How To Say No To Social Invitations Without Getting FOMO

After the initial portion of the Covid-19 pandemic kept us apart for so long, many people pledged to take advantage of every opportunity to see loved ones again once vaccines were available. Thus, “hot vax summer” was born, with a focus on filling our social calendars with parties, trips, weddings and more.

Now, as coronavirus variants continue to spread and, with the onset of autumn, opportunities for socialisation could start to shrink again, we may be feeling even more pressure to cram in a bunch of activities.

But saying yes to every single social invitation can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and to burnout. We let our FOMO (fear of missing out) create a sense of obligation that can negatively impact mental health. The solution? Embracing JOMO or the “joy of missing out.”

“JOMO allows you to redefine what actually brings joy into your life, instead of allowing other people, events or society dictate it for you,” Michelle Wax, founder of the American Happiness Project, tells HuffPost. 

“While in the past having a packed schedule of trips, events and activities may have been the norm, the past 18 months have allowed many of us to re-evaluate our lives and decide if how we’re spending our time and energy is what we actually want,” she adds. “JOMO allows you to choose the events, people and activities that will bring the most happiness into your life, and remove the ‘shoulds’ that are draining and time-consuming.”

If you’re someone who feels the pressure to go to every wedding, birthday party, picnic and day trip because you fear missing out, it will take more than just flipping a switch to feel the JOMO. But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. Below, experts share their advice for how to embrace missing out. 

Stop saying ‘yes’ to everything

“While meaningful social connections are critical to our physical and emotional well-being, finding a balance is also key,” says Sophie Lazarus, a psychologist with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Saying yes to and needing to be a part of everything can be exhausting and paradoxically reduce our ability to get the most out of the time that we do spend with others.”

Of course, caring about other people is important, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of your needs. Don’t feel obligated to attend events or do things you don’t enjoy simply because you feel like you “should.” It’s helpful to disconnect from guilt and obligation and use your time and resources for meaningful things in life. 

“For the next month, just say ‘no,’” recommends Matthew Ferry, a happiness coach and author of Quiet Mind Epic Life. “Intentionally abstain from doing more and saying yes. Practise being picky and selective with your time. Ask this question, ‘Will saying yes to this help me realise that all is well in my world?’ If not, then say no.”

Do a ‘joy audit’

“To embrace JOMO, it’s helpful to become self-aware of what really lights you up and rejuvenates you personally,” Wax says. “I recommend taking a ‘Joy Audit’ and writing down what people, places and activities bring joy to your life, and on the flip side, what people, places and activities drain your joy.”

Things that bring joy to your life could be as simple as cooking a new meal, reading a novel, turning off the news, getting out in nature or calling a loved one. When you find yourself with the opportunity to experience the joy of missing out, look to your list and choose one of these activities. 

Develop a healthy routine

Self-care is the name of the game when it comes to finding joy in “missing out” or taking a break from the endless chaos of life. Make this part of your daily routine, so that you can get used to prioritising your needs. 

“Take your ‘MEDS’ daily – meditation, exercise, diet and sleep,” Ferry says. He emphasises the power of nurturing our bodies with movement, nourishing food, mindfulness and rest. “When you do that, you feel empowered and satisfied with the moment,” Ferry adds.

Take a break from social media

“Nudge yourself into avoiding having to scroll, check, click and like all the time,” says Svend Brinkmann, a psychologist and author of The Joy of Missing Out: The Art of Self-Restraint in an Age of Excess.

Substitute this social media time with something more fulfilling to you on a personal level – whether that’s spending time with people in person or taking a nature walk alone. 

“Any changes that help you make wise decisions and also minimise the potential for FOMO can be really helpful,” Lazarus says. “If you know social media is going to make it hard for you to feel good about your decision, then unplug for a bit. Maybe make a plan to engage in a favourite solo activity to help you make the most out of the time you gained from ‘missing out.’”

Reframe how you engage with social media

“You don’t have to unplug from social media altogether to avoid feeling the fear of missing out, but when you see people enjoying life online or on social media, another trick you can use is the ‘I am Next’ Strategy,” says Ken Honda, a happiness expert and author of Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace With Your Money.

“Whenever you feel jealousy or think other people are all out having a great time while you’re not, you can say to yourself, ‘Good for them! I’m next,’” he adds.

Rather than feeling bad about not being part of a certain event or trip, you can also think about how much more enjoyable your current and future life experiences are because you’re taking care of yourself and not getting burned out in the process. And remind yourself that individuals enjoy different things, so every little experience is not necessarily for you. 

Take stock of what you have

The joy of missing out can encompass social events and other experiences, as well as spending money on objects. JOMO is about realising that you cannot do or have everything – and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“There is much in human psychology that drives us towards more, achieving more, earning more money, experiencing more and so on,” Brinkmann says. “But as they rightly say, less can be more, and JOMO is about reminding oneself that more is not always better, but in the consumer society that we have constructed over the last 100 years, it takes a disciplined effort to go against these tendencies.”

To counter these instincts, Honda recommends taking stock of all of the wonderful experiences and items you can already call your own and making time to appreciate them. You can keep physical lists in a gratitude journal or make it a regular mental exercise.

“The hard truth is that you cannot get everything in life anyway. There are thousands of events and chances happening every day that we just don’t know about, so we just enjoy the bliss of ignorance,” Honda explains. “It’s all about where you place your attention. Instead of purposely putting your attention on things you can’t have, it’s better to put your attention on things that you either can have or things you already have that make you happy.”

Let go of false urgency

“Oftentimes we don’t realise the impact of reacting to the assumption, ‘I have to show up to everything I am invited to,’” Ferry says. “We automatically assume that there will be a negative consequence for not attending the party, accepting the dinner invite, or participating in an event that is important to someone else in our life.”

This assumption creates a false sense of urgency, so we assign undue importance to things that are actually more commonplace and routine. 

“We behave like the relationship is on the line if I turn down an invitation,” Ferry explains. “Yet, accepting that invitation might not be what’s best for you mentally, emotionally, physically or financially. We are pack animals. We accidentally prioritise other people above ourselves. Put your needs first. Demand to be treated well. Demand to be at peace. Release false urgency and practice just being.”

Make time for reflection and mindfulness

“Since the pandemic started, our daily routines stretched, shifting us positively and negatively, causing us to turn inwards and witness our signals during uncertainty,” says life coach and Behaving Bravely author Anita Kanti. “It revealed a time to ponder life’s interpretations resulting in more gratification, an unexpected gift for many.”

Even as aspects of “normal life” become possible again, it’s important to continue setting aside time for reflection. Listen to what you need and let that guide you. Consider talking to a professional therapist if you don’t already.

Kanti also recommends mindfulness exercises to help with that process and mind shift. “Choosing JOMO while managing unproductive FOMO stimulates us to go deeper within ourselves,” she explains. “Try belly breathing exercises lying down, breathe by bringing the air down toward the belly. Do simple grounding techniques to detach, repeat affirmations, or focus on humour.” 

Covid-19 is more than a news story – it has changed every aspect of life in the UK. We are following how Britain is experiencing this crisis, the different stages of collective emotion, reaction and resilience. You can tell us how you are feeling and find further advice and resources here.

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