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Three tips to overcome languishing

Three tips to overcome languishing

By Neomal Silva



When we caught up recently on a pleasant morning in the park, Susan, in the last stages of her law degree and working at a Melbourne law firm, looked weary. I could hear from her voice – hollowed out, lacking impetus – that something wasn’t right. And, without too much cajoling, she admitted it: she was tired of the humdrum monotony of the current lockdown. A general malaise had set in. Nothing was exciting her. She lacked motivation.

Susan was ‘languishing’, a term first coined by Corey Keyes, and made known to a non-academic audience in a recent NY Times article[1]. Languishing is the half-way house between the low of depression and the high of flourishing. It’s stagnancy; a feeling of joylessness that many are enduring right now during the pandemic.

What can you do to shake it off?

Some argue that ‘flow’ is the best antidote[2]. Flow refers to those golden moments when you’re seamlessly cutting through a task; your ego drops away as you find yourself fully immersed in it; and even the passage of time feels different: it’s bountiful, you hardly notice it. Humans are, according to Csikszentmihalyi, most happy when they are in the flow state[3].

So how can you experience more flow? A key component of the flow state is that you need to have sufficient competence in the task that you’re performing – you can’t be overwhelmed, or stressed out, by it – yet that task needs to pose enough of a challenge so that you’re invigorated and enthused (rather than soullessly going through the motions).

Recommendations to experience the ‘flow’ state:

  1. Engage in Tasks You’re Skilled At

Prioritise the work tasks that you’re good at, and that give you greater levels of satisfaction. Of course, if you’re at an early stage in your career, you may not  get much choice over your work tasks. However,  you can nonetheless start your day with the tasks that you’re better at, which is more likely to provide some impetus, and kickstart your enthusiasm to carry through the rest of the day.

  1. Watch the sunrise

Watching the sunrise makes for an awesome sight, and science shows that when you have a sense of awe, you feel more present in the moment, time feels more abundant[4] - and that’s very much how you feel when you’re experiencing ‘flow’.

  1. Meditate

Meditate! It engenders the same kinds of brainwaves that occur during flow. A person in ‘flow’ shows an increase in theta and alpha waves in certain key areas of their brain[5]. Tellingly, research shows that people increased their alpha brainwave coherence, just two weeks after learning transcendental meditation[6] [7]. Further, an additionalstudy suggests that mindfulness and meditation increase a person’s capacity for the flow state  experience[8].


Neomal Silva ( teaches Vedic Meditation in Melbourne and runs seminars, workshops, and presentations for firms on meditation, productivity, and employee wellbeing. His teaching – in line with his own academic background (UNSW, University of London, Oxford University) – is rigorous and scholarly. He draws on his own 20+ year as a management and project consultant with firms like Accenture and Nokia to make meditation relevant to ambitious, career-driven people (and their families).

[1] Grant, A. (2021, April 9) There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing. NY Times. Retrieved from

[2] Ibid.

[3] Csıkszentmihalyi M (1990) Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. Harper and Row, New York

[4] Dawson J., Sleek S. The Fluidity of Time: Scientists Uncover How Emotions Alter Time Perception. Observer Magazine. Retrieved from

[5] Katahira, K., Yamazaki, Y., Yamaoka, C., Ozaki, H., Nakagawa, S., & Nagata, N. (2018). EEG Correlates of the Flow State: A Combination of Increased Frontal Theta and Moderate Frontocentral Alpha Rhythm in the Mental Arithmetic Task. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 300.

[6] Neomal Silva teaches Vedic Meditation and was trained to teach this form of meditation by Thom Knoles. Thom was trained as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation (“TM”) by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (“Maharishi”), and taught it for over 25 years with organizations affiliated with Maharishi. Since 1997, Thom has continued to teach this meditation as he learned it from Maharishi, and has done so independently and separately from the TM organizations, using the terms “Vedic Meditation”. Thom Knoles trained Neomal to teach meditation as Thom was trained to teach meditation by Maharishi. Neomal teaches Vedic Meditation independently and separately from TM organizations, and is not affiliated with those organizations.

The form of meditation that Thom Knoles taught for over 25 years with the TM organisations as “Transcendental Meditation,” has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies showing a wide range of benefits from regular practice. These studies, which refer to this form of meditation using the name “Transcendental Meditation” or “TM”, support the benefits obtainable from regular practice of Vedic Meditation.

[7] Lehmann, D., Tan, G., Travis, F., & Arenander, A. (2005). Enhanced EEG alpha time-domain phase synchrony during Transcendental Meditation: Implications for cortical integration theory. Signal Process., 85, 2213-2232.

[8] Vaitl D, Birbaumer N, Gruzelier J, Jamieson G, Kotchoubey B, K€ubler A, Lehmann D, Miltner WHR, Ott U, P€utz P, Sammer G, Strauch I, Strehl U, Wackermann J, Weiss T (2005) Psychobiology of altered states of consciousness. Psychol Bull 131(1):98–127


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