“Languishing” and What to Do.


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     A good piece recently appeared in the New York Times discussing “languishing.” As it turns out it was the mostly widely read article in the paper for 2021. From my observation languishing has become a really significant issue during the last two years. This is true for individuals and couples. Simply put the article discusses the notion of “languishing” as a mental health issue.  Which has rarely been done before. It then makes a few suggestions. Here are the main points: 

  • 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.
  • 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. Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference.
  • While finding new challenges, enjoyable experiences and meaningful work are all possible remedies to languishing, it’s hard to find flow when you can’t focus.
  • Give yourself some uninterrupted time. I don’t think there’s anything magical about Tuesday, Thursday and Friday before noon. 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. We can find solace in experiences that capture our full attention.
  • Focus on a small goal. That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a small step toward rediscovering some of the energy and enthusiasm that you’ve missed during all these months.

“There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” New York Times (Updated December 3, 2021).