The Happiness Passport: A world tour of joyful living in 50 words

The Happiness Passport: A world tour of joyful living in 50 words


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"In Hayes’ book ... she joins the dots between these differing beliefs to help us cultivate a richer shared vocabulary of happiness, and unravels the global interpretations of living well and contentedly." – Psychologiesmagazine

“With each word illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova, it’s a pure joy to read.”Flow magazine

Discover the secrets of wellbeing from cultures around the world, from hygge to yang sheng.

The Happiness Passport is a collection of wonderfully evocative words from around the globe that resonate with us all. Unique and often untranslatable, the meaning behind each expression will stir up familiar emotions – bringing joy, contentment and a greater understanding of other cultures. There are a wealth of examples to discover for a more wholesome outlook on life, including: 

•    Hiraeth – the word for deep longing for home (Welsh)
•    Goya – the transportive ability of good storytelling (Urdu)
•    Yugen – the ability of the natural world to deeply move us (Japanese)
•    Gigil – the overwhelming urge to cuddle an adorable pet (Philippine Tagalog)
Simultaneously all-inclusive and peculiar to place, these words are on the tip of our tongue and yet not in our vocabulary.

The Happiness Passport delves into this treasure trove of delights, examining the cultural context of each expression and the lessons that we can apply in our own lives to achieve greater contentment. A must-read for fans of The Serenity Passport, and for all those seeking a more balanced life. This beautiful guide features original illustrations that evoke each elusive expression.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781318027
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 862,653
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Megan Hayes is a researcher, writer, and pioneer of the Positive Journal® approach to personal writing. She is an expert in positive psychology, always seeking new techniques to help people flourish and find happiness. 

Regularly presenting her research at conferences across the globe, Megan is passionate about helping others find the tools they need to improve their wellbeing. She also has a personal interest in mental health issues, having grown up with a mother and sister who both experienced bi-polar episodes.

Megan is the author of Write Yourself Happy, The Happiness Passport and The Serenity Passport.

Megan Hayes is a researcher, writer, and pioneer of the Positive Journal® approach to personal writing. As an academic in the field of positive psychology, as well as a creative writing graduate, she has spent the last decade studying writing, the psychology of happiness, and researching ways that writing makes us happier. She has a passion for all things related to wellbeing and a personal interest in mental health issues, having grown up with a mother and sister who both experienced bi-polar episodes.

Megan has presented her research at conferences in the UK, United States and Europe, including the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) and the European Conference on Positive Psychology (ECPP). Her first book, Write Yourself Happy, will be published in 2018.  

Yelena Bryksenkova was born in St Petersburg, Russia, grew up in Cleveland, and studied illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, Czech Republic. Now living in Los Angeles, Yelena works as a freelance illustrator and fine artist for clients such as Anthropologie, Apartment Therapy, Chronicle Books, Flow Magazine, The New York Times, and Urban Outfitters. Her small pen and acryla gouache paintings are inspired by her love of home and the comfort of everyday objects, as well as more magical, mysterious and melancholy themes.
Yelena has 49k followers on Instagram, and her Etsy shop has received 21,767 favourites. 

Read an Excerpt


Home & Environment

Picture a cosy room with a crackling fire, the lull of familiar voices in easy conversation, and perhaps a table laden with dishes of delicious food that can be tasted nowhere else but here ... The word home holds these and many other connotations. Home is – proverbially speaking – where the heart is, and apparently there's no place like it. It stirs our most deeply felt emotions.

Thoughts of home bring to mind intimate, safe and familiar places – but around the world our diverse languages illuminate how our sense of home can also extend far beyond this. We find comfort in our Earth's many environs – including those that are wild and remote. The crunch of leaves under foot in autumnal woodland can make us feel the sense of peace we associate with being 'at home'. At other times we feel most at home in the freedom and scope of open spaces. And, of course, sometimes home is not a physical place at all – not somewhere we can point out on a map – but a place that exists between people.

