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Ah. Fear of missing out, better known as FOMO. The infamous disease that tortures many Americans this day and age, especially millennials. The afflicted become riddled by ever-present worries about what they are NOT currently experiencing or what they might not get to experience in the future. Perhaps, they are working the evening of Blues on the Green and are pining for the magical musical experience that could have been. Maybe, they are worried about the possibility of not getting a paper done in time to attend a college party and are experiencing FOMO ahead of time. Or, they are dead-set on attending all potential social events available to them and force themselves to go to their tenth major outing in a week despite being so exhausted that they are unable to enjoy it anyway.
I was hit by a pretty bad case of FOMO while attending graduate school in New Orleans. I would lose sleep just to ensure that I was making every last event on my social calendar while also meeting the program’s academic demands. I remember that several times, while at the party I had chosen as the evening’s best option, I would feel near-unbearable FOMO for an event that I had already decided was the inferior choice for the night. Ridiculous.
Lately, as an amateur yogi and a rookie meditator, I have been attempting to more frequently embrace the now. Nevertheless, I still face not-too-rare relapses in my FOMO. While taking my first steps out of bed this morning, it hit me. I do not need to get rid of my FOMO; I need to redirect it. I need to develop a FOMO for the current moment — whatever it may be. I can motivate myself to be more present in my actual life by developing a Fear Of Missing Out on the right now — whether at work, Blues on the Green, a friend’s birthday party, or, even, washing toilets.
Now, I am not actually encouraging readers to fuel a bizarre anxiety disorder around not being mindful enough. Rather, I am suggesting a playful solution that might transmute a first-world source of worry and pain into kindling for peace and joy. It’s a paradoxical intervention. Furthermore, if you become fully present, you are, by definition, not anxious or worried. Anxiety feeds on thoughts of what might be happening elsewhere and what could happen in the future. Anxiety dies when you enter deeply into the now.
Three Ways to Develop FOMO for your life:
Breath or Body — the classic.
Focus all of your attention on your breath, noticing the sensations involved in both your inhale and your exhale. Some people like to feel their breath entering and exiting their nose. Many focus on filling and emptying their lungs, while others enjoy the sensations of soft belly breathing. You can also try staying present by observing the myriad of other bodily sensations — the constancy of your heartbeat, the varied sensations of your skin, and the degree of relaxation in your muscles.
Notice your FOMO feelings — for the stubborn cases of FOMO.
Watching your breath does not always cut it when a particularly powerful bout of FOMO kicks in. For these cases, it can be useful to non-judgmentally notice our anxious thoughts without engaging with them. Instead of grasping onto and then wrestling with these mental mosquitoes, we can watch them drift by slowly, like leaves floating down a stream, all while noticing the way our breath and body feels.
Open awareness — my personal favorite.
Broaden the spotlight of your attention to notice all the sensations of the current moment: your breath, your body’s sensations, and your environment. As I am writing this outside at the picnic table in my backyard, I am noticing the sounds of the doves cooing, the grackles singing, the house’s AC turning off and on. I am feeling the heat of the 10 AM Saturday sun on my shoulders and the slight breeze on my legs under the table. I am aware of the satisfying sensation of each finger typing a letter on the keys. I feel the slight current of excitement that runs through my body — a quickened heart rate, energy flowing to my arms and legs, the pulsing of blood in my hands — that I often experience in the morning.
So, go ahead, try it out. Because what is really scarier: Missing out of some social event that we cannot make anyway or have already decided to skip? Or missing out on the life that is real and is unfolding before us in each moment? The engaging, challenging, or rewarding moments at work, the quiet hours on the couch with the dog when we are too tired to go out, or the time spent supporting a friend or a family member in need, regardless of what fitness class or brunch we may be missing. The reality is that this — this moment right now — is our life. We better pay attention before it slips away into fitful daydreams of what we could or should be doing right now.
If you like this piece, you might also like our post titled “Pacify Your Panic” or “Looking For Answers? Stop Looking and Start Paying Attention“. If you would like a guide in this process, check out Just Mind’s counselors or read a bit more about personal growth counseling. If you feel you are ready to schedule, you can make a counseling appointment.