How I Stop Worrying About Missing Out
The fear of missing out (FOMO) on pleasant sensations is a palpable source of anxiety for me. Delicious food at a new restaurant, a day trip to a famous and gorgeous nature landmark, a date with someone I find attractive, or a free concert by a band I've enjoyed for years. These are just some examples of the things that require me to be somewhere, engage socially, expend energy, and spend time getting to and fro. It is difficult for me to resist acting on these types of sensory-satisfying experiences. My desire for a non-stop stream of enjoyment is a product of hedonism.
What is hedonism?
It is the belief that pleasure and happiness are the highest good in life. Some hedonists, such as the Epicureans, have insisted that pleasure of the entire mind, not just pleasure of the senses, is the highest good. One of the tenets of Epicureanism states that virtue and right living are only beneficial if they give you pleasure. If rules bring distress, get rid of them.
Introducing the chemical messenger of joy
When one leads a lifestyle like mine: filled with copious traveling, learning about new cultures and traditions, and seeking trends and patterns to feel like they are on the cutting edge, they inevitably develop a strong appetite for more. Some ascribe it to a genetic predisposition to crave more dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel excited and is produced especially generously in anticipation of a pleasant experience. Craving more of it is natural and by supplying joy from external sources we train our brains to receive it on a certain schedule. I noticed that without self-awareness this schedule becomes ever more intense, and the appetite for more delight outpaces the ability to keep up mentally and physically.
Getting back on the sanity track
As a rather introverted person, I need time to recharge mentally by being alone. The dopamine craving caused by hedonism sometimes makes me forget about this necessity. This is where self-reflection comes into play. I meditate, calm down, and remind myself that in order to enjoy the things I love doing fully, I need to do them less often. It's not a blanket rule, more of a guideline to steer clear of excessive consumption of pleasure-producing activities. There are times when it's not introspection but rather overdoing something that reminds me that it's time to take a break. It's when I have too much of a good thing.
Enter the JOMO
The life hack is simple: boldly give yourself permission to miss out and be glad you did. In John Mulaney’s first Netflix special, he jokes that, “In terms of, like, instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin. It’s an amazing feeling. Such instant joy.” Here is where the joy of missing out or JOMO comes into play. It refers to the pleasant feeling of detaching yourself from social interaction and enjoying your alone time.
The difficulty with applying JOMO may be in the feeling that too much enjoyment in saying "no" to opportunities and invitations will lead to personal deterioration and stagnation. I exercise introspection and consult with my past experiences to combat this fairly irrational thought. "Was I profoundly unhappy after missing that one concert or dinner with friends? Perhaps, for a moment, but in the long run, it didn't matter." If there are no signs of depression, a healthy dose of JOMO will only bring balance and serenity.
Choose your pleasures and let your self-reflection lead you to tranquility.