The light life leans on languishing. The NYTimes recently published an Adam Grant article about how so many of us are languishing as a result of the relentless pandemic. Of course, once one major news source picks up a key concept, a flood of others follow suit. 

So? Are we all languishing these days, or is it that we were inundated with this idea that we are? 


This feeling of emptiness, or apathy as we see wave after wave of bad to horrible news is a very real concern today. In 2002, a scholar at Emory University  published an article about languishing compared to flourishing. It was in the early days of positive psychology, when we were all so excited to finally speak out loud about the good things in the world. Keyes work has followed us into the other side of despair. 

We want to flourish, of course, but today, twenty years later and two years into living in a global pandemic, I have to ask, is languishing really such a bad thing? 


Flourishing means that we are productive, joyful, engaged, and love all the parts of our lives. For the most part, if we are flourishing, we are also emotionally strengthened by our own sense of purpose. 

However, what happens to those who only focus on being productive, flourishing and engaging? Will they have the strength to bounce back from a longer period of languishing? Will they know how? 

For those of us who experienced terrible life events prior to the pandemic, there seems to have been a push for outward joy. We encourage productivity, community engagement online and a sense of dedicated purpose to create the pivot toward happiness.

Why are we ignoring our blah? Why not embrace it? 

For those who faltered after too many deaths, or financial hardship, languishing became survivor mode. The apathy in some cases, actually helped the human brain to cope with the sense of hope. The Feeling of being unproductive created a mental health crisis that led to aggression. 

People who had never experienced sadness and that sense of feeling stuck developed for some, into more anxiety and/or depression. Flourishing itself became irritating to those who were not mastering new languages, or fitness, or even picking up new skills. 

All that happiness online began to irritate people. 

We knew that if we paid attention to the apathy, we’d be able to neurologically develop a sense of deep appreciation for the stagnation. After all, the majority of world renowned classic artists that we cherish, have suffered a mental health crisis across centuries. 

If Van Gogh had not suffered as he did, would we be as appreciative of his sunflowers? 

There is something quite poetic and lovely in the languishing of a slower life, free of the pressure to flourish at every waking moment. 

Our emotions are not to be feared, but instead, savored as a part of the whole of being human. Embracing one’s self while blue, we paint our world with indigo light. 

To all who languish, be not afraid of the night, for there, you will more clearly see the stars. 


Author: k.  Aren Henry has a masters in community psychology and an advanced graduate certificate in mental health counseling. The Light Life is part of her “happiness noir” series, copyright 2021 ©  She’s a private practitioner and researcher in the United States. Henry Healing dot com is her calling card.



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