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  • Writer's pictureAnnelise Garnier

We may have a good job, a nice family, some friends, financial security, but somehow, something seems to be missing.

Languishing is the absence of what makes life meaningful and worth living. We may feel that we don’t have a purpose in life, that we don’t truly belong anywhere, that relationships are not meaningful, or that we are not really growing as a person.  Languishing is the opposite to flourishing, and it affects 50-60% of us. 


So, do we fail to listen to that empty silence in ourselves and fail to do something about it, or do we empower ourselves to function well and flourish more?


According to sociologist Corey Keyes (‘Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down’, Crown, 2024), there are five vitamins that we can ‘take’ to help with languishing.

 

We need to intentionally:


1.  Learn and grow.

 

·       Learn something new that we want to understand and discover.  It has to be something we choose and that is meaningful and relevant to us.

 

·       Focus on how facing challenges can be an opportunity to grow too.

 

·       Replace envy of others with admiration, and learn from them.

 

·       Have the grace to accept failure and to embrace our imperfections.

 

2.  Cultivate warm and trusting relationships.

 

·       Focus on quality, not quantity, and prioritise friendships that are attuned, reciprocal and collaborative.

 

·       Give and receive equally to have more intimacy, i.e. be supportive listeners AND have the vulnerability to share our deepest needs and struggles.

 

·       Choose friends from different backgrounds to remove bias and develop perspectives outside our experience.

 

·       Do something useful for others which will increase our sense of ‘mattering’ and decrease our loneliness.

 

3.  Have a spiritual practice.

 

·       A practice of honouring a power greater than ourselves, whether it is God, Nature or the Universe, or anything else, will shrink our ego.  We will feel connected to something bigger which will give us a sense of belonging and add meaning to our life.

 

·       Using right attention creates right intention: we need practices that root us in loving kindness, that we can come back to and recentre ourselves in.

 

·       Practice self-compassion and mental flexibility, e.g. respond to negative experiences according to our deeply held values instead of reacting with fear or resentment.

 

·       Accept the things we cannot change.  Acceptance starts with self-acceptance!

 

4.  Find and live our purpose.

 

Goals only direct us toward the external path of success, having a purpose directs us towards the internal path of significance.


·       Ask ourselves what personal qualities we can use to make a useful contribution to others and/or our community.

 

·       Start small, for example, with three acts of kindness a day to others or the world or giving some time and energy (not just money) to a cause meaningful to us.

 

·       Have a plan for a purpose right now and develop skills toward it.

 

·       Trust our instinct, be open to opportunities and put ourselves out there.  Purpose may turn up when we least expect it, and we must be ready when it comes!

 

5.  Play

 

·       Seek delight in the process, not the outcome. 

 

·       Let our imagination run wild, explore, discover and be curious.

 

·       Adopt a play mindset for some of the more boring jobs we do.

 

·       Find people, animals and activities that make us laugh.

 

·      Collect experiences rather than things, engage in the ones that have a more active focus, with a mind to being present and fully engaged.

 


Too often, we try to ‘achieve’ being happy as quickly and directly as possible by chasing feeling ‘good’. But perhaps we could focus instead on working on the ‘functioning well’ aspects of flourishing.


By focusing on growing, having meaningful social and spiritual connections, increasing our purpose in life, balanced with a good measure of playfulness, happiness may just gently land on our shoulder.

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  • Writer's pictureAnnelise Garnier

Two myths about conflicts:


They are bad for relationships

Not only are conflicts inevitable in relationships, but they are necessary!  Research has shown that, contrary to popular belief, early conflict in a relationship is a predictor of good outcomes, because it means that partners feel secure enough to bring up issues without fear.  Conflict does not have to break us and our partner apart, we can grow closer BECAUSE of it. 


They should always be resolved

Most conflicts will in fact never be resolved, this is normal and ok. Only a third of all fights have a solution.  The rest are perpetual conflicts that need to be “managed” over and over.  They are inevitable because we all have differing needs and personalities. 

