This morning I was led to hear a discussion about languishing, prompted by the New York Times article, There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing
The neglected middle child of mental health can dull your motivation and focus — and it may be the dominant emotion of 2021. What also caught my attention was hearing the author was Adam Grant, who wrote the book Think Again that I’ve been reading.
1. To be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor:
crops languishing from a lack of rain
2. To exist or continue in miserable or disheartening conditions:
languished away in prison.
3. To remain unattended or be neglected:
legislation that continued to languish in committee.
4. To become downcast or pine away in longing:
languish apart from friends and family; languish for a change from dull routine.
Languish, The Free Dictionary
At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms that we all had in common. Friends mentioned that they were having trouble concentrating. Colleagues reported that even with vaccines on the horizon, they weren’t excited about 2021. A family member was staying up late to watch “National Treasure” again even though she knows the movie by heart. And instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 a.m., I was lying there until 7, playing Words with Friends.
It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.
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.
Mental Health Continuum Model
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.
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.
There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing,
The neglected middle child of mental health can dull your motivation and focus — and it may be the dominant emotion of 2021 by Adam Grant, The New York Times, April 28, 2021
From Languishing to Flourishing
As a complement to the mental health continuum model, the ‘Languishing vs. Flourishing’ perspective came into the picture. Within this perspective, mental health disorder or an overall distressed state is referred to as ‘languishing,’ whereas, a more positive and content state is called ‘flourishing.’
Studies on this model focused on four fundamental aspects:
- The prevalence of flourishing and languishing in the overall sample population.
- The association of languishing with significant depression and other mental health illnesses.
- The relationship between flourishing and happiness and whether one calls for the other.
- The understanding of mental health and mental health disorders among the general population.
What is the Mental Health Continuum Model? by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, Positive Psychology, 3/1/2021
Matthew Iasiello, MA, an Australia-based researcher, is investigating techniques to promote flourishing and reduce languishing. Earlier this year, he and his colleagues published a review of current psychological interventions that are being used to improve mental well-being.
Mindfulness involves intense focus and awareness of what you’re sensing and feeling, moment by moment, without judgment. It has been shown to help people relax and reduce stress.8
“The one intervention type that worked incredibly across the board [was] mindfulness,” Iasiello says, adding that “the cool thing about mindfulness is that there’s lots of different ways to practice it.”
What Is Languishing, and What Can We Do About It? by Sarah Simon, VeryWellHealth, April 29, 2021
I am really interested in the concept of languishing because it is something I’ve noticed affecting many people I know, now that I know it’s name. What I want to do is share some of my personal stories and ideas about languishing and things that can be done about it. I intend to write about faith and Mutual Aid among other things. But this background research has made this post long enough. To be continued…