Frank Martela, a lecturer specializing in meaningfulness, well-being, and motivation, explores the phenomenon of languishing. Languishing, described as the “neglected middle child of mental health,” is a state of feeling neither happy nor sad, stuck in a monotonous routine, and lacking both positive and negative feelings. Languishing can lead to decreased work commitment and increased risk of mental illness, but it can be overcome by connecting with the situation, others, yourself, or a desired future, and incorporating strategies such as acceptance, presence, kindness, and human connection.
- Definition and Exploration of Languishing: Languishing is characterized by a lack of enthusiasm, excitement, and emotion, falling between the states of well-being and ill-being. It’s described as a feeling of stagnation, where life seems grey and uninteresting.
- Consequences of Languishing: Languishing may lead to reduced effort at work and more than double the risk of developing major depression or anxiety disorders in the future. Healthcare workers languishing during the COVID-19 pandemic were shown to be three times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD.
- The Importance of Naming and Accepting the Feeling: Recognizing and naming the feeling of languishing helps to understand the situation better and provides reflective distance to help overcome it. Stoicism, mindfulness, and acceptance are recommended strategies.
- Strategies to Overcome Languishing: Connecting with the situation, others, oneself, or a desired future can combat languishing. Specific methods include practicing small acts of kindness, connecting with loved ones or strangers, and being present in whatever activity is being undertaken.
- The Potential for Recovery: Unlike active suffering and ill-being, languishing can be more easily conquered, often requiring only changes in daily routines. The strategies shared aim to build positive mental health and flourishing.