Do you feel a bit blah? Muddling through your days, getting things done, but with a dulled sense of motivation, purpose or enjoyment? If you’re feeling like nothing is your jam, perhaps what you’re feeling is languish.
What is Languish
We’ve all owned that plant. You know the one, it sits on the windowsill looking a bit sorry for itself. We water it (too much water?) we give it plenty of light (too bright?) its alive, but it just doesn’t look all that great. Something that was once healthy and vital is now a bit sorry for itself and you don’t know why. The OED defines Languish in the following way
v (of a person, animal or plant) lose or lack vitality; grow weak
Moving from plants to people, languish can be seen as sitting right in the middle of the mental health spectrum; not displaying full symptoms of a clinical MH diagnosis, but not exactly thriving either. Languishing is a series of emotions, where life is simultaneously too overwhelming and not engaging enough. While we are able to get up in the morning and do what is required of us, there is a definite sense of going through the motions. Sociologist Corey Keys observes;
“ It’s almost like you put yourself on hold and you’re waiting for something good to happen”
Languish poses challenges, because people don’t really see themselves as having a problem, and therefore don’t take steps to help or improve the situation. They leave the plant on the windowsill and carry on caring for it in the same way, rather than finding out what can help it, and where it might do better.
This is the important thing to remember. Just like we are able to move plants to help them thrive, there are tricks that we can use to help us thrive too. While languish is characterised by disillusionment and disconnection (is is any surprise that post-pandemic and after prolonged periods of isolation, so many people find themselves feeling this way?) its opposite state – Flourish – sees us engaged in the world around us, experiencing energy, inner joy and happiness and can be seen as an antidote to languish. Making a conscious effort to experience positive emotions means that we do more than simply exist. We thrive.
Characterised by a sense of connectedness to live, in a state of flourish we have energy, confidence in our abilities and the tools to improve our own wellbeing. Dr Lynn Soots describes flourishing as,
“ the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected with life passions and relishing in accomplishments through the peaks and valleys of life”
I’ll take a jar of that please.
Lessons we can learn from flourishers
While the subject of flourish is surely worthy of it’s own jam jar, I wanted to leave you with some pointers of how to leave the land of languish. All of those wonderful well being practices such as gratitude, focussing on positive experiences, self kindness, forming and maintaining healthy connections with others, living in the now and celebrating our small successes can enable us to see that life is very far from fruitless. Try jotting down a few things you’re grateful for – research shows that the positive effects of gratitude practices can last for months! Or why not try to spend even ten minutes a day really mindfully savouring the here and now – noticing all of the tiny details around you that help to make life so special; that first sip of tea in the morning, the birds singing, how you feel when someone smiles at you, how you feel when you are kind to someone else. Making small tweaks can reap huge benefits to your wellbeing. No jam tomorrow please, its time for us all to find our flourish