 


People have different styles of conflict


There are three styles we tend to gravitate more towards, none better than the other:


·       Avoiding: we choose not to bring up issues and only focus on what is working well in the

relationship. 

Conflicts are unnoticeable, which can lead to disconnection.

 

·       Validating: we problem solve and debate in a rational way with less room for emotions. 

Conflicts can be tense fights.

 

·       Volatile: we express emotions freely and this can escalate and get out of control. 

Conflicts are explosive fights.


No matter what our style is, the important aspect is to keep the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones above 5:1, according to relationship experts, Julie and John Guttman. This will help with staying open and interested without shutting down or becoming defensive. Examples of positive interactions could be a smile, a joke, a touch, a nod or a validating comment.

 


When do fights go wrong?


·       When we dismiss each other’s negative emotions.

This leads to an escalation of emotions because the person feels invalidated.

 

·       When there is no humour, affection or warmth. 

This can soon be replaced with criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness.

 

·       When we become flooded and do not realise this is happening to us. 

This leaves our emotional brain in charge and we have a typical Fight, Flight, Freeze or

Fawn reaction.

 


What to do instead?


·       Honour and respect each other’s emotions, without minimising what the other is feeling.

 

·       Moving from gridlock to dialogue, exploring each other’s unmet needs and dreams with openness and curiosity. The goal is not to win against an opponent but to think for two. 

 

·       Be aware in the moment of what flooding feels like physically for us.  Letting our partner know that we need to pause and move away for an hour or so will allow us to reset and come back to the discussion with more calm and openness.

 


Finally, continually filling our positive emotions piggy bank will help


According to research, the biggest predictor of the future of a relationship is responding positively to our partner’s bids for connection.  When they sigh, for example, do we turn away, do we ignore them or do we turn toward them and ask if they are alright?


The odds of us being on the same page all the time are quite low, so we need to make an intentional effort to turn TOWARD each other during those fleeting moments throughout the day. 


This will be an investment in our piggy bank of positive emotions which we will be able to turn to in times of conflict.

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  • Writer's pictureAnnelise Garnier

I came across a fascinating concept the other day that caught my attention: the Zeigarnik Effect.

 

What is it?

In a few words, when we complete a task, our brain hits the delete button and we don’t think about it too much anymore.  Does studying hard for an exam and not being able to recall much about the subject once the exam is over ring a bell?  If, on the other hand, a task is left unfinished, we tend to retain it in our memory.  Failing to complete a task basically creates a subtle cognitive tension in our mind, which can only be released once the tasks have been completed.

 

Some examples

Waiters remember the orders that have not been paid for and tend to swiftly forget the ones dealt with. ATM machines ask us to retrieve our card before giving us our money, as we could easily forget our card once the task of getting our money was completed.  Writers and filmmakers use this effect to their advantage, often ending book chapters or episodes with an unfinished storyline to keep us thinking about it and wanting to read or watch more.

 

The Zeigarnik Effect and relationships

The Zeigarnik Effect also impacts our romantic relationships, but in quite a negative way.  Because we tend to remember better what is not resolved, we are more likely to remember a fight with our partner that did not get repaired. This means that intrusive thoughts about the incident and the way it left us feeling will keep coming back to us again and again, as they will be stored in our memory, waiting to get resolved - and this could go on for years!  Indeed, we find it hard to forget something until we have truly processed it, i.e. when we have been able to feel understood and make sense of it ourselves. 

 

Memories change with time

The problem with this is that memories do not stay the same, they start to get distorted with time. You felt deeply hurt by a particular comment your partner made, and every time you access that memory, it aligns more and more with that feeling.  It’s a bit like walking with a piece of gravel in your shoe.  If you don’t stop and take it out, it will keep bothering you.

 

Never too late …

But the good news is that it is never too late to process a fight. Never too late to talk about the experience you both had, the impact you had on each other. And only when you have understood each other fully can you forgive and finally move on. 

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