Let's see how our differing environments – and the many unique ways in which we speak about them – affect how we feel, and how we find happiness.


j3:ku:ta | noun | Swedish

1. to rise at dawn in order to go outside and hear the first birdsong

Swedish is a language rich in descriptions of how we can draw a sense of belonging and happiness from the natural world. One word that perhaps best illustrates this is gökotta. A gökotta is literally a 'dawn picnic' sound-tracked by early birdsong, but can also refer more generally to an appreciation of nature. While for most of us our mornings are defined less by tranquil experiences like these and more by beeping alarm clocks, strong coffee and eating a hurried breakfast before we rush out the door to work, gökotta is a gentle reminder that things do not always have to be this way. Sometimes, it is okay to schedule a little more of this life's less practical tasks into our busy routines.

Gökotta is unlikely to be something we schedule in every morning, but occasionally slipping out of bed at daybreak and strolling outside for an early burst of the natural world may just do wonders for our sense of well-being. This is because it encompasses many feel-good factors: rising early, mindfulness, exercise (if our gökotta includes a walk) and time in nature. Start your morning the gökotta way and try not to have a spring in your step for the rest of the day.

Yet this is not the only word the Swedes possess for positive experiences in nature. If the Swedish people start their day with gökotta, then when dusk comes it is time to revere mångata – describing the road-like reflection that the moon makes across water at night. Mångata evokes the contemplative mood that such ephemeral natural wonders can stir within us – and shows how the Swedes derive joy from nature at all times of day.

Another particularly beautiful word in the Swedish language that similarly articulates the happiness we so often source from our environment is smultronställe. This literally means 'place of wild strawberries' but can refer more generally to any tucked away and highly treasured place. Mitt smultronställe therefore means 'my hideaway' or 'my special place', and can evoke any environment where we feel happy, content, peaceful and truly at home. There we have it: if there is one group of people whose well-being is intricately intertwined with their environment, it's the Swedes.

'AINA a:i:na: | noun_|_Hawaiian

1. land (or 'that which feeds us')

There is one environment so fundamental to our survival on this planet that we rarely stop to ponder the happiness it brings: land, the official home of all human beings. Were it not for this bountiful, muddy mass underfoot ... well, let's just say that even the best swimmers among us would be pretty scuppered. Accordingly, one place where people take their land very seriously is among the islands of Hawaii. In Hawaiian language – an Austronesian language spoken by around eight thousand people – the word for land, 'aina, has the deeper meaning of 'that which feeds us'. How often do you think this way about the ground you walk upon? My guess would be rarely, if ever. For Hawaiians however, the beautiful phrase aloha 'aina – literally 'love of the land' – captures the significance of 'aina to Hawaiian culture and identity.

Aloha 'aina represents a way of living with love and reverence for both land and sea (two pretty important elements in island life) stretching from ancient mythology all the way to current environmental debates. This passion for 'aina manifests within Hawaiian culture through everything from storytelling, chanting and traditional celebratory hula dancing, to more practical things like agriculture and politics. On an individual level, our sense of aloha 'aina might be expressed through lifestyle practices founded upon deep respect for our environment. In this sense, then, anything from prayer to everyday recycling might be considered one expression of our aloha 'aina.

The reverent feelings the Hawaiian people have for their 'aina highlights the importance of showing gratitude for one of our most precious natural resources. Very few, in fact, could be called more precious. This could potentially have many benefits, not least in how we treat our planet, but also because intentional gratitude has shown to be one of the principal ways in which we can impact our individual well-being. By noting and saying thank you for the many things we often take for granted, we are able to remind ourselves just how lucky we are. Let the word 'aina serve us as a reminder – and a very important one – to appreciate this lush and abundant planet we call home.

