How to tell if you are languishing (and how to get out)

How to tell if you are languishing (and how to get out)

Feeling blah, joyless, or unmotivated?

If so, you are not alone. One year after we collectively suffered and adjusted to a world where Covid-19 ruled- these feelings have become the norm. And they have a name: languishing. 

Psychologist, Adam Grant believes that these emotions could be the dominant ones in 2021. He says:

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being.” 

Research conducted by a sociologist named Corey Keyes, who coined the term, suggests that the people most likely to experience major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade aren’t the ones with those symptoms today. They’re the people who are languishing right now. 

This might not seem like a real problem but being stuck in this mental limbo can be dangerous if left unchecked. When you believe that nothing is wrong you are less likely to seek help. 


  1. You have a serious lack of motivation 
  2. You are not excited about anything 
  3. You’re struggling to get creatively inspired 
  4. You find it difficult to focus 
  5. You’re experiencing brain fog 
  6. You’re able to function and get things done, but you don’t feel like you’re nailing it


At some point during the last year, you have probably felt more blah than bling.  And that is ok and quite normal.  Now that you what it is you can decide to move towards flourishing and prevent yourself from falling into a full depression.  We have suggestions to help you on your way.

 1. Name It. 

Now you know the proper term for those feelings you have it makes it less foreign. Studies have shown that identifying how you are feeling and giving it a name helps to deal with it more rationally.

2. Witness it.

Although you may be in a state of languishing, that state is not you. Being able to identify the feeling you are having and witnessing it as something outside of you can help you manage it.

3. Overcome it.

It is not easy to be your own cheerleader- especially when you are suffering from a serious case of the blahs. Luckily, we have few ideas of how you can hack it from a biological perspective. 

Move your butt

There have been countless studies about the benefits of exercise for boosting your mood. It gives you a burst of feel-good hormones like endorphins and motivational chemicals like dopamine. Studies have shown that even 10 minutes can be beneficial. 

Just breathe

There are several techniques that can be used to quickly calm us down when faced with a stressful situation. Neurobiologist Andrew Huberman explains one breathing pattern known as physiological sighs. In which two inhales through the nose are followed by an extended exhale through the mouth. He believes this is a real-time tool that people can deploy anytime, anywhere to reduce stress. 


Long Term Strategies 

While the above suggestions will help you manage the immediate effects of languishing, it is preferable to implement some long-term strategies to help you maintain an overall sense of mental well-being.

Meditation and mindfulness practices

The benefits of cultivating a mediation practice are plenty. Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. It can help prevent overthinking so we are not caught up by fleeting emotions. As well as tune out distractions so we drive results by focusing on what matters.

Don’t rely on willpower

Willpower alone will not get you the results that you desire. In order to really succeed you have to put in place realistic systems that help achieve your goals. Throw away your massive to-do list and start focusing on one small win for the day. Build a daily system and watch your willpower expand.

Building your mental fitness requires patience and consistency.  Your mind is a muscle and therefore needs to be exercised to function at its maximum potential. If you start to cultivate these habits on good days -you won’t have to catch yourself from falling on bad days. Remember to take it one day at a time…every little win counts!



1.Keyes, C. L. M., & Haidt, J. (2002). Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived (1st ed.). Amer Psychological Assn.

2.Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Putting feelings into words: affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. PubMed.

3.Woolfe, S. (2018, May 23). Not Identifying With a Mental Health Issue Can Lessen Its Grip on Your Life. Sam Woolfe.

4.Ekkekakis, P. (2000). Walking in (affective) circles: can short walks enhance affect? PubMed.

5.Ho, L. (2021, April 19). Willpower Has Been Overrated, This Is What You Need Instead To Succeed. Lifehack.

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