By Maria Forget, Social Work Student
It’s Friday night. You have an exam Saturday morning, two essays due, and you are the definition of sleep deprived. You get a text message from your friend asking you to come out and have a fun Friday night with her, but no matter how much you want to go… you just can’t. You watch videos later that night of all your friends having fun, and all you can do is think about the exciting night you missed out on because you had to study.
You’re at camp with your family, you had a great day full of fun outdoor activities, and you begin to settle down after dinner and cuddle up to a book by the fireplace. Then you feel the pull. You check your phone, and you see that your friends are all out together having fun (without you, of course) for the night. You know you should feel happy being out at camp surrounded by people who love you, but you still can’t help but wonder what it would be like if you had gone out with your friends instead.
In the past, I would constantly find myself thinking of all the “better” things I could be doing, rather than appreciating the present. These thoughts would always leave me feeling bad about myself, and would inevitably plague me with anxiety. I had major FOMO (fear of missing out) all the time. I would think about the social events I could be missing, the trips I could have been taking, and it got to the point where I was even preoccupied with how others spent their time. I simply wasn’t capable of being happy in the present. I could be doing something I genuinely loved - but I still wouldn’t be satisfied. So why does this happen?
“When we place more importance on what we could be doing rather than what we actually are doing, then what comes up is restlessness and dissatisfaction. By buying into the idea that life would be so much better if we were just doing something else, we place ourselves on a hamster wheel that spends all of our energy and never actually gets us anywhere”. (Gunatillake)
I began to realize that this is a game I can never win. There will always be something I could be doing that could potentially be better than this present moment. Life moves on, different events and opportunities take place every second that we’re alive. It’s impossible to experience them all.
The concept of “the right now” is the one we experience at this exact moment.
This is the present. Embrace it.
I gradually overcame my FOMO by starting to meditate, practicing mindfulness, and by observing my thoughts and behaviors which caused my anxiety to arise. I became more aware of when I’d reach for my phone, and I challenged those inevitable anxious thoughts. Additionally, I worked towards establishing a healthy balance in my life. I allotted enough time every day to keep my school work under control. In my free time, I participated in physical activities such as hiking, yoga, going to the gym, and spending time with friends.
My advice for those who experience FOMO is not to get caught up in the “what ifs”, or in the lives of others. To find the deeper meaning of what makes you truly blissful, and to work on yourself and focus on the present. Life is truly thrilling, but even the people with the most seemingly eventful and wonderful lives full of excitement must also have balance.
It’s important to cherish and accept all experiences that are occurring throughout your life. There is a certain awareness one must gain in order to truly overcome FOMO, and understand that we can’t be doing everything all at once. Right now, I could be outside having fun. I could be on vacation posting pictures. I could be checking my Instagram feed. However, with practice and perseverance, I’ve gained the self-awareness that has connected me to the present. I know what I need to do in order to be happy on my own. I found balance and gratitude within myself.
In essence, overcoming FOMO is about self-growth. Through mindfulness and self-awareness, I’ve learned how to appreciate “the right now”. I now know how to feel present in the moment and experience life for all its glory, wanting to be nowhere else but where I am.
INSPIRATION AND QUOTE TAKEN FROM THE FOLLOWING BOOK: Gunatillake, R. (2017). Modern mindfulness: how to be more relaxed, focused, and kind while living in a fast, digital, always-on world. London: Bluebird.
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