“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K.S. lyengar
What is languishing?
In a recent article in The New York Times, they coin a term called languishing. Languishing is that sense of stagnation and emptiness we’re all feeling as result of the pandemic.
Languishing is described as the “neglected middle child of mental health”. When psychologists define mental health, they often lay it out on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. When you are flourishing, your well-being is at an all-time high. You’re able to find meaning and mastery in your everyday life and you feel that you matter to others. When you are depressed, you feel worthless and drained by life itself.
When placing languishing on this spectrum, it exists like the void between depression and flourishing. It’s simply the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness but you’re not functioning at full capacity either. Instead, this sort of state of languishing just lingers around, dulling your motivation and disrupting your ability to focus.
How did we get here?
Likely, in the early days of the pandemic, your brain’s threat detection system (a.k.a. the amygdala) was on high alert in fight-or-flight mode. But overtime, we found ways to calm our initial state of shock and fear. We learnt that masks protect us, to stand six-feet apart and limit our socializing to outdoor activities. Dragging on for month after month, our acute state of anguish has transformed into a chronic condition called languish.
So, what’s the problem?
Languish is more common than major depression. It triples your likelihood of slacking at work. It also poses as a major risk factor for mental illness. Research suggests people expressing symptoms of languish right now are more likely to develop major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade than those that express depressive/anxious symptoms.
A big part of the problem is that languishing – a slow dwindling of delight and drive – fosters feelings of indifference. This sort of passiveness that develops makes individuals blind to their own suffering, unlikely to seek help or help themselves.
And what’s the cure?
The first step is to add the term “languishing” to your lexicon. Once you coin the term, you can start noticing that languishing is everywhere. It’s a common and shared experience and you aren’t in it alone.
The next step is to find flow.
The psychological concept of “flow” was established by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975. It’s also known as being “in the zone”. It’s the mental state by which a person performing some activity feels fully immersed in it. They feel energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Research suggests the best predictor of well-being in the pandemic was flow. The people most immersed in their tasks at the start of the pandemic were the ones who managed to avoid languishing and maintain their pre-pandemic motivation and happiness.
Our new series on Practice Shraddha might just be the cure to your languish.
The long-term grief over the course of this pandemic might have left you feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of your responsibilities. It might not be clinical depression, but it is languishing. It’s a milder feeling of sadness and hopelessness. It’s your body and mind’s way of pushing you to start paying attention to what’s going on internally so you can make some changes.
Our upcoming series at Practice Shraddha specifically targets those unhealed feelings buried deep within that manifest themselves as overt symptoms of languish. Together, we will find flow through our body movements and breathing patterns to actively heal the long-haul damage that’s been done to our psyche over the course of this pandemic.
To finish off with a quote by flow expert Mihály Csíkszentmihályi himself:
“The similarities between yoga and flow are extremely strong. It makes sense to think of yoga as a thoroughly planned flow activity. Both try to achieve a joyous, self-forgetful involvement through concentration which is made possible by the discipline of the body."