Words with more meaning

Susan Perry’s recent positive psychology article inspired me to write this post. Her article was sparked by Tim Lomas’s research. Lomas is a psychologist at the University of East London.

Different cultures have many words that are not directly translatable to words in the dictionary-1149723_960_720English language. Some of the words are used to express very positive, specific feelings or conditions. A common belief in the study of languages is that if we value something we label it, so simply having these positive words as part of a language may speak volumes about that culture, what it values and how it perceives the concept of well-being. Lomas’ research is exploring these ideas and more.

Reading through the list of positive words Lomas collected made me stop and think about what words I would like folks to use when describing me. Those thoughts led me to think about how I want to be remembered by others, which made me realize I need to pay even more attention now to how I communicate with and treat others.

I also was struck by the beauty and depth of feeling these positive, descriptive words evoke.  Here are some of those words that I thought were wonderfully special and would love to be part of my life and how others describe me . . .

Ubuntu (Nguni Bantu): the culturally valued notion of being kind to others on account of one’s common humanity

Orenda (Wyandot Iroquoian): the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces, such as fate

Kào pu (Chinese): someone who is reliable, responsible and able to get things done without causing problems for others

Suaimhneas croi (Gaelic): a state of happiness encountered specifically after a task has been finished

Fargin (Yiddish): to glow with pride and happiness at the success of others (often family members)

Nakama (Japanese): friends whom one effectively considers family

Kombinowac (Polish): working out an unusual solution to a complicated problem, and acquiring coveted skills or qualities in the process

Hoadult-18792__180w do you want to be described? How do you want to be remembered? What one thing could you do today to move closer to the you, you want to be?

Click here, if you would like to read the article that inspired this post. Click here, if you would like to read more about Lomas’ “positive lexicography project” .

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A poetic snapshot of well-being

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking snapshot of well-being 2





“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

François-René de Chateaubriand

François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand was a French writer, politician, diplomat and historian. He’s considered to be the founder of Romanticism in French literature.

I love Chateaubriand’s quote, it captures the essence of well-being and four of the five pillars of PERMA the positive psychology acronym for flourishing by combining fun, flow, and fulfillment with accomplishment. Add some rewarding relationships and you will positively flourish!

Energize your way through life

Patrice Koerper  Life Coach Wishful Thinking Works EnergizersResearch has confirmed that individuals are perceived as “positive energizers” or “negative energizers”.

“Positive energisers create and support vitality in others. They uplift and boost people.  Interacting with positive energisers leaves others feeling lively and motivated. They build energy in people.”

And their approach, makes a huge difference in their performance, relationships, well-being and lives, and the work and lives others. Energizers are great leaders.

“They encourage ideas and creation of answers so that they’re not getting stuck into ruts with problems and issues. They make things happen because of the richness of the relationships they have that increase the discretionary effort those around them put in. They know enough about what’s going on around them that if they don’t know the answer, they can direct people to the right place. They help calm situations where tensions may be fraying and possible friction exists.”  Sukh Pabial

Who does that for you? Is their someone at work? In your family? Your friends?

Where do you fall on the positive energizing spectrum; how often do you share positive energy?


Where do you want to be on the spectrum?

The good news is anyone can learn to be a positive energizer. It’s not a personality trait. It doesn’t matter if you are extroverted or introverted. It’s not about being outgoing. It’s about how you act and interact with people.

Quick tips for positively energizing your life. They’re free and easy:

  • Listen.
  • Smile more.
  • Give credit to others.
  • Let co-workers, staff, and family know you appreciate what they do.
  • Respond more often with “Hmm. I don’t know. What do you think?”
  • Create a culture of caring and kindness – lead the way!

Don’t limit yourself, your team, your family, or your life.  Energize them!

Volunteering can add years to your life!


“Volunteering for things that you feel passionate about and are intrinsically motivated to do may help you to experience greater health benefits and protect you from burnout.” Jenny Brennan

As a lifelong volunteer, and a 3-time Peace Corps Volunteer (one 27-month assignment and two 3.5 month assignments in the Response Corps), I wanted to share with you a recent article by organizational consultant Jenny Brennan about volunteering.

Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of volunteering and have felt the many benefits firsthand. If you haven’t already, I hope you will give volunteering a try – there’s plenty of scientific research that shows it’s good for you!

Around the United States on Monday, January 21, thousands of people across the country volunteered to make a difference in their communities during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. People came together for a variety of projects such as feeding homeless veterans, cleaning parks, and collecting clothes and toys for local children. Volunteering not only strengthens communities and those being helped, but as anyone who volunteers knows, it feels good. But a closer look at the research shows that the benefits of volunteering extend beyond a warm feeling.

Benefits of Volunteering

Researchers have found that the act of volunteering is associated with several forms of well-being, including hedonic (happiness, life satisfaction), eudaimonic (meaning and self-actualization), and social (how one views his or her function in society).

In a longitudinal study with a national sample of adults, Thoits and Hewitt found that while individuals with greater well-being tend to self-select, volunteering can also enhance happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, one’s sense of control over life, and self-reported physical health. These effects held even after controlling for individuals’ participation in other voluntary groups, such as attending meetings, and their prior levels of personal well-being.

Field and colleagues have found that the act of helping others decreases the stress hormone, while Konrath and colleagues have found it is associated with lower risk of mortality in certain cases.

Activism, which can be viewed as a dedicated form of volunteering in which people advocate for particular causes, has also been linked to higher subjective reports of well-being. In a series of studies, Klar and Kasser found that activism was correlated with positive affect, hope, self-actualization, psychological need satisfaction, higher meaning in life, and agency. Interestingly, they also found a small causal effect between engaging in an activist behavior and felt vitality

How Often?

While people can seemingly experience the positive effects of volunteering and activism after just one event, both studies found that people who engaged on a more regular basis experienced greater benefits. However, studies by Morrow and Howell have shown that the positive gains of volunteering are not linear and that levels of involvement beyond 100 hours a year were not associated with increased gains.

Why Is Volunteering Beneficial?

Volunteering may impact well-being through a variety of mechanisms. It may increase people’s perceptions that they matter, that they are an important part of the world. It can instill a sense of purpose in the volunteer and can boost social resources and positive effect, which can have positive health implications. Lyubomirsky reports that helping others can also lead to a sense of capability and accomplishment.

Motivation Matters

People volunteer for many reasons, including to meet new friends, to build personal skills, and to help others. Often, people are motivated by multiple goals. But the type of motivation driving the behavior may impact the benefits one receives.

In a study reported in 2012, Konrath and colleagues examined data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study that tracked 10,317 male and female high school graduates since 1957. They found that even after controlling for factors such as socioeconomic status and physical health, people who volunteered experienced a reduced mortality risk four years later than non-volunteers, but only when they were mainly motivated for other-oriented reasons, such as altruistic values or social connection, instead of self-oriented reasons, such as self-enhancement and learning. The authors speculated that perhaps other-oriented motives engage systems that deactivate the stress response and activate restorative hormones such as oxytocin.

Regardless of whether one is motivated for other-oriented or self-oriented reasons, self-determination theory posits that the degree to which a behavior is self-directed predicts its effect on well-being. Kasser and Ryan found that people experienced greater well-being when pursuing intrinsic goals (those that are inherently rewarding and done for their own sake), but not extrinsic ones (those that are done for some external reward or end goal). Intrinsic goals may impact a person’s well-being by fulfilling the basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Volunteering for things that you feel passionate about and are intrinsically motivated to do may help you to experience greater health benefits and protect you from burnout.

Beyond Individual to Society

The implications of volunteering obviously extend beyond the individual. With greater human capital allocated to vital missions more people can be helped. According to Lyubomirsky, being kind and generous leads one to perceive others more positively and fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in the community. Given the individual and societal benefits of volunteering, perhaps this is something to consider doing throughout the year.


Field, M. F., M. Hernandez-Reif, O. Quintino, S. Schanberg, and C. Kuhn (1998). Elder retired volunteers benefit from gving massage therapy to infants. Journal of Applied Gerontology 17 (2): 229–39. Abstract.

