Managing Smart: Are You Feeling “Meh”? You Could Be Languishing

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Did you ever feel not great but not exactly depressed either? Did you also struggle to put a name to the “meh” feeling so many of us have felt through 2020 and, now, part of 2021?

If you have, don’t fret. You are far from alone. What many of us felt and are still feeling — not quite depression but also something quite far away from well-being — is called languishing.

Referred to as the “neglected middle child of mental health” in a recent New York Times article, languishing is not delighting in things to the extent you once did; it’s not having a strong sense of mastery; it’s lack of drive, focus and motivation; it’s indifference, even to your own indifference.

This feeling, which many of us struggled to identify, is completely normal in light of our recent circumstances as we faced a global pandemic. And naming it helps to tame it. It also helps us as we attempt to navigate it. In the interest of helping you flourish, which you can read about here, you may consider these tips:

Focus on “flow”

Flow is a state of being immersed in a meaningful challenge that allows time, place and self to melt away. Becoming absorbed in meaningful projects has proven to help people avoid languishing and maintain happiness. Examples of this include meditation, a morning ritual such as completing a word game, or a late-night Netflix binge that allows you to lose yourself in the characters and their lives. Make sure you are able to reserve time without interruptions, which are the enemy of the focus you will need to achieve flow.

Free yourself of interruptions

We mentioned this above, but this effort deserves its own category. Multiple studies have shown that being free of interruptions increases productivity because workers are able to focus better. And a focused worker is generally a happier worker. Therefore, be intentional about setting aside time that you can devote to specific tasks. The key idea here is to treat your block of time as a treasure and to devote your full attention to the task at hand.

Work on a small goal

During a crisis, trying to grapple with big goals can be daunting. But successfully completing a small one can bring a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. These “small wins,” which can include a meaningful conversation, a short walk or even a tiny challenge like solving a quick word puzzle, can bring meaning to one’s life and help us take a step in the direction of wellness.

Practice gratitude

Many studies have demonstrated that taking the time to count our blessings, or reflecting on what we’re grateful for, improves our quality of life. Thus, consider taking the time to establish a daily or weekly gratitude ritual, which can be as simple as thinking good thoughts on your way to the grocery store, saying grace before dinner, writing down the things you are grateful for or thanking someone for something good you noticed about them or their behavior.

Do good deeds

In happiness studies, individuals who engaged in altruistic work, such as volunteering, were found to be more satisfied than those who did not. Performing acts of kindness in a single day or throughout the week can have a powerful effect on mood and feelings of well-being. If your time allows it, consider volunteering with a local organization whose cause you believe in. But if you’re pressed for time, fear not. Practicing kindness can be as simple as writing a thank you note or text message to check in on a friend or helping an elderly relative run an errand. The important thing here is to know — and feel — that we are making someone’s life better and, in turn, our own as well.

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