Rewiring Your Brain to Beat Languishing

July 14, 2022 Vicki Halsey

Earlier this year, I told my youngest son that I was in a rut. I had cabin fever.

He said to me, “Do you like gardening?”

Not really.

“Do you like painting?”

Not really.

“Is there anything you want to pursue?”

Not really.

I was languishing. I found I wasn’t alone. The New York Times says languishing is the dominant emotion of the time.

It's not surprising that so many people are languishing. We've all been over-stimulated the past few years, with our brains on constant high alert and our bodies running on adrenaline. We’ve expended a lot of energy just trying to survive!

Consider my life a few months ago. My routine was waking up, working, taking a break to eat, working some more, eating again, exercising, doing more work, and watching some television. I had Instacart bring my groceries. I didn't go out much.

Then, in February, I asked myself what was happening to me. I felt like a dud. So I decided to sit with the question for a long time. I asked myself “What DO I love?” My answer was “I love people. I love learning.”

Now that I had a few answers, I needed to do something about it. I'd like to share with you my journey back to a state of normalcy. My hope is that you might find some tips that help you get the spring back in your step.

I Became Intentional

I asked myself “What do I want to attract into my life?” I knew I needed clear targets if I were to get the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for processing fearful and threatening stimuli) involved. Why? Because once the amygdala deems a goal emotionally significant, it involves the frontal lobe, which is responsible for most of our higher executive functions. Your brain then starts identifying and solving problems related to the goal. It formulates a strategy.

Here's how to set an intentional goal—and what happens when you do it.

  • Write down a SMART Goal (Which Blanchard describes as Specific, Motivating, Achievable, Relevant, and Trackable)
  • Make sure it is emotionally significant enough to engage the amygdala. The brain makes emotionally significant goals a priority!
  • Your frontal lobe starts identifying and solving problems for achieving the goal.
  • The frontal lobe and amygdala work together, moving you toward behaviors, situations, and strategies to achieve the goal.
  • The frontal lobe and amygdala also move you away from situations that don’t help you achieve your goals. 

I Started Learning Again

I’ve never been a TV watcher. It doesn't feed my soul or fire me up. I thought about how I'm never going to get the four hours back I was spending each night in front of it. Once I made this decision, I took MIT’s Neuroscience of Business course online, an Intrepid course on digital collaboration, and a class on neurolinguistic programming. I was so happy to be exercising my brain. It was so rewarding!

I Reached out to Friends

We are social creatures. We want to connect. The pandemic took these experiences away.

 I contacted old friends. I told them I was feeling blah. We commiserated and laughed. I found joy in hearing their voices and connecting. I also scheduled regular phone calls with family members I hadn't seen in some time. These were happy occasions!

I Started Moving Again

One of my goals was to sit less and move more. I thought of Newton's first law of motion—how an object at rest stays at rest. I didn't want to become a couch potato! I’ve always walked an hour a day with friends but that left 23 other hours! I wanted to enjoy experiences like listening to a band playing in the park, going to the Renaissance Fair, or going for a walk on the beach. I wanted to get up, move, be vibrant, and experience all life has to offer.

I’m now using a standing desk, doing free weights, pedaling on the exercycle instead of sitting in the recliner, and walking around the house when I’m on the phone.

I Noticed My Language

In my course on neurolinguistic programming, I learned I must choose my language very carefully. Instead of saying “I'll never get my office cleaned,” I decided to say things like “How could I get my office clean?” The first question shuts down the brain’s attempt to look for solutions. The second question activates the part of our brain that looks for solutions.

Some things we say can be very limiting and self-defeating. The class challenged me to use language to help me become the person I want to be.

I Asked Big Questions

I asked myself the big questions of life and reflected on my answers. What do I want to attract? What do I want to do? How do I want to show up in my own life? What is the meaning of my life?

For me, the meaning of life is to help people be brilliant and successful and enjoy themselves. What’s yours?

Get Ready to Rewire Your Brain

The pandemic forced our brains to create neural connections that made us feel that our home was a protected place. Now we need to rewire our brains to do things that bring us joy.

It took me four months to reprogram my brain. I feel like I've returned to my normal state of bliss and gratitude. Now it’s your turn to bring the joy back into your life.

Here's a final thought. I did plant a garden. And I love it!

About the Author

Vicki Halsey

Vicki Halsey is Vice President of Applied Learning for Blanchard®. She is the author of Brilliance by Design, Legendary Service: The Key is to CARE, and Leading at a Higher Level. Vicki is the co-developer of Blanchard’s Legendary Service, and SLII® training programs.

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