5 Slang Phrases That Perfectly Sum Up Why Hawaii Is So Damn Happy

5 Aug


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Hawaii is often defined by its awe-inspiring beauty, but for those lucky enough to live there, the Aloha State is much more than an idyllic paradise.

It consistently ranks as one of the happiest states in the country, and its unique mixture of culturesspirit of aloha, and carpe diem lifestyle can all be summed up in the words — or rather, the slang — of the islands’ kama’aina, the people who call Hawaii home.

Below, five phrases and words unique to Hawaii that can teach all of us to live happier, more fulfilling lives.

1. Chance ’em:

1. “Take a chance,” 2. “Go for it!” 3. “You can do it!”

Used in a sentence: “I’m not sure if I can run three miles on the beach, but I’m going to chance ’em anyway.”

Taking risks can be difficult, but in Hawaii people use “chance ’em” as encouragement to face fears and try something new. It’s an easy phrase to remember that can help you venture outside of your comfort zone and give you a boost of healthy anxiety which, according to psychologists, helps us perform at an optimal level.

Embracing new challenges also has long-term benefits. When you take on mentally challenging activities, you improve cognitive function, which according to a 2013 study helps your mind stay sharp as you age.

“In an increasingly competitive, cautious and accelerated world,” Margie Warrell writes in Forbes, “those who are willing to take risks, step out of their comfort zone and into the discomfort of uncertainty will be those who will reap the biggest rewards.”

A photo posted by Flynn Novak (@flynn_novak) on Aug 4, 2015 at 8:38pm PDT

2. Hānai:

1. Hawaiian word literally translating to “foster or adopted child,” 2. Used to describe a non-blood relative one would consider family.

Used in a sentence: “I know Melissa would drive a thousand miles if I needed a hug or share the last bit of food she had just so I wouldn’t go hungry. She’s my hānai sister.” 

Traditionally, Hawaiians used the word hānai to refer to children who have been adopted into new families. As it’s used today, however, people in Hawaii often refer to their closest, non-blood related friends as a hānai brother or hānai sister. These are friends that you don’t just treat “like family,” they are family. 

The concept of acknowledging your friends as hānai reminds us to foster these types of intimate relationships and to be grateful for them. These types of friendships can even reduce your production levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress.

1. Pau translates to “finished” and hana translates to “work,” 2. “Work is finished,” 3. Informally used to describe celebrating the end of the work day.

Used in a sentence: “It’s 5:30 p.m. Let’s get out of the office and pau hana at the bar!”

On Fridays in Hawaii, it’s common to see big groups of co-workers gather at bars, on the beach or even in the surf, celebrating the end of the work day. Pau hana is more than just a happy hour; it’s all about making the decision to leave work behind for the day and enjoy your free time.

During the work day, most of us spend consecutive hours staring at a screen, which, as studies show, has been associated with stress and depression. When your work day ends, try your own pau hana by turning off your screens, unplugging and making the conscious decision to leave work behind. It’s scientifically-proven to be good for your health!

1. Hawaiian word literally translating to “help,” or “to give aid,” 2. Informally used to describe “mutual assistance” or “helping one another,” 3. Also, used to remind people to be mindful and respectful of the surroundings and each other.

Used in a sentence: “I noticed you picked up all your trash after you left the beach. Thank you for your kōkua.”

Whether it’s used to tell someone to pick up their trash or to slow down when driving through a neighborhood, kōkua is a simple reminder that we are part of a bigger community and, as such, we should always be mindful of each other. Jack Johnson, the famous Hawaii-born musician, embodied the spirit of kōkua when he started the Kōkua Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides environmental education and activities to schools and communities in Hawaii. 

“We just felt like we should be putting money back into the community here where I grew up,” Johnson said in a 2013 interview.

When we are mindful and supportive of our communities, we allow ourselves to feel a sense of belonging, which will ultimately benefit our own mental health

#pleasekokua #keepourbeachesclean #fishdontsmoke #hilife

A photo posted by Erin Donovan (@erin_bo_berinn) on May 3, 2014 at 5:30pm PDT

5. Holoholo:

1. Hawaiian word literally translating to going for a walk, ride or sail, 2. To go out for pleasure.

Used in a sentence: “I had a stressful week at work, I’m going holoholo this weekend.”

When someone is going holoholo, he is adventuring for the fun of it and to clear his mind. It “is kind of like a journey without a destination,” explains Harry Uhane Jim, author of Wise Secrets of Aloha. “It’s also the very definition of how we heal.”

Through his research, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson found that we can wire our brains for happiness by focusing our attention on moments that bring us joy. It may seem like a no brainer that doing things for fun makes you a happier person, but the more you holoholo — the more you do things just for pleasure — the easier it is for you to stay positive when you need it the most.

“[Lingering on the positive] improves the encoding of passing mental states into lasting neural traits,” Hanson told HuffPost in 2013. “That’s the key here: we’re trying to get the good stuff into us. And that means turning our passing positive experiences into lasting emotional memories.”

In otherwords, holoholo often and lasting happiness will follow.

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