In this podcast (episode #336) and blog, I want to talk about something I am sure you have experienced at least once in your life: FOMO, or the fear of missing out. This is a mindset that is similar to the “if only, could have, would have” mindset I discussed in a previous podcast and blog. It can quickly steal our sense of peace and impact our wellbeing if we don’t learn how to manage it!
Why do we fear missing out so much? As humans, we are social beings. We gain so much from connecting with each other; deep, meaningful relationships are important for our mental and physical health.
FOMO tends to become the negative version of this need for connection. It often manifests as a nagging anxiety or need to go somewhere or do something that we may not necessarily want to do because we feel the need to be part of something that is beyond our solitary experience.
Unfortunately, even though technology has done much to increase our sense of connectedness as human beings, it can also exacerbate feelings of FOMO. We see all these people we follow on social media, for example, curate a reality that is so different to our own experiences, which can quickly become a new standard of normalcy that does not necessarily match up with our unique experiences. By comparing our lives to this standard, we tend to set ourselves up for disappointment from the very beginning!
In fact, FOMO is not just that we fear we are missing out on a fun event. It often includes the fear that we are missing out on better activities, better relationships, and a better life.
FOMO generally stems from making comparisons between ourselves and the people around us. When we do this, we can lose our sense of uniqueness—we tend to forget how exceptional our minds, brains and experiences truly are. As a result, we can lose confidence in our own lives, the journeys we take, or the way we respond to what happens to us. It’s almost as though the world is shaping us, instead of us shaping ourselves, which can leave us feeling anxious, stressed out and unhappy.
Indeed, this “shaping” leads us to think that there is a certain way to think, do things and live our lives—that there is a “right” way to live, to succeed and so on. This can make us feel terrible, anxious, disappointed and sad when we look at our own lives, often making us feel like an imposter. We tend to feel like we are out of place because we aren’t doing or saying something we think we should be doing or saying.
The problem with FOMO is that it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. You are so incredibly unique—no one sees or experiences the world like you do. Even your biology is unique, right down to the 200 specializations in your brain. When you try to be anyone but yourself, you can create a sense of cognitive dissonance in your life, which can impact your mental and physical wellbeing, including unbalanced cortisol levels that can impact your brain and heart health!
And this sense of FOMO is not just a “young person’s issue”. The fear of missing out occurs in all generations—in people of all ages and genders, whether you use social media or not.
Thankfully, we can learn how to manage FOMO and reduce the impact it has on our lives. One way to do this is to use what I call the Neurocycle technique. As I discuss in my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, my app Neurocycle and my recent clinical trials, the Neurocycle is a deliberate, intentional and sequential 5-step process designed to help you control your “messy mind” and wire healthy thought patterns and resilience into your brain. It works well with mindsets like “FOMO” thinking that tend to steal our peace and affect our wellbeing.
As you do the 5 steps of the Neurocycle, remind yourself that your feelings are real and valid—there is nothing wrong with you for experiencing FOMO. The techniques I discuss in this podcast and blog can help you to manage these feelings so they don’t dominate your thinking and your life.
1. Gather Awareness:
When you experience FOMO, what are your emotional warning signals? Are you anxious, fearful or worried as you think about missing out on something you see someone else doing? What are your physical warning signals? Are you grinding your teeth? Are your shoulders tense? Do you have a sore stomach? What are your behavioral warning signals? Are you more snappy than usual? Do you find it hard to smile? Are you complaining a lot? Lastly, what is your perspective? Do you feel overwhelmed? Be as specific as possible.
Why do you feel the way you do? Answer this question with as much detail as possible. Why do you want what others have? Why do you feel like you are missing out? What is the source(s) behind these FOMO fears? Are you comparing yourself to others and getting envious? Are you trying to deal with multiple issues at once?
Note down the information you collected from the gather and reflect steps above to help organize your thinking and look for patterns in your thinking.
What are your thought “antidotes”? How can you think of ways to change your thinking, choices and behavior when you experience a sense of FOMO? What new habit do you want to build? Reconceptualize the information you gathered from steps 1-3. How can you view your FOMO differently? Can you look at what you can do and have already done? I recommend crafting a statement that you can say to yourself for each specific FOMO feeling as they come up.
Remember, science shows us that you are unique and wonderful. Your brain and mind work differently from everyone else. Your life is valuable—you are living a good life even if it seems like you aren’t achieving everything that you hope for.
5. Active reach:
Take action to solidify the new way of thinking and acting that you rechecked in step 4 above. I recommend typing your plan reminders into your phone or device so that you can remember to follow through with them throughout your day. But remember to keep an open mind, or what I call a “possibilities mindset”. Be open to changing this plan if the need arises, or if what you are doing is not helping you.
Start practicing techniques to build your self-confidence so that you can be happy with who you are and where you are at in your life. If you like to journal, try writing down things that you like about yourself. Encouraging others and celebrating the things they have achieved, rather than feeling jealous, can also help build up your own confidence, and help eliminate painful feelings of FOMO. In fact, doing this can also help you feel less isolated because you are celebrating with someone else and sharing in their experience. As mentioned above, this kind of meaningful connection has such a powerful effect in our brain and bodies!
For more on managing FOMO, listen to my podcast (episode #334). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
To learn more about how to manage your mental health and help others, join me at our 7th Annual Mental Health Solutions Retreat, December 2-4, 2021! The core focus of this conference is to give you simple, practical, applicable, scalable, and scientific solutions to help you take back control of your mental health, help others, and make impactful changes in your community. You will also learn how to manage the day-to-day stressors of life as well as those acute stressors that blindside us. Our goal is to address your most pressing mental health concerns, help you find answers, and equip you with the knowledge and resources you need to make the change from a life of barely surviving to one where you are thriving. Register today at drleafconference.com!
This podcast is sponsored by:
Blinkist, one of my favorite ways to pass the time while exercising and to build my brain, which improves mental wellbeing resilience! To get your free week on Blinkist AND 25% off your subscription see: https://www.blinkist.com/DRLEAF.
LMNT, my favorite electrolyte drink mixes! Not only are they delicious (I love their new watermelon salt flavor!) and easy to travel with, but they are filled with everything you need and nothing you don’t. All their products contain a science-backed electrolyte ratio—1000 mg sodium, 200mg potassium, and 60 mg magnesium—and are completely “junk-free”: no coloring, no artificial ingredients, no sugar, no gluten and no fillers. For a limited time, you can claim a free LMNT Sample Pack—you only have to cover the cost of shipping (which is just $5 for US customers)! Each sample pack includes 7 packets of LMNT (1 of every flavor), and the offer is limited to one time per customer. For more information and to claim your free offer visit: http://drinklmnt.com/Leaf.
Public Goods, my preferred online goods store, which has everything you need, from natural cleaning products and foods to sustainable house goods. Receive $15 off your first Public Goods order with NO MINIMUM purchase. Just go to https://www.publicgoods.com/DRLEAF.
2:21 What is FOMO?
5:45 Mindsets that block us
6:00 FOMO & social media
7:00, 11:30 The dangers of comparing your life to others
10:21 Why do we have FOMO?
13:40 How toxic mindsets & belief systems can impact our health
16:00 Envy & FOMO
19:00, 24:10, 33:20 How to use mind-management & the Neurocycle to manage FOMO
This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.