Adam Grant is a psychology professor at the Wharton School. He has written a number of NY Times best sellers. His latest book is Think Again, the power of knowing what you don’t know. Now that you know who he is, I can tell you about an interview with him on a news program. He talked about what many of us are experiencing during the pandemic. It is languishing. He wrote an article which appeared in the NY Times doing a deep dive on languishing. I’ve taken excerpts from that article to share.
“It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
”You probably developed routines that eased your sense of dread. But the pandemic has dragged on, and the acute state of anguish has given way to a chronic condition of languish.
In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work.
“We still have a lot to learn about what causes languishing and how to cure it, but naming it might be a first step. It could help to defog our vision, giving us a clearer window into what had been a blurry experience. It could remind us that we aren’t alone: languishing is common and shared.
And it could give us a socially acceptable response to “How are you?”
Instead of saying “Great!” or “Fine,” imagine if we answered, “Honestly, I’m languishing.” It would be a refreshing foil for toxic positivity — that pressure to be upbeat at all times.
When you add languishing to your lexicon, you start to notice it all around you. It shows up when you feel let down by your short afternoon walk. It’s in your kids’ voices when you ask how online school went.
“So what can we do about it? A concept called “flow” may be an antidote to languishing. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a meaningful challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away. During the early days of the pandemic, the best predictor of well-being wasn’t optimism or mindfulness — it was flow. People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their pre-pandemic happiness.
An early-morning word game catapults me into flow. A late-night Netflix binge sometimes does the trick too — it transports you into a story where you feel attached to the characters and concerned for their welfare.
While finding new challenges, enjoyable experiences and meaningful work are all possible remedies to languishing, it’s hard to find flow when you can’t focus.
“Focus on a small goal. The pandemic was a big loss. To transcend languishing, try starting with small wins, like the tiny triumph of figuring out a whodunit or the rush of playing a seven-letter word. One of the clearest paths to flow is a just-manageable difficulty: a challenge that stretches your skills and heightens your resolve. That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a small step toward rediscovering some of the energy and enthusiasm that you’ve missed during all these months.”
Comments are welcome.
I came across this little poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. There’s no point for me to add anything when his words say it all.
“Kind hearts are the gardens,
kind thoughts are the roots,
kind words are the flowers,
kind deeds are the fruits.
Take care of your garden.
And keep out the weeds.
Fill it with sunshine,
kind words, and kind deeds.”
Comments are welcomed.
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?”
Winnie the Pooh definitely had it going on. The other day I walked into this lovely little bistro which is affectionately called My Kitchen. I stood there pondering the big question of the day - what about lunch? I began to chuckle querying is this my life now? Lunch has become the highlight of each day. Not that breakfast and dinner don’t matter, but it’s all about lunch. A big contributing factor is that’s when I have my daily cup of Java, a most exhilarating elixir.
Talking with some of my friends, I learned that they are in similar boats with what has turned into their highlights. Things that once were necessary chores or errands are now big adventures. Who would have thought that buying and hoarding Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. was so much fun? Meeting up with a masked friend, walking 6 feet apart is even better. After all, doing that constitutes aversion of important social connection. There are so many little things that have evolved into the big things in our pandemic lives. The upside is that we may become more grateful. Gratitude plays a major part in maintaining well being. In fact, those who study well being and flourishing have noted that when there is gratitude in your heart, it is not possible to be depressed at the same time.
All that being said, truth be told, this pandemic with the yoyoing lock-downs and stay at home orders is wearing thin. Is the fat lady ever going to sing? I reckon, to paraphrase Churchill, when we are going through hell, all we can do is keep going. Now, what about lunch?
Comments are welcomed.
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life's realities.” Dr. Seuss
I am and have been so on board with viewing life through the wrong end of a telescope like Dr. Seuss. However, over the past several months I haven’t been able to find my telescope. Nor have I found my kaleidoscope which provides another perspective with all the colors and pieces moving, changing, creating a myriad of patterns. It feels like the nourishment for my right brain (which is the part that dreams, designs, imagines) has been absent. What is one to do? As I pondered the situation, it occurred to me that nonsense and whimsy are distant cousins. Looking for inspiration, I dived into the archives to find what I had written about nonsense or whimsy in the past. Here’s an excerpt that caught my fancy.
“What is the color of whimsy? Outrageous orange? Razzle Dazzle Rose? Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown? Bippity Boppity Blue? What is the sound of whimsy? Household appliances talking amongst themselves? Elves tap dancing on the roof? Stars tinkling like bells in the night sky? What does whimsy look like? A unicorn farm? A wizard living in your spare room? A secret stash of pixie dust?
When I opened a window whimsy blew in. The tea kettle, usually quiet and unobtrusive, began whistling Zippity Do Dah. Then some of the neighborhood fairies gathered in my dining room for tea and Petit Fours and gossip.”
Hmmm. It’s a lovely day with a gentle breeze. I opened the window to see if whimsy might blow in. I was delightfully surprised to see the neighborhood fairies return for a visit. I was also surprised to see they were observing Covid protocols. They were all wearing masks and kept distanced. I was not prepared to offer tea and petit fours as before. They were okay with that as they were not inclined to have to remove their masks to eat. So the visit was limited to gossip. Fairy gossip is quite intriguing. To share would take a lot of ‘splaining. More than I care to write about. Just know that I rediscovered some of that nonsense I was searching for. I hope whimsy blows into your abode to bring fun and good cheer to your day.
Comments are welcomed.
In the midst of a stream of consciousness and a myriad of random thoughts, the idea of a pandemic time capsule popped into my head. Hmmm. How about that? When one is dug up in 100 years, what might be found inside? Here are just a few items for my capsule. What would you select for yours?
Of course, there would be a selection of my most fashionable masks. Continuing with the pandemic uniform and gear, there would be a pair of disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and perhaps a face shield.
A take out menu with no contact delivery
An email with links to Zoom meetings
A photo of the last hair cut before lock-down and 6 months later
A print out of some on line shopping lists for delivery or curb pick up.
Books: Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Happy For No Reason by Marci Shimoff, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Empty bag from my favorite Indonesian Flores coffee beans (Hmmm. Maybe I should leave a few beans in the bag.)
A DVD of Midnight in Paris
My manual of “Protocols, Policies And Procedures For Surviving A Lock-down: or How To Hold Onto Your Sanity While Everyone Around You Is Losing Theirs.”
FYI - This manual was number one on the New York Times best seller list for a really long time. It was also translated into 37 languages. If you’d like to get a copy, I’m sorry, but it is no longer being printed. Maybe it will turn up on social media one day. Everything else does.
The day March 20 arrived I felt a palpable change. That date signified the first day of Spring, which in itself was a very good thing. What came with it, for me was a big feeling of renewal, joy, hope and possibility. There is so much to love and be in awe of in Spring. No doubt everyone has their favorites. I’ve come up with my top 10 good things about Spring in no particular order.
“A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period --
When March is scarcely here
A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.”
Comments are welcome.
The Spring Break season has begun. Judging by reports of the Spring Breakers, you would not think we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Be that as it may, I decided to get into the action. Kind of. I’m not going anywhere, but I thought I’d take a week off from the blog. Sometimes a little less thinking and a little more nothing can create a landing space for new ideas and possibilities. See you next week. You all stay safe and well.
It’s been a long time. It’s been over a year since_(fill in the blank for yourself). For me, it was feeling a paucity of whimsy, imagination and caprice. The most recent lock-down was just lifted. My first mission was undisputed. A friend and I headed straight for the Lemon and Lavender gift shop. That is the place where one can be infused with whimsy, enchantment and fairy dust. Whether any purchases are made or just browsing and visiting with the owners, one cannot help feel more light-hearted and joyful spending some time there.
Truth be told, I was hoping to make a purchase. This would be my version of retail therapy. I found a birthday gift for my granddaughter. Then it was my turn. I hadn’t come across quite what was in mind. I asked Antonella and Christina (the owners) for some suggestions for a whimsical item that we might have missed. Antonella found just the right item. I went a little overboard and bought some lovely, new masks as well.
Thanks to my visit to Lemon and Lavender the fanciful, playful parts of myself were rejuvenated. Our time there was a true happiness booster. What have you been able to do to recreate those things that give you joy and playfulness? It’s really an important pursuit to maintain over all well-being in these stressful, difficult times.
Comments are welcomed.