The great outdoors

A love story

If you are seeking a fail-safe lift of the spirits then you need look no further than outside your own front door – literally. Connection with nature has been shown to positively impact our psychological well-being, sense of meaning in life and our vitality. This makes sense, really, given that humans have only lived indoors for a fractional portion of their existence upon this Earth and yet we now spend an increasing amount of our lives hemmed in by concrete. Across cultures and languages we find lots of idiosyncratic ways to talk about this affinity we share for being outside. In English, there are several rare words that romantically depict nature, such as psithurism (the sound of wind whispering through the trees) or petrichor (a noun that describes the pleasantly earthy smell of the rain after a long period of dry, warm weather). The Dutch people have the verb uitwaaien – meaning to take a refreshing walk in the wind. In Canada, the charming term sugar-weather describes the warm days and cool nights of early spring – perfect conditions for maple trees to produce their sweet sap. Meanwhile, the Japanese have a word for the delicate beauty of sunlight dappled through treetops: komorebi ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Finally, the Irish Gaelic word aoibhneas captures the blissful feeling of having our senses filled by stunning scenery and fine weather – proving that perhaps our greatest romance is, indeed, the great outdoors.


hy:ge | noun | Danish and Norwegian

1. the practice of creating cosy and congenial environments that promote emotional well-being

Not simply a word but a whole system for happier living, hygge is a term found in both Denmark and Norway (originating in the Norwegian word for 'well-being') that has become increasingly popular in recent years outside of its Scandinavian homelands. Many things can be hygge, but certain items and experiences are widely considered to be almost synonymous with the term: candlelit spaces, red wine, woolly socks, a few close friends, the sound of beating rain outside of the window while you snuggle on the sofa under layers of soft blankets ... namely, anything that evokes an atmosphere of homely, heart-warming congeniality.

There are several variants of this cosy concept to be found across Northern European languages – reflecting how the dark and cool climes of these countries have compelled their inhabitants to create their own warmth. Sometimes this is through carefully crafted cosy spaces, but is also often found in the close feelings between people.

Another word that similarly evokes environments that are cosy and convivial is the Dutch gezelligheid, which captures a certain heartfelt and inviting ambience that many say typifies Dutch culture. A delightful canal-side picnic with friends would be gezellig, for example, but it could also describe the feeling of seeing a good friend again after a long separation. While the word has parallels with the Danish hygge, one important and unique distinction is the stronger sense of sociability that gezelligheid evokes (it originates from the word gezel meaning 'companion'), subtly different to the often more closed-off cosiness of hygge.

The German word gemütlichkeit also shares similarities with hygge. This many-layered term describes the comfortable sense of well-being we feel when in environments of good cheer and good food (or drink) with good company – and particularly the warm sense of social acceptance that accompanies these situations.

The Swedish have mysig for the feeling of pleasant, comfortable cosiness. For the Norwegians, a comparable word is koselig, which can apply to environments that are pleasant, but also to people – friends or children – that are affable. What is special about all of these words is their intertwining of environments with our friends, relatives and loved ones – illustrating that it is not usually just places themselves that shelter or boost the spirit, but the people we find there.


pre'stor | noun | Russian

1. open space, expanse, vastness, scope

2. freedom

At times, we humans feel happiest in cosy, contained spaces – and at other times quite the opposite. Perhaps because of our ancestral, nomadic nature, we often find a deep joy in expansive spaces, and in few other environments are humans faced with such expansive immensity as in Russia. Which brings us to the lyrical Russian word prostor, also found in other Slavic languages, which captures that ephemeral, soul-stirring sensation that sweeping horizons can awaken in us.

Prostor encapsulates a yearning for wide plains, and is a good example of how we often link external landscapes metaphorically with our internal ones. A word associated closely to prostor is dusha ([[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), the Russian word for soul or spirit. The expansiveness of our spirit, or dusha, finds an external reflection of itself in prostor, and this moment of inner and outer harmony can feel deeply moving. Such a correspondence between our interior realm and our environment is what makes prostor such a uniquely special word, but it also illustrates something we can witness all around the globe: the profound way in which humans can feel connected to their environment, whatever that environment may be.

Interestingly, because of the internal vastness of dusha, prostor can also be felt in small spaces if, for example, we are accompanied by a great book. In even the tiniest and most closed-in of spaces, a good story can expand our interior horizons and offer us a sense of inner freedom.

What gives you a sense of prostor? Whether it's the seeming infinitude of the Siberian desert or the verdant moors of northern England (or even just in the pages of a good novel), the world is filled with expansive spaces that humans have navigated, conquered and called home since time immemorial. Next time you find yourself feeling cramped by your office cubicle or restricted by your railway commute, consider how you could seek out more prostor. Whether it's a trip to the coast or just a stroll around your local park, it may just give your dusha a much-needed lift.


kutf | noun | Welsh

1. a cupboard or cubbyhole

2. a cuddle or hug

Few words better illustrate how environments are not always strictly physical places, but can be created between people, than the Welsh term cwtch. There is an expression that anyone can cuddle, but only the Welsh can cwtch – a little word used to evoke anything from snuggling and affection, to sheltering and claiming, to a cosy place, and in fact, referring to all of these in one. When we give someone a cwtch-type embrace, the most concise description may be that we are offering him or her 'a safe place' – evoking the alternative meaning of the word: a cubbyhole. Yet even this description fails to capture the strong element of intimacy and privacy that the word conjures – either in a physical space or metaphorically between people. While typically thought of as a noun, cwtch is also used in everyday Welsh conversation as a verb, similarly to the English 'cuddle'. One might say, 'go on, cwtch up to me', or that they have been 'cwtching'.

Perhaps only truly comprehended in all its nuances by Welsh speakers themselves, cwtch is a word that suggests safeguarding and ownership of those we love, and can apply in both romantic and more platonic relationships – between lovers, friends or relatives. Because the word is so deeply bound up with warm relationships between individuals, it therefore relates strongly to happiness and well-being. Who among us has not been pulled back from the brink by the warm and resolute embrace of someone who loves us deeply? Sometimes a cuddle is so much more than a cuddle – and, in these instances, we are the beneficiaries of a cwtch.

Cwtch can evoke memories of childhood, rousing that safe, held, supported feeling that only our closest caregiver could provide when, as children, we scraped our knee or felt disappointed by the world – whether this was a tender hug from our mum or dad, or another reassuring figure.

Next time you offer (or are offered) a cuddle, think about the sheltered and protected space that is brought to life by this most ordinary of gestures – a space where all of us can find sustenance, reassurance and happiness any time it is needed.


tu:rænewaiwai | noun | Maori

1. a place where one has the right to stand; place where one has rights of residence and belonging through kinship and whakapapa (genealogy)

This heavy-duty word combines turanga (standing place) with waewae (feet), and although it is sometimes simply translated as 'a place to stand', it evokes far more than this. Our turangawaewae is our foundation, the place to which we feel most tied and where we feel our roots are – whether in a geographical or cultural sense. Accordingly, our turangawaewae is usually the place where we feel most empowered – a robust source of happiness.

Like many other words from around the globe linking us to our external environment, turangawaewae illustrates how connected outer landscapes are with our innermost landscapes. For the Maori people – as is the case for most of us – the moving scenes, trickling streams, mighty peaks and winding pathways of our home soil can stir within us a deep sense of security and rootedness. These environments offer us the strength to face life head on. If you have ever had the warm feeling of returning home from a foreign holiday by airplane and glimpsing that first sight of your own country from the air – then you will have some idea of the vigour of being in your own turangawaewae.

A similar feeling is evoked by the Spanish noun querencia, which describes the strength and resolve to be found within ourselves when we feel at home. In the Spanish tradition of bullfighting, the bull's querencia is the place to which he returns in the ring in order to regain his strength and footing. In his querencia, the bull is at his most powerful and therefore his most formidable.

We are often encouraged to get out of our comfort zones and experience the new, and so tend to focus less on how our turangawaewae – our standing place – can deeply empower us. Whether we find this literally in returning to our home town for a visit, or in holding a meeting at work in our own office rather than that of a colleague – physical spaces where we feel at home can make us feel more in control and, as a result, deeply well. Keep your own turangawaewae in mind next time you need a personal power supercharge.


Excerpted from "The Happiness Passport"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Megan C Hayes.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE Home & Environment, 11,
CHAPTER TWO Community & Relationships, 37,
CHAPTER THREE Character & Soul, 63,
CHAPTER FOUR Joy & Spirituality, 89,
CHAPTER FIVE Balance & Calm, 115,
THANKS, 144,

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