There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
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Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being.
You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity.
Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.
This means you need to set boundaries.
Years ago, a Fortune 500 software company in India tested a simple policy: no interruptions Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. When the company set this as an official policy, 65% of its employees achieved above-average productivity.
The lesson of this simple idea is to treat uninterrupted blocks of time as treasures to guard. It clears out constant distractions and gives us the freedom to focus.
To transcend languishing, try starting with small wins: make your bed, clean your house, clean your car, make time to read a few pages every day.
One of the clearest paths to flow is taking a challenge. That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation.
Psychologists find that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them.
We still have a lot to learn about what causes languishing and how to cure it, but naming it might be a first step.
It could help to defog our vision, giving us a clearer window into what had been a blurry experience. It could remind us that we aren’t alone: languishing is common and shared.
In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing.
Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others.
Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
A concept called “flow” may be an antidote to languishing.
Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.
During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their pre-pandemic happiness.
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Full-time digital product designer & part-time traveler. Funny, bald, bearded dad. Foodie, rider, stasher.
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Understand what exactly languishing is and explore the ways we can resist it.