In the battle of FOMO vs JOMO, it’s time to declare a winner. Okay, let’s back up for those of you who had no idea there was a skirmish going on, or even what these two acronyms mean. FOMO is the fear of missing out; JOMO is the joy of missing out. And the two have sparred in our social brain for what seems like an eternity, but in recent history, Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok have brought the conflict to a whole new level.

Yes, technology, we want to collectively thank you for the gift of being able to tap a button on our phone to have a car, a hot meal, or a hot date (hey, we’re not judging) delivered right to our door. But what are we supposed to do when that same device is beaming image after image of our high school frenemy’s enviable bachelorette weekend directly into our brain while our texting app sits ominously silent? [Asking for a friend.]

The only way to deal is to silence the FOMO and embrace the JOMO.

The Danger of FOMO

“Fear of missing out is, in some ways, a modern day version of ‘keeping-up-with-the-Jones’,” says Cathy Sullivan-Windt, Ph.D, a licensed psychologist and founder of the New Connections Counseling Center. “With FOMO, one’s gaze is set on what others are doing, rather than being fully present where one currently is.”

You’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous signs of FOMO. Just look around. We all see people checking their phones constantly and being increasingly distracted. They’re afraid if they don’t keep looking at their screens, they might miss out on an experience, a relationship, or even a piece of information.

It’s a pretty deep-seated urge, but when you start to peel the layers back, you understand the basic issue. At the core of FOMO is often a phenomenon called social comparison. And, this isn’t a new problem. While we may have more tools than ever before to see into others people’s lives, science tells us that we’ve been comparing ourselves to others since the earliest days of our species—we’re talking pre-MySpace here. It just happens to be a lot easier to hold yourself up to everyone else now.

The barrage of updates showing fancy trips, professional accomplishments, gorgeous, beaming children can undermine your own sense of accomplishment and well-being. Any situation where you find yourself feeling less-than compared to someone has potential to conjure up insecurity according to Sullivan-Windt. With social media, like anything else, we’re primed to notice what’s wrong, and why we’re not keeping up.

It’s also deeply damaging because it’s so impossible to avoid. “Life is a series of trade-offs and there is no way to be in all desirable experiences at all times,” says Sullivan-Windt. “Focusing on what you may be missing (FOMO) generally leads to disappointment, distraction, and dissatisfaction. FOMO is associated with negative things such as stress, sleep problems, and fatigue,” she says, and many studies concur.

The Upside To FOMO

“Before social media, people would hang out with one another and we wouldn’t know. Now we know every time we are not included—and that can sting,” says Lauren Cook, MFT, a clinician and Doctoral Candidate of Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University.

So, if we all feel it, and we all do it, why do we keep plugging in? Is there any benefit to the feelings FOMO produces?

“In small doses FOMO can be useful if it motivates someone to do something that is ultimately satisfying for them,” says Sullivan-Windt. One important distinction is whether you’re afraid of missing out on something or actually missing out on something. And, then what you do next. If the missing out spurs you to act, it can become a catalyst to meet new people, connect with other professionals, and get you out of your comfort zone.

But in general, both feeling and perpetuating FOMO have more negative effects than positive.

How To Turn FOMO into JOMO

The good news: As FOMO became a widespread term, JOMO began to surface as a topic of discussion. “JOMO is for all my introverted friends—the JOY of missing out. When you delight in cancelling plans, putting on those sweatpants, and being a member of Bachelor Nation as a party of one, you’re engaging with JOMO,” says Cook.

But JOMO goes deeper than choosing a different distraction from your usual social media messages. It’s a shift in mindset that can be really powerful. “JOMO is the satisfaction one feels in the current moment, with accompanying acceptance of what one doesn’t have in that moment,” says Sullivan-Windt. “Life satisfaction increases with intentionality and actively choosing things one finds fulfilling.”

It’s not specifically about feeling joy all the time, so much as being in the present moment and being grateful for what is happening currently; both of which are positively associated with well-being.

“As anxiety is rising in the US, it becomes increasingly important to learn to be in the moment, rather than where one’s head might be (i.e. ruminating about the past, dwelling on what other people are doing, or anticipating the future),” says Windt.

“Given how social media encourages comparisons, I often recommend clients take a break from social media, or otherwise be intentional in how and how much they engage with social media. Without the distraction of social media, it is that much easier to enjoy personal time,” says Sullivan-Windt.

If you’re having trouble letting go of that feeling of obligation even after you unplug, Cook encourages you to do what she calls “play the tape.” It goes like this: ask yourself “How would you feel if you stayed in? If you went out?” Imagining how you would feel can be a helpful indicator of when you need to lean in or lean out.

Another great way to practice this is to experiment with it. See how it feels to stay at home in some instances while choosing to go out in others. While your mood will likely determine what you want to do, the key is to tune in to what YOU want to do. Take the pressure off from what you think you SHOULD do and instead go with your gut,” Cook says.

9 Habits That Increase JOMO

Learning to appreciate your gut feeling instead of feeling sick to your stomach? That’s how we want to spend 2020. Follow our experts’ tips below to build your own blueprint for JOMO:

  1. Use your senses. Focusing on our senses, like the sound of the ocean lapping up on the shore, the smell of the coconut sunblock, the feel of the sun warming your body, and the view of the boat in the vista ensures that we are in the present. This is a meditation 101 kind of thinking. So, maybe you’re not on the beach somewhere, but you can still notice the subtle, pleasant things around you, maybe it’s the way raindrops are sliding down a window.
  2. Stop multi-tasking. When you’re showering, only focus on the experience of showering. Just wash the dishes; be present without phone calls, music, or podcasts to distract you.
  3. Inhale…exhale. Take 4 deep breathes and focus on the breath. If you are truly focused on your breath, there is nowhere else for your mind to go.
  4. Practice gratitude. Taking time to note all things one can be thankful for helps us focus on what ‘is’ rather than what ‘could be.
  5. Give yourself three mindful minutes every day. That’s all it takes. Using an app like the Calm app or Headspace can be a great way to practice a guided meditation.
  6. Smell your food: This goes back to the point about your senses and is a practical way to make it a habit. Engage in more than just taste when you eat a meal. Smelling a tangerine as you peel it or savoring the smell of cookies baking in the oven brings you right to the here and now.
  7. Ground yourself: You might have heard of this one if you have anxiety. Noting the texture of the chair you’re sitting in, how it feels to note the texture of your hands and sensing the shoes on your feet are all ways to bring you into your present physical experience.
  8. Look into someone’s eyes: Even when we’re having conversations, we rarely look one another in the eyes. Slow down and really sink into eye contact with someone. See how it slows down the rapidity of life.
  9. Go for a walk: Whether you listen to music or talk with someone, using your physical body to be in your present environment can be hugely connecting to the here and now.
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Last Updated: Aug 17, 2020