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Languishing: The In-between of Mental Well-being

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a magnet for negative feelings and emotions. Needless to say, everyone has experienced a shift in their lives because of the need to continuously stay at home. This pandemic forced many people to adjust to numerous changes all at once. During these trying times, it is easier to feel lost, lonely, anxious, scared, sad, and worried not only due to the health scares and health crises, but also due to the isolation and lockdowns that come with it. Although one may not be immediately diagnosed with severe mental illness, one may have gone through the concept of languishing which is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA)(2022), as "the condition of absence of mental health, characterized by ennui, apathy, listlessness, and loss of interest in life”.

What is languishing?

Grant (2021), as cited by Simon (2022), mentioned in his article that languishing has been the dominant mood of 2021 given the pandemic and everything that comes with it such as isolation and health scares. He describes it best as the feeling of "muddling through your days, looking at life through a foggy windshield" (Grant, 2021). When one is languishing, they find it difficult to find the purpose in things. They may also find it challenging to look forward to the good in life. People who are languishing also tend to struggle with optimism and feel joy the same way they used to. It is important to note that languishing is not sadness. It is better described as feeling "blah" or feeling like you are neither happy nor sad. Languishing is feeling like one is not themselves.

The idea of languishing sounds concerning and worrisome. However, it is not a mental disorder. It is merely in the center of the mental health continuum model which ranges from healthy to ill. Although this is the case, it should be noted that "the absence of mental disorder does not always equate to mental health and well-being" (Simon, 2022). Moreover, a study conducted in 2010 by Keyes, Dhingra, and Simoes entitled “Change in Level of Positive Mental Health as a Predictor of Future Risk of Mental Illness'' shows that languishing may increase one’s chances of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders (Gilette, 2021).

What are the signs that someone is languishing?

According to Simon (2022) and Gillette (2021), signs that someone is languishing include but are not limited to the following:

  • A sense of feeling stuck, or that life has become stagnant

  • Feelings of emptiness

  • Lack of motivation

  • A sense of mental malaise (general lack of well-being)

  • Moods that are not too high or too low (you’re not happy but you wouldn’t say you’re sad either)

  • Feeling unmotivated more often than usual

  • Feeling unsettled but not highly anxious

  • Difficulty focusing on certain tasks, especially some days more than others

  • Feeling detached from life, tasks, or people but not experiencing negative emotions toward them

  • Apathy toward life and difficulty getting excited about anything

  • Fatigue and burnout

  • Loss of interest in passions and hobbies

  • Feelings of stagnation

  • Feeling disconnected from your purpose in life

Although there may be some common signs that others share, it should be noted that everyone may experience languishing uniquely. No matter what way one experiences languishing, their feelings remain valid.

What are possible ways to overcome languishing?

van Agteren et al. (2021), as cited by Gillette (2021), found in their study that one may overcome languishing by practicing the following mindfulness and self-care approaches:

  • Mindfulness techniques

  • Focusing on physical well-being

  • Journaling

  • Exploring creativity

  • Maintaining relationships

  • Making environmental changes

  • Volunteering for community service

  • Learning new skills

  • Seeking professional help

As mentioned earlier, languishing can be experienced in various ways. Because of this, it is safe to assume that the aforementioned possible remedies will not work the same for all. One must be patient and compassionate enough with themselves to figure out what works best for them. If one feels that their languishing has developed into something more, it is best to consult with a professional.


American Psychological Association. (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology.

Gillette, H. (2021). Are You Languishing? These Are the Signs and What to Do. Psych Central; Psych Central.

Simon, S. (2022). What Is Languishing, and What Can We Do About It? Verywell Health.

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