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If You’re Frustrated or Upset, Try Saying the Danish Word “Pyt”

This popular Danish word can improve our well-being.

You’re running late for work and almost miss your 7 a.m. train.

This day is off to a terrible start. Why didn’t I wake up earlier?

The man sitting next to you is on a conference call and is talking very loudly. He nearly spills his coffee on you and gives you an irritated glance, as if you did something wrong.

That was rude. Why is this happening to me?

You finally make it to work, only to find a slew of unread, urgent emails in your inbox.

This is going to be an awful day. How am I going to get all of this done?

Try saying “pyt.”

Pronounced like “pyd,” “pyt” is a Danish word with no literal English translation but roughly translates to “don’t worry about it,” “stuff happens,” “never mind,” or “oh well.” Marie Helweg-Larsen, Ph.D., a native of Denmark and a psychologist and professor at Dickinson College, writes for The Washington Post that pyt is more than just a word — it is a cultural concept “about cultivating healthy thoughts to deal with stress.” She believes the term is applicable to everyone — not just Danes — for a variety of reasons: The word (and its underlying philosophy) can help us reduce frustration, develop more accepting attitudes, and ultimately live healthier and happier lives because we are not bogged down by insignificant annoyances.  

In September 2018, Danes voted pyt their most popular word. In a world of hustle culture, hyperconnectivity, and burnout, letting life’s little frustrations roll off our shoulders is not always easy, and that’s where pyt comes in. “At its core, it’s about accepting and resetting. It’s used as a reminder to step back and refocus rather than overreact. Instead of assigning blame, it’s a way to let go and move on,” Helweg-Larsen writes.

The art of letting go is difficult, yet essential, to master. Studies have shown that rumination — or repetitively thinking through a thought, problem, or scenario without completion — can worsen the symptoms of depression, enhance negative thinking, negatively impact problem solving, and erode social support. While it might be frustrating to encounter ill-mannered strangers, or struggle to handle the flow of work at your office, letting negative occurrences dominate our thoughts is unhealthy and unproductive.

Instead of ruminating on the negative, reminisce on the positive, and don’t just say pyt, think it and let it become a way of life rather than just a word. A 2005 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies explores the relationship between positive reminiscing and emotional experience, and found that the more often participants reminisced on positive memories, the more they experienced a positive emotional state. The study’s findings also indicate that positive reminiscence not only allows us to savor the past, but also provides a sense of perspective in the present, which can be helpful in a frustrating situation.

For example, if a co-worker has done something to upset you, think back to a time when he or she helped you or provided support. Think about your co-worker’s true intentions — maybe they’re having a bad day, and didn’t mean to come across that way by forwarding all those emails — rather than questioning their character. Instead of letting a momentary grievance control your emotional state, say pyt and recognize that your negative emotions are temporary.

It has become too easy to let fleeting frustrations pervade our well-being, but living with pyt in mind can help us keep things in perspective. Thinking and saying pyt can have tangible effects.

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