Feeling blah is less a diagnosis than a sign of our times. Prioritizing social connections and nature can help you feel better.

You might explain how you’re feeling as going through a funk or feeling a bit down. It’s not depression, but is a case of “the blahs” a thing?

Yes. And it’s more common than you might expect. Recently, a term emerged that put a pin in what many people felt was the dominant emotion of living through the global pandemic: languishing.

Languishing was not a new word in the world of psychiatry. A 2002 study defined it as “the absence of mental health.” The middle ground between the hopelessness of depression and the delight and motivation characterize thriving.

Why do we feel down sometimes? Is there a path from feeling blah back to being excited about life? Keep reading for the causes behind the blahs and five ways to overcome them.

The blahs, or languishing, are the feeling of being between loving life and depression. You might feel like you’re not thriving, but not sick. You’re not depressed, exactly, but not excited for life. You’re not falling apart but not functioning on all cylinders.

You might be feeling low, stuck, and life you’re muddling through life. Feeling blah can be described as feeling joyless and aimless — but without the deep hopelessness of depression.

Languishing is more common than major depression, according to an older 2003 American Psychological Association book.

Some signs that you’re feeling blah include:

Stress and a lack of social outlets emerge over and over in data as major causes of feeling blah. When security and stability are threatened, we retreat into ourselves.

One 2021 study speculated that a lack of human contact during the pandemic, including living alone or conducting work and school remotely instead of in person, led to the blahs — or languishing — for many.

And a 2020 study said that this feeling might result from losing routine during the pandemic. People who lost their jobs or child care during the pandemic were more likely to languish than those with more flexibility around working and ensuring their families were cared for.

What are some ways to overcome the blahs and feel connected and purposeful again? Here are five tips.

Feeling blah is a sign that you’re having difficulties, but not necessarily floundering or in distress.

Mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga may help you relax and reduce your stress levels. Free apps and other programs can assist you with developing a mindfulness strategy, or you can look into classes.

Tuning into what your body and mind are experiencing through mindfulness brings you back to the present moment and helps cultivate gratitude and connection.

Not everyone who experiences boredom lacks activities or interaction.

But some people are predisposed to feel blah if they aren’t being social or if they feel the circumstances limiting their activity — whether that’s lockdown or needing to care for young children — are beyond their control.

Boredom is not a personal failing. It might be how you’re wired to respond to a particular situation you’re in. Acknowledge your blahs and how they make you feel, and you may find that addressing your emotions gives you more motivation.

Feeling like you’re in a funk might also be a way to avoid describing and coping with more specific, vulnerable emotions you’re feeling. You might want to take time to feel what “feeling blah” really means to you. Is it feelings of loneliness, insecurity, or rejection?

A 2021 study linked feeling blah to a lack of contact with nature. Whether or not you exercise outdoors regularly, try to go outside — preferably somewhere green — once a day.

Setting a small, doable goal — like walking outside for 15 minutes a day — could boost your mood.

Social isolation is closely tied to feeling blah. Without people to talk with or interact with about work, your world can quickly become very small.

You might not realize how blah you really feel and therefore not ask for help.

It can help to reach out to people close to you, and don’t be afraid to mention that you feel blah and want some company. You’ll likely discover many people are feeling blah and would also love to get together more often.

Lack of social support is linked to poorer mental health. If you’re able, providing social support to others may also provide you with a level of social engagement that can relieve your blahs.

Look for volunteer work that you can do, or if you are unable to donate time, consider donating money or effort to a cause that interests you.

Prioritizing social activities and connections with friends or strangers can bring people out of languishing.

The hardest part of overcoming feeling blah is that it’s often hard to believe that anything you do will work to counteract the blahs. This can cause you to retreat further into those feelings.

Social support and engagement can help provide a dose of motivation that might bring you out of your blah feelings and also help you support others who are also feeling blah.

Not talking about the blahs or acknowledging them will worsen them. Feel into them and know that you will not feel blah forever.

If you’re stuck in a funk for a while, consider finding a therapist to help you work through the blahs.