During the pandemic, most of us are feeling less than average. A bit 'blah' if you will. It's one of those feelings that's hard to put a finger on and difficult to explain, but now you don't have to, because there's actually a term for it: languishing.

What is languishing?

Originally coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, languishing is described as the antithesis of flourishing. "Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness," US-based organisational psychologist and author, Adam Grant, pens. "It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield." Sound familiar?

Adam further explains languishing as the middle-man between mental illness and good mental health. And while it does sit somewhat in-between these two pillars on the mental wellbeing spectrum, languishing may be a big risk factor for contributing to mental illness.

"Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive," Adam explains.

"You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or even do much to help yourself."

Causes for languishing

Yes, life-changing events such as the pandemic are contributors to languishing, however, there's still plenty to discover what other causes there are and how we can combat it. But putting a name to it is definitely the first, notable step on that journey.

"And it could give us a socially acceptable response to 'How are you?'," pens Adam.

"Instead of saying 'Great!' or 'Fine,' imagine if we answered, 'Honestly, I’m languishing.' It would be a refreshing foil for toxic positivity."

Combatting languishing

As mentioned, this is a work in progress. But there are still some positive actions you can take to help lessen the effects of languishing.

Set boundaries for yourself when it comes to what serves you and brings freedom, joy and solace. Physically pencil in time with yourself, free from distractions.

Focusing on the small wins in life can also help dampen languishing. The world can be a pretty dark place at times, but turning your thought process to acknowledge the tiny triumphs like having the sun beaming onto your face through your bedroom window, getting dressed for the day and ticking things off your to-do list are all small steps you can take today.

"As we head into a new post-pandemic reality, it’s time to rethink our understanding of mental health and wellbeing," says Adam.

"'Not depressed' doesn’t mean you’re not struggling. 'Not burnt out' doesn’t mean you’re fired up. By acknowledging that so many of us are languishing, we can start giving voice to quiet despair and lighting a path out of the void."


If you need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language.

Expert quotes sourced from: The New York Times

Image credit: Ethan Sykes on Unsplash, Hybrid on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Did this answer your question?