to intermingle with other regional oceans (which have likewise progressed through their own developmental currents and waves), creating a more globally inclusive picture of wellbeing.
The article examines the phenomenon of comfort that exists in all modern cultures as a person’s need to have his own space, equipped according to his own taste. The comfort combines the conditions of the external material environment and the internal emotional state of a person. Comfort acquires special importance in the bourgeois culture of the 19th century, which assumed a dichotomy of work and leisure, public and private spheres. Comfort is an important need of a modern person, providing rest and recovery, protection from the anxieties and adversities of the outside world.
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Fun activities are commonly sought and highly desired yet their affective side has received little scrutiny. The present research investigated two features of fun in two daily diary studies and one laboratory experiment. First, we examined the affective state associated with fun experiences. Second, we investigated the social context of fun, considering whether shared fun is more enjoyable than solitary fun. Findings from these studies indicated that fun is associated with both high-activation and low-activation positive affects, and that it is enhanced when experienced with others (especially friends). However, social fun was associated with increases in high-activation but not low-activation positive affect, suggesting that social interaction emphasizes energizing affective experiences. We also found that loneliness moderated the latter effects, such that lonely individuals received a weaker boost from shared compared to solitary fun. These results add to what is known about the impact of social contexts on affective experience.
This book is the first work to address the question of what kinds of words get borrowed in a systematic and comparative perspective. It studies lexical borrowing behavior on the basis of a world-wide sample of 40 languages, both major languages and minor languages, and both languages with heavy borrowing and languages with little lexical influence from other languages. The book is the result of a five-year project bringing together a unique group of specialists of many different languages and areas. The introductory chapters provide a general up-to-date introduction to language contact at the word level, as well as a presentation of the project's methodology. All the chapters are based on samples of 1000-2000 words, elicited by a uniform meaning list of 1460 meanings. The combined database, comprising over 70,000 words, is published online at the same time as the book is published. For each word, information about loanword status is given in the database, and the 40 case studies in the book describe the social and historical contact situations in detail.The final chapter draws general conclusions about what kinds of words tend to get borrowed, what kinds of word meanings are particularly resistant to borrowing, and what kinds of social contact situations lead to what kinds of borrowing situations. © 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, 10785 Berlin, Germany. All rights reserved.