As lay people we often treat mental health and mental illness, as opposite to each other. We believe mental illness is presence of any psychological disorder like anxiety depression, schizophrenia, or personality disorder. And mental health is absence of any such mental illness. However, this is just a tip of the iceberg. Mental health is much more than that; it is the presence of positive psychological functioning, self acceptance, self control, emotional intelligence, having meaning and purpose in life. It means resilience, life satisfaction, being able to grow everyday. It means having vitality, passion, grit and positive social relations. Many of us don’t have any mental illness but are not mentally healthy either; we are languishing.
The term languishing coined by a psychologist and sociologist Corey Keyes is defined as a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if we’re muddling through our days, looking at our life through a foggy windshield. This reminds me of an Urdu couplet “Subah hoti ha Sham hoti ha, Umr yuhi tamam hoti ha”. This means though we work and live but we don’t find any joy or excitement in life. Life seems like a series of obligations and monotonous routine. We feels our life is being governed by unknown forces. In a recent article in the New York Times, an organisational psychologist and professor at University of Pennsylvania Dr Adam Grant, wrote that languishing is “a sense of stagnation and emptiness.” in this state, we may not see the point of things or anticipate any forward direction or fulfilment in our lives. We feel despondent, drained and worthless. We don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but we’re not in the picture of mental health either. We’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls our motivation, disrupts our ability to focus. It is more common than major depression. In the words of APA Dictionary of Psychology; “languishing is the condition of absence of mental health characterised by ennui, apathy, listlessness and loss of interest in life. It is a state in which an individual is devoid of positive emotions towards life and is not functioning well either psychologically or socially. It is like lying on bed; scrolling through internet without any seriousness or purpose. Everyday looks same. Some people put the Dp “NOT HAPPY NOT SAD BUT EMPTY”; this is the signal that they feel something is missing in the puzzle of life; and that’s enjoyment, meaning and purpose.
Tips to overcome languishing
Researchers have found that people take languishing for granted by calling it a common feeling shared by many; they don’t realise its cost. Languishing increases an individual’s vulnerability to depression and other mental illnesses. It is basically a red signal calling us towards a need to focus on improving mental health.
Some of the research based tips for overcoming languishing are:
Focus more on self care: Dress up well, go for a walk, eat healthy, take part in relaxation techniques and exercises. Rejuvenate yourself with energy and vigour. Physical health is the key to metal health.
Know yourself: Try to know yourself; your strengths, weaknesses potentialities, aspirations and interests and try to be first copy of yourself rather than a pirated version of someone else. Do what you love or love what you do. Respect yourself, accept yourself, and don’t have your self worth contingent on the way people treat you. Don’t look at life through dirty window. Identify your strengths and bring them to fuller utilisation; Don’t deny your dark side; dare to look for weakness and work towards self improvement. If being aggressive, impulsive or unassertive is your weakness rather than rationalising or denying them work towards eliminating them.
Stay hungry dtay foolish: This is the saying of Steve Jobs; by Staying Hungary he means staying curious to learn and by being Foolish he meant to dare to do unconventional acts. Those who stay hungry and foolish always feel vitality and never get bored.
Find a purpose: Ask yourself what I am; what I ought to be; what I want to be and try to bring these three in sync to each other. Set a bigger purpose and think beyond materialistic and self centered motives; look for the ways by which we can benefit mankind. Cultivate spirituality and live virtuous life: According to Seligman, Learner and Dobson people who are high on virtues like hope, courage, generosity, temperance, patience and prudence live flourishing lives and are immune against mental illnesses.
Lets conclude by the beautiful message of Steve Jobs “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle… Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK