Languishing: What it is, Why it’s Harmful & Strategies to Overcome

Languishing: What it is, Why it’s Harmful & Strategies to Overcome

Languishing: What it is, Why it’s Harmful & Strategies to Overcome

Whether due to life not playing out exactly as we expected or feeling a general state of dissatisfaction with where it is headed, sometimes, in the middle of life, it is easy to feel discouraged.

Studies show that both men and women between the ages of 45 to 54 report the lowest sense of satisfaction and happiness compared to other periods of life.

This feeling, defined as “languishing” in a New York Times article by Adam Grant, can cause harm to our mental well-being.

Today, let’s dive into languishing, why it’s harmful, and explore strategies to overcome it.

What is languishing?

Languishing is not stress, worry, anxiety, or depression — but it also isn’t happiness or joy. It is not going through a crisis or feeling incredibly distressed, but it is not feeling satisfied with our achievements or having mental well-being either, either.

It is what happens in the middle when we feel “blah” or “meh”. Left wondering if this is all life is or all it could be.

Symptoms of languishing: 

  • Feeling dissatisfied with life’s biggest decisions, your job, or your relationships.
  • Feeling aimless, bored, or not excited about the future.
  • Self-isolating or feeling like you spend all your time with people who don’t really “get you”.
  • Believing you’ve peaked in life and it will never get as good as it was. 
  • Just going through the motions.
  • Wanting something more out of life but not knowing what is missing.

Why is languishing harmful?

Languishing can lead to emotional numbness, isolation, and feeling unmotivated. Studies show that people who languish compared to those with healthy mental well-being have a 78% greater risk of developing anxiety and an over 100% greater risk of developing depression.

Strategies to combat languishing:

1) Name it to tame it

Studies show that individuals who can name their negative emotions see a decrease in the intensity and duration of the emotion. This is where the saying, “name it to take it” comes in. Naming your emotions re-engages your pre-frontal cortex, taking you out of the emotion and into a place of understanding.

2) Challenge your mindset

You are never too old to reinvent yourself. You are above ground, you are breathing, and you have more wisdom and experience than you’ve ever had. You are never too old to reinvent yourself, and you always have the opportunity to grow. (My mom started a second career as a flight attendant at the age of 51. At 75, she is still going strong and loves it).

3) Write down your accomplishments and create visual reminders

Start a daily, weekly, or even monthly practice where you write down a list of your accomplishments and a list of things you’re looking forward to. Just like a gratitude journal, this activity can help combat your brain’s negativity bias, allowing you to pay more attention to the joy in life, and move from languishing to thriving.

4) Try something new

A new food, a fresh shirt, a different way home, a haircut, a new hobby, a class at a local college, or a free course online — trying something new is a great way to break out of a rut. Small changes, over time, add up.

Trying new things can seem scary at first, but being stuck in a rut is scarier. After all, a rut is just a grave with no ends. If you’ve fallen into a rut, know that you don’t have to stay there. As one of my favorite musicians Ray Wylie Hubbard says, “Get out of a rut and get into a groove.”

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Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.

Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.

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