A name for the Blah we’ve been feeling is Languishing
A recent article in the New York Times (about the Blah we’ve all been feeling during the pandemic being called Languishing) has flooded the internet.
Have you or someone you know been feeling Blah during the pandemic? I suppose I have, and I know many in my family and friends circle have been feeling the same way.
We just didn’t know what it was called or that there was actually a word for the way we were all feeling. Now I do know, it makes sense; kind of.
So, what is this Blah or languishing we’ve been feeling?
Mind you, I won’t be calling myself snivelling, droopy or withering any time soon. In fact, I’m not sure I’d use any of those descriptions, other than listless or tired perhaps, and fatigued — yes, that’s how I feel. Languishing tho’? I always associated that word with luxury, like languishing in the bath or on a beach? Okay, maybe not.
The author of “A name for Blah is languishing” writes
In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being where you have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being and you feel despondent, drained and worthless.
“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It can dull your motivation and focus — and it may be the dominant emotion of 2021.”Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania
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.
Languishing, like depression, is associated with significant psychosocial impairment in terms of perceived emotional health, limitations of activities of daily living, and workdays lost or cutback.
Since the start of Coronavirus, remote working and reliance on technology with no face to face contact have become increasingly common practice in workplaces around the world.
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the way work environments have changed, and I dare say we’ll see further negative changes before it’s over. I imagine either reduced hours and/or more job loss post-Covid, meaning reduced income and more stress for some.
While I feel for anyone in this situation, unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about these enforced changes. However, what we can do is look after ourselves mentally and physically, and look out for our loved ones, and be supportive where possible.
“If my thoughts or feelings were being expressed by a loved one or a friend, what advice would I give them?”Me
How to spot signs of languishing
While not as severe and not its own mental health disorder, languishing could be one of the first warning signs of depression. Things to look out for, in yourself or others, and sooner rather than later, might be:
- Lack of motivation to i.e. exercise, work or complete household tasks
- Lack of interest in things that previously mattered
- Poor concentration i.e lose the plot of a story or t.v. programme
- Lack of excitement about the future
- Being stuck in a monotonous routine
- Not functioning at your fullest
- Loss of purpose
The spectrum of languishing to flourishing
Research identified 6 core components of psychological wellbeing that influence where someone falls on the spectrum (Keyes, 2002). How might you help yourself and others move from languishing towards flourishing in these areas?
- Self-acceptance – liking most things about ourselves. If not, and this is important, jot down some of the things you like about yourself, and keep writing ’til you run out of words. Seeing the words can have a positive effect on your mental well-being.
- Positive relationships with others – forming and maintaining warm, supportive, and trusting relationships with others. Think about those close to you and what you mean to each other.
- Personal growth – seeing ourselves as becoming better people. Most of us strive to become better people. I love it when hubby tells people “she makes me want to be a better person!” It makes me feel good about me; that I’ve made a difference, even to one person.
- Purpose in life – having a sense of direction or meaning in life. This one often gets to me, ‘cos when I was medically retired from the job I loved I felt I’d lost my purpose in life. However, blogging about, and as an advocate for all things mental health from both personal and professional experience helps.
- Environmental mastery – feeling able to shape the world around us (at least to some extent) to meet our needs. If you live in a small space like me, you might have a few plants that you water and tend to. Or you may be lucky enough to have a garden and grow flowers, fruit or veg, and plants, and be able to sit out in the sun. While these are small ideas, lots of people flourish when gardening or when they feel the sun on their skin.
- Autonomy – believing that we’re reasonably in control of what happens to us (i.e. rather than others, fate, or luck being totally in charge). Again, this one was difficult for me — but I’m back on track.
Don’t worry, to be considered flourishing, we don’t need to be highly rated in all areas of life at once.
Understanding and identifying languishing can help us all shift this focus and have a conversation — sooner rather than later. That way people are supported back to positive mental health sooner and more efficiently.
If you or a loved one feels stuck and you’re not sure how to move forward, you might want to seek professional help, so contact your GP in the first instance.
Over to you
Have you been feeling Blah lately? What’re your thoughts about languishing? I look forward to reading your comments and answering any questions.