In a world where we are always switched on – constantly attached to our phones, updated instantly about world events, compulsively watching the latest Netflix series, and keeping up with the lives of strangers – FOMO (fear of missing out) is a reality. It can cause many issues including anxiety about what we might be missing, unhealthy attachments to social media, not honouring our own needs, and spending money that we don’t have or that could be better spent.
A 2018 study into the effects of FOMO on students showed that the impact can be significant (1). Those studied experienced a host of issues including stress, reduced sleep, and physical symptoms – all as a result of FOMO. There is now even a name for the irrational fear of being without a mobile phone – “nomophobia”, which for some, is a form of FOMO.
In a world where FOMO now seems to be the norm, let's try to reframe missing out and highlight the many positive benefits it can offer. As an alternative to FOMO, JOMO (joy of missing out) can be a wonderful and very necessary thing. JOMO gives you permission to say "no", to put your own needs first, and to fully embrace your reasons for doing so without feeling guilty or any other negative emotion.
Though you probably shouldn’t say no to everything or you might not have any friends left, here are some of the times when you should be embracing JOMO.
When to let go of FOMO and embrace JOMO
1. Achieving a goal
If you are working to achieve a goal, there will be times when you need to make it a priority and say no to things that conflict with it or delay your progress towards achieving it. This could be missing an event to work on your side hustle, turning down an invitation to save money for a holiday, or saying no to that piece of cake to reach a health and fitness goal. FOMO can distract us from our goals and what really matters to us. Say no and make your goals the priority!
2. Prioritising your health and wellbeing
Even the healthiest, most energetic person has their limits and there are times when you might need to say no for the sake of your health. As a former Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferer, sometimes I need to say no to a late night and make maintaining my energy levels a priority. With diagnoses of fatigue-related conditions, including burnout, on the rise, there are times when you just need to say no and prioritise your physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual health.
3. Reconnecting with yourself
Solitude has many proven benefits and for the more introverted, it can be an absolute necessity. Being on your own can help you to relax, regroup and connect with what is important to you. Combining solitude with a social media or digital detox can be a powerful way to disconnect from the world and turn your focus inwards. This can be particularly helpful and calming during stressful times or when you need to escape from the world.
4. Just because!
Sometimes we do things out of a sense of obligation rather than because we actually want to. Supporting others is great but if you know you don’t have the time, money, energy, or desire to do something, why force yourself? JOMO gives you permission to just say no.
How to turn FOMO into JOMO
The next time you experience FOMO, turn it into JOMO with the following steps:
1. Keep the bigger picture in mind
Why are you missing out and how does missing out benefit you? What does it enable you to do? Focus on the answers to these questions and all the positive points. You can also gain some perspective by thinking about how much you will even care about missing out on whatever it is, six months from now. Remember this is your choice, own it!
2. Find joy and be present in the moment
It is easy to wonder, “What’s happening?”, “What am I missing?”, “Did Sarah show up with her new boyfriend?”, and so on, but this just reinforces any negative feelings you have about missing out. Whatever you are doing instead, fully engage in it, be present in the moment, and let that be your focus. Remember Step 1 and keep the bigger picture in mind.
3. Identify things to look forward to
You might be missing out now but this won’t always be the case. What do you have to look forward to? If you don’t have much happening or you aren’t excited by anything that’s coming up for you, create some great experiences. When you have plenty to look forward to, you need never experience FOMO again!
The reality is, we probably all have things we would happily miss out on. What one thing will you be saying “no” to, in pursuit of JOMO?