Greenfield, E.A., & Marks, N.F. (2004). Formal volunteering as a protective factor for older adults’ psychological well-being. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 59B, S258-S264

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Be careful what you wish for: Optimal functioning and the relative attainment of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. In P. Schmuck & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Life Goals and Well-Being: Towards a Positive Psychology of Human Striving (pp. 116-131). Ashland, OH, US: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.

Klar, M., & Kasser, T. (2009). Some benefits of being an activist: Measuring activism and its role in psychological well-being. Political Psychology, 30(5), 755-777.

Konrath, Fuhrel-Forbis, Lou, Brown (2012). Motives for volunteering are associated with mortality risk in older adults. Health Psychology, 31(1), 87-96. Abstract.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Books.

Maslach, C. (2003). Job burnout: New directions in research and intervention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(5), 189-192. Abstract.

Morrow-Howell, N., Hinterlong, J., Rozario, P., & Tang, F. (2003). Effects of volunteering on the well-being of older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 58B(3), S137-S145. Abstract.

Piliavin, J. A. and Siegl, E. (2007). Health benefits of volunteering in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 48(4): 450-464.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 53,141–166.

Thoits, P. and Hewitt, L. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42, 115–131.

Wilson, K. & Musick, M. (1999). The Effects of Volunteering on the Volunteer. Law and Contemporary Problems, 62, 141-168.

Jenny Brennan, MAPP 2012, is a researcher, writer, and consultant who helps organizations develop their young professional workforces and empower employees through positive communication. She also helps individuals experience greater resilience and well-being. Ms. Brennan has 15 years of nonprofit management, issue advocacy, and corporate communications experience. She writes about self-compassion and ways that individuals and organization can harness positive psychology for social good.

Flourish PERMAnently

Give me a P.  “P”   Give me an E.  “E” 

  Give me a R, M, A!   “R, M, A!”

What does it spell? PERMA! Louder. PERMA???


Now that I have your attention, I would like to tell you about Dr. Martin Seligman’s acronym for what we need to flourish in our lives – PERMA. My explanation comes from the pages of his newest book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, which I have mentioned several times in recent posts.

The book is 300+ pages of:

  • what’s working in positive psychology (lots)
  • stories about how positive psychology got to where it is today (It’s growing by leaps and bounds and finding its way into schools, businesses, and the United State Army – more on that later.)
  • a how-to manual for those interested in improving their lives (that’s us)
  • and a guide for where Seligman thinks positive psychology, we, and the world should direct our attention next.

Ambitious? Yes.  Interesting? Quite!  Insightful? Undeniably.  Helpful? Unbelievably.  Readable? Well, yes, but my guess is not everyone will find it the page-turner that I did. (I say this only because I have learned from the kind and well-meaning feedback of friends and family throughout the years that one woman’s non-fiction dream, can be another person’s sleeping potion.) So just incase you don’t pick-up the book, I will keep sharing what’s inside it.

Which brings me back to PERMA, and how to create the life your really want from Seligman’s five pillars of well-being.

P – POSITIVE EMOTION (happiness, fun, gratitude – a solid base)

E – ENGAGEMENT (flow – losing ourselves or becoming so absorbed in our work, our hobbies, the moment)

R – RELATIONSHIPS (those that touch our hearts, our souls and our minds)

M – MEANING or a sense of purpose and fulfillment in our lives

A – ACCOMPLISHMENT (learning and moving forward with our endeavors big and small; knowing and using your strengths)

Put them all together and what do you have? PERMA and folks, who are flourishing by living happy, interesting, fulfilling lives that they created, embrace, value and appreciate.

I’ll be posting more info about Seligman’s 5 factor approach for flourishing. PERMA is much more than a to-do-list. It’s about creating the life you really want, and can help you focus your attention and efforts on what’s ahead for you, not the past. There’s a big difference and that difference can help you flourish – PERMAnently!

To read more about PERMA, click here.

PERMA is definitely one of those Wishful Thinking kind-of things that work!

WTW Dandelion

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