A colleague pointed me to this article in the New York times today: There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.
In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being.
My nature is one that’s comparatively amenable to the kinds of restrictions we’ve lived with for the last year. On top of that, I tend to have a sort of intrinsic okayness that makes it take a lot to move my baseline happiness very far in the wrong direction. Nonetheless, I found it very easy to relate to this article. I expect many people can.
The article concludes that the antidote to languishing is to find a state of flow, but I would actually put more value on an earlier point: the value of naming our emotions. This is something I’ve learned from parenting and have had great success applying to myself too. In fact I have a pretty extensive personal lexicon for emotional states I’ve found didn’t have obvious names already (my favourite is “fighting duck-sized horses”, for the anxiety I get from dealing with too many tasks even if none of them are individually very challenging). Naming emotions makes them easier to recognise and acknowledge. Crucially, it also makes it easier to separate the temporary emotional state from the permanent self.
I’ve added “languishing” to my lexicon.