Why You Should Consider The JOMO Mentality This Holiday Season

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday season can also be a very stressful period. Before the end-of-the-year break we've all been anticipating, we have to deal first with the holiday rush as we attempt to juggle our normal responsibilities with all the Yuletide preparations we feel compelled to fulfill.

Aside from the exhaustion of trying to accomplish more errands than usual, financial worries also dampen the holiday spirit. According to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) 2022 survey, 31% of adults dread the stress the season brings, with the biggest contributing factor being their capacity to buy presents and afford meals for gatherings. Speaking of gatherings, family reunions aren't always joyous occasions, either, as those who have toxic family members may feel burdened by socializing with and keeping up civilities with these loved ones. "People who find themselves in these circumstances sometimes assume that everyone else is having a happy, stress-free holiday," psychologist Dr. Dawn Potter told the Cleveland Clinic. "And that can really make what they're feeling that much more challenging." 

If you're in a similar situation where summoning holiday cheer feels like yet another obligation to live up to, finding joy in missing out could be the best mindset to adopt. JOMO, a.k.a. the joy of missing out, is described by Psychology Today as "the emotionally intelligent antidote" to FOMO, or fear of missing out, which often has people comparing their lives to others and trying to live up to social expectations.

Healthy vs. unhealthy JOMO

Research conducted by Washington State University's Department of Psychology defines JOMO as "the enjoyment of periods of disconnection from others or from social demands." This means solitude is a conscious choice made so one can be more present with what's happening in their life. The study distinguishes this from self-isolation that's prompted by social anxiety — an area where JOMO and FOMO tend to overlap — especially among those who constantly check social media. "This pattern [of social anxiety] may point to a subset of individuals who prefer missing out on social activities due to distress experienced in such situations but are still motivated to connect with others in less direct ways."

Within the context of holiday stress, it's tempting to opt out of Christmas parties and dinners to avoid awkwardly socializing with people you'd rather avoid, which would free up your social calendar and keep you from spending on additional food, drinks, and travel expenses. However, if social anxiety is your sole motivation, the resulting alone time might feel more lonely. Psychology Today posits there can be a healthy, mindful approach to JOMO and the freedom of shrugging off certain social demands, but when it becomes social avoidance despite needing to connect with others, it creates more stress than joy. It's a necessary distinction to make so you learn to manage your social anxiety (if you have it) and avoid the trap of canceling plans, only to keep tabs on what everyone else is doing without you.

Unburden yourself of social expectations

Getting into JOMO as a form of mindful self-care could be the best attitude to take on as the holiday rush ramps up. As psychologist Dr. Susan Albers explained to the Cleveland Clinic, "It's helpful because it really puts a greater focus on consciously choosing what you want to participate in, not what you feel pressured to participate in." Of course, it won't be easy to refuse invitations and activities that you've always said yes to. If you're a parent or a caretaker figure, there will also be holiday-related family responsibilities you can't just bow out from. Recognizing that people experience JOMO at different levels is a good start. "We can all benefit by enjoying moments that bring meaning and belonging, but those times are different for each of us," APA president Dr. Rebecca Brendel stated in the organization's report. "There is no one right way to spend the holiday time of year."

To choose which activities to miss out on, Verywell Mind recommends writing them all down. Keep those that are your absolute priorities then gauge the importance of the rest as you plan your schedule. Factor in the travel time, the traffic, and the costs that these errands and events will incur, so you have a realistic view of how much you're trying to fit in — and then cut them down. Consciously set aside time for rest, enjoyment, and exercise, too, so you don't run ragged while fulfilling your pared-down to-do list.

Keep the people important to you in the loop

Once you've determined which holiday activities you'd be opting out of, let the people involved know. Part of setting boundaries is expressing them to others. Whether you simply need some alone time or are suffering from social burnout, it's only fair to give friends and loved ones a heads-up. No need for lengthy explanations, Dr. Albers reassured the Cleveland Clinic. Just decline invitations firmly but with kindness.

Cutting down on social media also helps. You don't have to completely disconnect from it, especially if it's part of your job, but you can be more aware of your social media habits. Once you become anxious about how others seem to have more fun and lead more fulfilled lives, it's a sign to stop scrolling and log off. Recognize that everyone presents only a highly curated aspect of their lives online, and that takes a lot of time, energy, and resources. All three are limited and precious, and you can choose how to spend yours in the way that's best for you. (For added incentive, a Credit Karma survey revealed that missing out on events once a week can save you as much as $1,300 a year.)

Before the holiday season arrives, start flexing your JOMO muscle the healthy way. Reflect on whether you do some things out of FOMO or real enjoyment. Soon, it'll become easier to choose to skip certain demands and self-imposed expectations for your peace of mind.