You’ve probably seen or heard the acronym FOMO, an abbreviation for the phrase “fear of missing out.” And we’ve all had that sinking feeling that others are doing something fun without us. We can feel left out, lonely, brooding. It’s only natural. But psychologists know that FOMO is really a kind of illusion, and when we embrace JOMO (the joy in missing out), we end up with a peaceful feeling of contentment that is just wonderful. Here’s how to flip your FOMO into JOMO:
To find JOMO, outsmart your FOMO triggers
While scrolling on your friend’s Facebook page, you see her splashy vacation photos and feel a twinge of envy. “It’s a feeling generated by an over-idealization of the fun we believe others are having, triggered most commonly by unrealistic social media images,” explains Patrick J. McGinnis, author of The 10% Entrepreneur, hosts the hit podcast FOMO Sapiens, where leaders discuss how they overcame FOMO. “It essentially makes us worry that our lives are lacking, which leads to discontent.”
McGinnis says one thing that helped him is moving social media apps off his phone’s home screen and into folders to make them harder to access. “Stepping back from these ‘triggers’ lets you question what you’re seeing — the perception that everyone is having a great time is actually a deception, and knowing this gives you perspective.”
Redirect your focus and extend empathy
“You may know someone who just can’t help but go on and on about the latest, greatest thing in their lives, often triggering your FOMO,” says Susan Biali Haas, MD, author of The Resilient Life. “Rather than let this get to you, consider extending compassion.”
They may be insecure, for example, or trying to compensate for underlying unhappiness. Empathy is the quickest way to diffuse envy and redirect your focus to what matters in your life.
Make room for sadness
Rather than ignore negative emotions, allow yourself to feel sad, advises expert Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, author of It’s Not Always Depression, revealing she recently faced her own FOMO when members of her family attended a get-together she wasn’t invited to.
“Didn’t they think about me? Am I boring or invisible?” she recalls asking herself. “In moments like this, say to yourself, ‘My sadness matters.’ We all deserve self-compassion so we can move forward.”
Find JOMO by taking in the wonder around you
When you’re convinced everyone else is having a better time than you are or you feel left out, take a moment to focus on the awe of little things, encourages Jessica Mathisen, author of An Overwhelming Hope: How the Spirit Brings Peace to Our Storms. “What are the diamond-in-the-rough moments of wonder you can savor?”
She recalls how the simple act of enjoying a cold popsicle on a hot summer day brought her back to her childhood. “You may not be able to take a big vacation this year, for example, but there are always small moments of magic that will turn the fear of missing out into genuine pleasure.”
The opposite of the fear of missing out is the joy of missing out (JOMO). Simply look back on times when you were content to skip what others were doing. “Happiness isn’t one-size-fits-all,” says McGinnis, explaining that the moment we stop comparing ourselves is the moment we free ourselves from envy.
Borrow this Nordic social secret
You may have heard that the Scandinavian countries—Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland—regularly top surveys of the happiest people in the world. One of their secrets dealing with curb joy-stealing FOMO? “They have three to five social commitments on average per week booked on their calendar,” reveals Christina Crook, author of award winning The Joy Of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World, is the leader of the global #JOMO movement (Joy Of Missing Out).
“The power of relationships is profound and social support is key to helping us stop comparing ourselves to others and enjoying life.” She adds that active hobbies, like joining a book or garden club, rather than passive ones, such as binge-watching a show on Netflix, are among the most life-enhancing activities we can engage in.
Uncover hidden happiness
To help you identify activities that lift you up, while eliminating the sneaky ones that drain your spirit, Crook recommends a simple practice: “At the end of each day, ask yourself which small activities were most ‘life-giving’ and which were the most ‘life-taking.’ Just jot down a one-word answer on a pad by your bedside table,” she says.
“This is the easiest, most practical way to identify things that bring you joy—this awareness alone will help you unconsciously fill your life with more fulfilling activities like going for a walk or calling a friend.”
The surprising lesson Crook learned? “I didn’t realize how much joy beautiful objects gave me—simple things like fresh flowers and pretty necklaces.” She says what brings you happiness might be something you can reach out and touch like treating yourself to a bouquet or something you don’t even have words to describe like the connection with a dear friend; give yourself permission to savor it all.
Find JOMO by truly savoring the moment
“Mindfulness helps us break free of the racing, ‘monkey mind’ thoughts that drive FOMO, and instead, lets us tap the ‘monk mind,’ with the serenity of the present,” says McGinnis. Whether you stroll on the cool grass or savor your morning coffee, take 10 minutes a day to relax.
Turn toward the bright side
FOMO isn’t always a bad thing and can even help inspire us, assures expert June P. Tangney, PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University, studies “moral emotions” such as guilt and empathy.
“For example, I have a friend who just met a great guy, and it ultimately made me hopeful that it is possible to meet someone,” she reveals. “FOMO often stems from the perception that if something good happens to someone else, there are fewer opportunities for the rest of us — but there is enough for everyone and seeing someone else’s path toward joy can inspire us to find our own.”
Expand your gratitude
When we’re able to relish the little things, from cuddling our pet to laughing with a friend, we don’t feel FOMO because our life is already full. “And the most effective way to reap the benefits of gratitude is by sharing what we’re thankful for once a week,” says Tangney.
Doing so brings us closer to others because the more we reveal about ourselves, the more that people like us. “It makes us feel fulfilled that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be, enjoying the small moments that add up to a big life.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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