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How to stop languishing and start flourishing

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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