From languishing to thriving – why creativity, nature and focus help

Monday, 24th May 2021

From languishing to thriving – why creativity, nature and focus help

Wellbeing is on everyone’s minds at the moment. Coping with a year like no other has been the main goal – and people’s stories are different. Rupert Cornford from Story Publishing reflects on his strategies during lockdown

Back in February, I met Sam Booth for a walk in Chorlton Water Park. It was in ‘those times’ when business meetings could happen, but only if they were outside. I drove up from home in Cheshire and Sam walked across from Didsbury. It was great to get out of the house and chat face to face.

In the hour we spent together, she asked about contributing to the new health and wellbeing hub pro.manchester had set up. What had I been doing to look after myself during the pandemic? What could I share with others that would be helpful?

‘Of course,’ I said, ‘I’ll put something together.’

That was more than three months ago.

Since then, I have been (thankfully) busier with work, coming to the end of home schooling, and seeing the business through this financial year. Like many people, I am doing OK; not great, but not too bad either.

And it’s a feeling that I have struggled to explain, until now.

I read an article recently about the ‘middle ground’ of mental health. Organisational psychologist Adam Grant has written for the New York Times. He describes the predominant feeling we have at the moment as ‘languishing’. We’re not depressed, we’re not thriving; we are somewhere in the middle.

That makes sense. Some tasks feel pretty difficult, our memories can be hazy, and certain days can be more of a struggle than others. This is, he says, a natural response to what has been happening during the pandemic: following the high anxiety and tragedy of last year, we are moving into a period of lower, but no less significant, malaise.

I wouldn’t describe it as post-traumatic; that seems too strong, but there is certainly a feeling of being stuck in the middle ground. A place in which to exist, but not to thrive, as humans like to do. We are certainly not out of the woods yet, but we are getting there.

In the article Adam Grant encourages us to look for opportunities to develop flow: that feeling you get when fully immersed in a task. Flow helps with concentration and, of course, reduces distraction. Let’s face it, we have been distracted by the news, our fears, our worries, and our health. Anything that helps us to focus on the present moment, with some purpose, is helpful for our tired brains.

After reading the article, I’ve realised there are three things that have helped me in recent months.

Just like that day at Chorlton Water Park, I have enjoyed going outside. Not just to a local green space, but deep into the middle of forests, or up in the hills. The act of being in the middle of nowhere is calming. It provides a sense of perspective quite unmatched by daily life.

The act of sitting down to write has also been cathartic. While I’m lucky to use these skills in my day job, I have also found calm and concentration in writing for wellbeing, too. It’s not much, but a few hundred words now and again about anything, helps to reset how I feel.

I’ve also been reading a lot of books. While it’s easy to scroll articles and social media, the act of sitting down to read, takes me into that state as well. It’s back to Adam Grant’s point about concentration, allowing my brain to pay focused attention for longer periods of time.

It might have taken me three months to write this, but on reflection, writing, reading and nature have helped me to languish a little less and thrive a little more.

What about you?

Rupert Cornford is a director at Story Publishing, which provides editorial and audio projects for a range of clients. To find out more about Rupert and the business, visit