How to recognise when you’re languishing (and start flourishing)

Kat Nicholls
By Kat Nicholls,
updated on Nov 4, 2021

How to recognise when you’re languishing (and start flourishing)

Feeling a bit ‘meh’? We’ve all been there – but you don’t have to stay feeling stuck in a rut. Here, we explore how to break free from languishing

Imagine a line. At one end is depression and the other, flourishing. Where would you put yourself right now? This continuum can be a helpful tool to recognise where we are in terms of our mental wellbeing, but there’s another expression we need to add. Sitting at the centre of this line, ‘languishing’ is when we don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but we’re not exactly thriving, either.

The word ‘languishing’ can be traced back to the early Latin word ‘languere’ which means to feel faint. When we’re languishing, we don’t have the motivation to take on the day ahead. When we’re flourishing, however, we feel positive and excited about life.

With the events of the past 18 months, it’s not a surprise that this term is cropping up a lot, but how do we recognise when we’re languishing?

1. You’ve lost your motivation

You can read all the inspirational quotes in the world, but the truth is motivation is an inside job – if we don’t feel it internally, nothing will help.

2. You’re finding it hard to focus

While we all have times when our focus drifts in and out, thanks to the distractions and challenges of daily life, with languishing you will notice this for a longer period of time, and it will be even more difficult than usual.

3. You’re withdrawing from what used to bring you joy

The lack of motivation, and desire to withdraw when you’re languishing, can lead to turning down social invitations, or letting go of hobbies you used to love.

4. You’re feeling stuck

A key aspect of languishing can be feeling stuck in life, like you’re not moving forward, or aren’t where you want to be.


If you recognise these signs, you’re not alone. In May 2021, the search term ‘languishing’ peaked in popularity, meaning people were Googling it more than ever before. So, to help you move closer to flourishing, try the following:

Start savouring

The idea behind savouring is to become more present and appreciate the good moments when they happen, no matter how small. To help you get into a savouring state of mind, try going for a walk and take photographs of what makes you smile.

Practise gratitude

There are countless studies on the benefits of being more grateful; start by noting down one thing you’re grateful for every day and see how it makes you feel.

Find your flow

The state of flow happens when we become immersed in a task that is neither too easy nor too challenging. This flow state has been described as an ‘antidote’ to languishing, so find an activity that can help you get there. Some of our favourites include drawing, knitting, gardening, and cooking.

Seek connection

When we’re languishing, we naturally want to withdraw. But when we fight this urge and actively seek out connection, we take the power back. This could be a simple exchange between yourself and a barista at your local cafe, or calling a loved one for a chat.

Find your purpose

When we feel stuck, moving forward is tough, and that’s because we need something to aim for. This is where purpose comes in. When we identify our purpose (why we do what we do) we can feel inspired again. Remember, this doesn’t have to be grand or life-changing – making people smile could be your purpose. Whatever it is, own it.

If all else fails, remember, nothing in this life is permanent, including the feeling of languishing. The way you feel will change, and if you can take some proactive steps to help yourself get there, even better. Here’s to nudging that little bit closer to flourishing.

If you’re languishing right now, you might benefit from talking to a coach who can help you identify your blocks and move past them. Find the right coach for you at lifecoach-directory.org.uk

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