You might recall that I brought up “brain fog” in this space about a month ago. Two weeks later, after a note from a reader, in my column about mental health, I mentioned “languishing,” which New York Times writer Adam Grant covered at length in his April 19 article. He said it is more precise name for “brain fog.” I agree.
Then, in the May 4 edition of the Times, Grant’s colleague Dani Blum turned the tables and wrote about “flourishing,” which is the “other side” of languishing, she said.
Blum quoted Tyler J. VanderWeele, a Harvard professor in the university’s Human Flourishing Program (who knew there was such a field of study?), who said “It’s living the good life. We usually think about flourishing as living in a state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good – it’s really an all-encompassing notion.”
I’m just a bit excited that my notion of brain fog and its antithesis are being discussed in such hallowed halls as Harvard and the NYT. I’m more excited to know I’m not the only one talking about this pervasive feeling that so many of us have experienced (languishing). Beyond that, I’m thrilled to know that college professors and scientists have done a deep dive into the phenomenon and can give us solutions, a number of which Blum listed in her article – which she must have gleaned from my first column on the topic. (Just kidding. I suggested exercising, being social and enjoying active life again. She has some solid activities on her list.)
While I often wonder if there will ever be a time when ALL aspects of my life will be good at the same time, I take this as a hopeful sign to believe it could happen.
Blum’s gives this practical advice on how to switch gears from languishing to flourishing: We must first diagnose ourselves as to our own level of languishing of flourishing. She gives a scale from the Harvard folks and a link to try it on yourself.
Then she suggests we celebrate the small things that happen, the moments that bring even a bit of joy. We should express gratitude and create a habit of doing so; do good deeds for others; seek out connections in our community; find something each day to look forward to; and try something new.
And here’s my list. And, as odd as it might sound, while I was typing this, I re-found a greeting card that had been in the bottom of a desk drawer. A reader sent it to me years ago to comment about something I had written that resonated with her.
On the front of the card is a long quote by Kristin Armstrong; I have no idea who she is, but I love these parts of her quote:
“Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did. … Know when to let go and when to hold on tight. … Stop rushing. … Stop apologizing all the time. Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph. … Spend time with friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down. … Stop giving your power away. … Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. …”
Like our lush Lowcountry landscapes after a summer rain, we have within ourselves the ability to flourish. We can strive to put a hold on our languishing and start to get back to that “state in which all aspects” in our lives are good. It’s time.