Raise your hand if you ever surprised yourself, answering with “Meh..” to the question “How’s life?”. Even though we’re not trying to generalize the meaning behind this interjection to a single interpretation, it can sometimes indicate a much deeper feeling of apathy than previously thought.
Usually, when we think about mental health, we picture it on a spectrum, from depression to flourishing. However, these are the extremes of the spectrum. Let’s say that I’m not feeling depressed, but I’m not bursting with joy either. Where does that leave me? Is there something in the middle?
Yes, it is. It’s called languishing, and Corey Keyes discovered it in his research. “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”. It numbs your motivation, reduces your ability to focus, and diminishes your drive. Although languishing does not present symptoms of mental illness, it is more common than major depression, and it can be the playground for future anxiety disorders and depression.
And to top it all off, languishing might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
At first glance, maybe this information is not so appealing. It’s more like: “great, another term I can use to express my ill-being…”. On the other hand, the simple fact of naming our emotions is one of the best emotional management tools we have. It’s like in “Harry Potter” when the characters empowered themselves to the name “Voldemort” by his name instead of fearfully saying “the Dark Lord.”
When languishing occurs, we are not precisely noticing it. It just sleeps away from our perspective because we think it’s not so severe (“It’s not like I’m depressed”), and in the end, why bother. But it is this kind of attitude that might harm us. So, in the end, it’s good that we have a proper term to express our feelings and normalize the fact that maybe we’re not ok, and at the same time, we’re not feeling blue.
If you want to know more about languishing and learn some strategies to overcome it, check out Adam Grant’s New York Times article from the reference section down below.