What is Languishing?

Do you know that feeling of something being ‘meh’ or ‘not good/not bad’? Have you heard of this word, Languishing?

It’s one of those feelings you probably have felt without realizing its name. The term was coined in 2002 by sociologist Corey Keyes and “may well be a great undiagnosed epidemic.” Before Covid-19, Keyes’ studies showed that “as much as 12% of the researched population fit the criteria for languishing.”

Last week, a New York Times article by organizational psychologist and author, Adam Grant wrote that “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. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” Psychiatrist and author Dr. Gayani DeSilva explains, “languishing can be thought of as the physical and conscious manifestation of being unconsciously or subconsciously ambivalent. There are many aspects of this pandemic—the threat of the virus itself, the travel and mask restrictions, the vaccine, and more—that leave us confused. Decision-making then becomes difficult.”

Whether you identify with this word or not, Austin Kleon says, “Me, I’m dormant…I may even look dead…new things are happening very quietly inside of me.”

So knowing this exists, what can one do to lessen the weight of languishing?

Recognizing the behaviour of languishing and having a name for it, to use in your communication with others and self, is a first step to turning around these feelings. Gathered from the sources below, here are a few others ways to help:

The concept of Flow, “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…Fragmented attention is an enemy of engagement and excellence.”

Other suggestions include giving yourself uninterrupted time (aka boundaries), focusing on small goals, creating a gratitude list, journalling, painting, drawing, or sculpting––in fact, any creative outlet is better than none. Psychologist, Dr. Leelee R. Magavi says “Get your feelings out any way you can—you’ll feel better after you do.”

“Languishing is not merely in our heads — it’s in our circumstances. You can’t heal a sick culture with personal bandages. We still live in a world that normalizes physical health challenges but stigmatizes mental health challenges.”- Adam Grant

Talking to others about how you are feeling is important as well as taking it seriously. Keyes says that languishing can be “as bad as depression in some of its outcomes, like suicides, lost work days, lost productivity and so forth.”

Is languishing something you have experienced? Feel free to share with us. 

Thanks to a friend for sharing this new word with us.

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