Fighting Stress with the Danish Word “Pyt”

According to last year’s World Happiness Report, Danes were ranked as some of the happiest people in the world. But does it all come down to language? We explore this further.


30 July 2019
 
Every year, the World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by their levels of happiness and 117 countries by their immigrant’s happiness. While Finland was the newly top-ranked country, the top ten positions are held by the usual suspects as in the last two years which include Denmark, Switzerland and Norway. These countries tend to share similar traits that support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. But one thing that differs is the Danish word “pyt,” which was recently voted as the most popular word by Danes.   
 
Pyt doesn’t have an exact English translation. It’s more of a cultural concept about cultivating healthy thoughts to deal with stress. You can also think of the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata” which means “no worries.” Thus, pyt can be used as an interjection in reaction to a daily hassle, frustration or mistake. Did you spill the milk? Pyt. Did you get forget to buy a train ticket and now see the ticket controller coming up to you? Pyt. Did your car breakdown in the middle of the road? Pyt. 
 
Essentially though, it’s about accepting and resetting. It’s meant to help you step back from the situation, refocus and not overreact. So, you can be like Elsa and just let it go. Pyt can also be used as a response to something you did – “pyt, why did I do that?” or to support someone – “pyt with that, he didn’t deserve you anyway.” This word is great because it has been proven to reduce stress and some suggest that using it at work can lead to more job satisfaction.  
 
Numerous studies have shown that we are able to live longer and happier when we don’t worry about minor hurdles that appear in life. It all comes down to how we interpret and react to other people’s actions. For instance, if someone shows up late to a meeting, you just think pyt. You can’t control that person or their behaviour so why let it bother you? But just like everything in life – you need to have balance. So don’t go around using pyt for every problem, especially the major ones. It should not be used to avoid taking responsibility or to become more unproductive. Instead, think of it as a way to not sweat the small stuff, not to hold grudges and to carry on with more meaningful things to worry about in life.  
 
Danish teachers also use pyt to help children cope with smaller frustrations such as getting a lower grade than expected, not finding your school agenda – you learn that not everything in life is perfect. It also helps avoid perfectionism which has been shown to relate to worrying and depression.  
 
So how about the next time you are inconvenienced by someone or something, you try to think of pyt and move on. See if you end up feeling better and less stressed that way – it clearly works for the Danes so why not try it for yourself? 

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