Languishing – The Dominant Emotion of 2021

Feeling a little ‘meh’ and can’t explain what’s wrong?

It’s called languishing, the most dominant emotion of 2021.

The ongoing disruption caused by the global pandemic has affected almost everyone’s mental health in some way or another. After more than a year of separation from loved ones, and with the continued uncertainty of what’s next with COVID, we’ve been living with ongoing low-level anxiety – and it’s taken its toll.

Society may be ‘opening-up’ now, but many of us are still struggling to recover from daily life being put on pause. We’re left with a lack of motivation and decreased energy levels. In other words, we’re languishing. Languishing is a feeling of stagnation, of lack of progress and an inability to focus. It’s a state that often creeps up on you without you even noticing, and makes you feel un-inspired, without your usual energy and vigour. On the spectrum between flourishing and depression, its stuck right in the middle, leaving you feeling a little bit ‘meh’ and indifferent about things.

First coined by sociologist Keyes (2002) languishing is a feeling of emptiness, “a life of quiet despair” and it is the “absence of mental health.” According to psychologist Adam Grant’s recent piece in the New York Times, languishing is “the neglected middle child of mental health,” and it’s the most dominant emotion of 2021. It’s not categorised as a mental health disorder, so hasn’t yet got the attention perhaps it deserves, but further studies suggest that, if left unmanaged, languishing becomes a major contributing factor for depression.

So, if you’re finding yourself muddling through each day, lacklustre and feeling foggy, then the chances are, you’re languishing. But the good news is that there are ways to get your motivation back and enjoy that feeling of progress again. To begin with you need to acknowledge that this disconnected, aimless state you feel actually is a real thing. You may have been struggling to put your finger on why you’ve not been feeling quite right. But don’t worry, your apathy and lack of enthusiasm is shared by lots of other people. You’re not alone.

If you need further confirmation, then ask those close to you, see if they’ve noticed anything wrong – a lack of positive emotions affects behaviour and decision making in all aspects of life. Once you’ve recognised the symptoms, talk to someone. There’s lots of free support out there and many professionals who can help you start to feel more in control of your life and boost your wellbeing.

Your therapist will work together with you to agree strategies and techniques that enable you to feel more optimistic about your future. They’ll support you to start socialising again, set goals and celebrate individual achievements to rebuild confidence and motivation. The pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on us all, but with the right help and guidance, personalised to your individual needs, you can gradually rediscover a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

If you would like to seek help or discuss treatment options, please get in touch.

Elysium Therapy Brighton,
Withdean House
52 Dyke Road Avenue,
Brighton, BN1 5LE

T: 01273 059700


Here are 5 ways you can start to feel better today:


    1. Open up about how you’re feeling – we’ve all been through a rollercoaster of emotions this past year, it’s okay to say, ‘I’m not okay’.

    2. Talk to someone – talking through our feelings can help us understand what we are experiencing.

    3. Set goals – rediscovering enthusiasm can be a gradual process. Set yourself individual tasks that you can work towards to help you get back to feeling good.

    4. Improve your concentration – take up positive habits to help boost your focus such as limiting screen time and practising mindfulness.

    5. Reconnect with people – make plans to see family and friends. As you start to feel better, you’ll be glad to have dates in the diary.



Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43(2), 207–222.