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Languishing: Signs and Symptoms for the Dominant Emotion of 2021

By Clarissa Vanner

Do you know that feeling of blah? It’s hard to put a name to it. This feeling is not exactly caused by stress or complete exhaustion, in fact, most people still have energy while feeling this emotion. It’s merely the feeling of being joyless and without purpose. Did you know there’s a name for it? In a recent article, Adam Grant, an American psychologist says that feeling is called “languishing.”

Languishing is a lot more common than you may think too. And due to the current climate, more individuals are experiencing this emotion than ever. One might even say that languishing is considered the dominant emotion of 2021. In this article, we take a closer look at what exactly this emotion is. We’ll also uncover the common signs and symptoms of languishing so you can find out if you’re experiencing it too!

What Is Languishing?

So what is languishing exactly? Health explains, “The term originates from the Latin “languere,” which means to be weak or faint, and was coined by the sociologist Corey Keyes.” It essentially involves distressing feelings like emptiness and stagnation.

Is Languishing the Same As Depression?

Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects more than 16-million American adults over age 18 every year. It’s important to point out that languishing is not the same as depression.

This feeling doesn’t have the same symptoms of depression, as you don’t feel complete hopelessness. That said, on the mental health spectrum, languishing falls somewhere in the middle, between depression and flourishing.

Signs and Symptoms of Languishing

You might be wondering if languishing isn’t the same as depression, what are the signs and symptoms? For starters, it’s a feeling of stagnation and emptiness.

If you feel like you’re “looking at life through a foggy windshield”, then this could be a sign that you’re experiencing languishing. Other symptoms of languishing include lack of motivation and difficulty focusing.

Why Is Languishing Common in 2021?

2020 and 2021 have been unique times for many individuals. There has been a lot of change especially in everyday activities like working and going to school. Many people have had to adjust to working from home, doing school at home, shopping from home, and even limitations on socialization.

So why is languishing so common in 2021? Simply put, the current climate has caused prolonged distress also known as languishing. The New York Times calls it “a sense of stagnation and emptiness.”

Risk Factors

Anyone can be affected by languishing but some people can be more susceptible to it than others. Knowing how to manage and adapt to stress can make you less prone to it.

If you have an extrovert personality, you may be more likely to experience languishing this year. This is because not being able to socialize as you once did can make you feel depleted. On the other hand, those with an introverted personality may be less susceptible to languishing because solitude is what they desire.

How to Manage Languishing

So now that we have a basic understanding of what languishing is, how can we manage it if it happens? Psychologists note that one of the best ways to manage emotions is to first name them.

Being able to define how you are feeling may help give you a clearer outlook on what you are experiencing. It can also help you realize you are not alone. Other ways you can help manage languishing include setting aside uninterrupted time and setting small, achievable goals. Being able to accomplish even small goals can help give you purpose and drive.

Tips to Prevent Languishing

If you do experience this emotion, just know you are not alone. Many people across the world are likely experiencing the same feeling. Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to help manage it and prevent it from happening. Let’s take a look at these next.

A Healthy Lifestyle

Leading a healthy lifestyle is not only great for your physical health but your mental health too. A healthy lifestyle is more than eating nutritious meals and engaging in regular exercise. It also includes taking time to relax, connecting with family and friends, and ensuring you’re getting enough sleep!

Be sure to evaluate your current daily habits. Are there areas you can improve? Small changes like getting more sleep, and taking time to unwind and relax can make all the difference!


The next technique to help manage and prevent languishing is journaling. This can include writing a letter, writing in a notebook, or even making notes on your phone. Try focusing on things you are grateful for. This can help you have a positive outlook.

If you don’t enjoy writing there are other expressive forms you can try. This includes drawing, painting, sculpting, or whatever form you enjoy doing that helps you release feelings.

When to See a Doctor

While languishing is not a fun emotion to experience, many people can manage it. That said, you should speak to a doctor if you believe your emotions are due to a mental health issue.

You should also speak to a doctor if your feelings interfere with your ability to function. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you identify the problem and help you get the treatment you need.

Junior Managing Editor

Clarissa is the Junior Managing Editor of ActiveBeat. She aspires to live a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating foods that nourish her body, but she isn't afraid to indulge in a little chocolate here and there! Clarissa loves cooking, being outdoors, and spending time with her dog. In her free time, you'll find her relaxing in her hammock or curled up on the couch reading a book.

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