Languishing is a sense of aimlessness, disconnection and apathy. While it is not classified as a mental illness, it is the absence of mental wellbeing - what we otherwise know as flourishing.
But what does it actually mean to flourish?
Positive psychologist and founder of the PERMA model, Dr. Martin Seligman stated: “To flourish is to find fulfillment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the “good life” (Seligman, 2011).
If you are flourishing, you might feel a deep sense of purpose, hold a belief that you are thriving, and experience more positive emotions throughout your day. And if not, you might need some tips to shift along the continuum from the grey fog of languishing into the sunshine of flourishing. Here are 7 of them.
7 ways to encourage more flourishing in your life
1. Check where you are at
It may sound strange, but languishing can sneak up on you. So much so that you may not even realise you are languishing - like over 12% of the general population, according to a study completed by Corey Keys (who first coined the term). That’s a lot of people who don’t realise that they are languishing.
Use this handy quiz, the Flourishing Scale developed by Ed Deiner and colleagues (2010), to help you conceptualise where your ‘languishing number’ is at. Consider the following statements:
I lead a purposeful and meaningful life.
My social relationships are supportive and rewarding.
I am engaged and interested in my daily activities.
I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.
I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me.
I am a good person and live a good life.
I am optimistic about my future.
People respect me.
Here's what to do:
Answer each of the 8 statements below on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).
Add together to get a total from 8 - 56.
A lower score indicates low flourishing/high languishing. A high score indicates high flourishing/ low languishing. Use your score to check in with yourself about where you are at along the languishing/flourishing continuum.
Sourced via: https://positivepsychology.com/flourishing/
2. Cultivate your self-knowledge and self-awareness
Your inner being drives your decision making - whether you are consciously aware of it or not. Knowing yourself well and being aware of your habits, triggers, tendencies, strengths, desires - or even just knowing where you are at in life - is the first step in acceptance, so you can then change the things you want to change to bring more flourishing into your life.
Self-awareness and building self-knowledge without self-judgement can be tricky, so go gently on yourself, particularly if you find the same feelings and emotions coming up regularly.
Simply labelling your emotional state can help to take some of the power back, which can then change the actions that you take. If you want to do a deeper dive into self-awareness and build your self-knowledge, which can help you to understand why you may be languishing, check out our self-discovery card deck here.
3. Create a healthy foundation
It is hard to experience positive emotions or act in ways that require significant energy and willpower if you are tired, hungry and thirsty. Checking in on your habits - particularly ones that you may have adopted gradually whilst languishing (late night Netflix binging sessions, anyone?) - can be a prompt to reset for better wellbeing.
Ensure you get adequate sleep and rest.
Eat a healthy, nutritious diet and drink water daily.
Physically move your body to release positive hormones in your body.
By spending time focusing on a solid foundation and core healthy habits, you are creating physiological wellbeing that enables you to extend yourself into other areas for flourishing.
4. Hack your habits
You’re languishing for a reason - but sometimes knowing that and acting on it can be vastly different. It can be a vicious cycle - you are languishing and have zero motivation to move yourself out of aimlessness into days filled with action and purpose, and so you continue to languish.
Use your existing habits (like waking up, getting out of bed, brushing your teeth or having a shower) - the things we automatically and consistently do each day to be a trigger for stacking other, more meaningful habits on top. This will set you up for success, and make it more likely for you to follow through on the goals and small actions you can take to build momentum and success. Start small to take the pressure off and let yourself enjoy the satisfaction of building in a tiny positive habit.
5. Inject more positive emotions into your day
There is more than just ‘happiness’ as a positive emotion. Others include: joy, love, hope, interest, gratitude, pride and amusement. Importantly, positive emotions can be cultivated. So, shifting your perspective to actively seek joy, gratitude and other positive emotions in your day is one of the quickest and easiest (and enjoyable!) ways to move towards flourishing.
Be intentional about seeking joy in your day, and do more of the activities that bring this for you. Seek out activities where you are so engaged, you lose track of time (flow). Get outside into nature and use your senses to observe the wide world we live in. Create a habit of gratitude, whether in reflection, written down or expressing it to others in your life to infuse positive emotions in your day.
[Disclaimer: Cultivating more positivity in your life does not mean avoiding or suppressing negative emotions. All emotions are valid and important. However, we are naturally wired to focus on the negative and therefor need to proactively seek more positivity as to not 'go under' in our negativity bias.]
6. Build your connections
Humans are a social species - we have learnt that we need each other to survive. Pay attention to your relationships and put energy into cultivating these - the reward will be far beyond any effort expended.
Surround yourself with people who value and respect you, and foster deep connections with those who have the capacity to reciprocate this in a healthy way.
If you are, like many, isolated due to the pandemic, then use other methods to build relationships or deepen the ones already there. You might join online interest groups or classes, hand-write letters to dear friends, reconnect with a long phone conversation or facetime or become involved in a charity or organisation.
And don’t forget our furry friends - animals can bring a great sense of connection and comfort. Taking care of your pet, or helping with a friend’s animal, can also bring a different source of connection and satisfaction.
Whatever way you choose to foster the relationships in your life, focusing on deep connections rather than a surface level or ‘online’ relationships will contribute more to your flourishing.
7. Reflect on meaning
Not all of us have a strong sense of purpose in our lives. Or perhaps we do, but we aren’t able to act on it how we would like to. This can impact our flourishing.
Having meaning is a core human quality that Dr. Seligman linked to our sense of value and worth. Belonging to or serving something greater than ourselves gives us a sense of meaning. This purpose helps to build our resilience and ground us when life gets hard or challenges arise, and is unique for everyone, based strongly on our own values.
Meaning is different for everyone, and can be found in:
Family life, community or volunteer activities
Pursued professionally or as an extracurricular/hobby
Engaging in a social or political cause
Grounded in a religious or spiritual belief.
Reflect on your sense of meaning and where you get this from. Taking small steps to be more involved in creating a meaningful life is a surefire way to stop languishing in its tracks.
The deep contentment that comes from using your unique strengths in this world is far beyond what happiness comes from the small hits of dopamine that we seek when languishing. Celebrate your successes and accomplishments along the way, and soon the grey fog of languishing will disappear altogether.
Are you languishing and need more help and support to get to flourishing? If you need a reset or a friendly nudge in the right direction to help you overcome languishing, join our next FRESH START intake.
And if you are after some motivation and inspiration to counteract your languishing, or just want to feel connected to others with positive vibes, come and join me on Instagram – I’d love to have you.