Actually, There’s One Key Problem for Your Mental Well-Being and Happiness With Having Either FOMO *or* JOMO

Photo: Stocksy/Raul Navarro
You know the drill: You get a holiday party invite with all of your friends, and excitedly RSVP yes. As the days creep closer, you’re exhausted—work is hectic, the house is a mess, and you’ve overextended yourself in terms of obligations. You want to cancel, but whether you send the text bowing out likely depends on where you stand in the JOMO (joy of missing out) vs. FOMO (fear of missing out) debate. The problem with all of this, say experts, is that you’re basing your happiness and contentment on others.

“Putting your own well-being and mental health first when you are planning for events is important,” says educational psychologist and behavior analyst Reena B. Patel, LEP, BCBA. Research has shown that across many cultures, people who have higher self-esteem and self-worth tend to be more satisfied and happier1, and fall victim to fewer negative moods, indicating that when we find self-contentment, we’re better able to steadily remain happy and go with the flow.

Experts In This Article

What’s more, while studies indicate that maintaining friendships and relationships can result in happiness and a longer life, the quality of those relationships is clutch. Positive relationships are beneficial, but negative ones can bring on emotions like anxiety and stress. “Humans are social beings and evolutionarily we relied upon our inclusion in social groups in order to survive,” says clinical psychologist Jolie Silva, PhD, chief operating officer of New York Behavioral Health, “It makes sense that we care about others' perceptions of us; however, it becomes dysfunctional and even detrimental when we over-rely on what others think about us and use this to make conclusions about who we are as a person and our worthiness.”

Given that, let’s take a look at how it can be healthier to find internal happiness and contentment, while also maintaining relationships that fill you up.

I’ve felt both JOMO and FOMO—what’s wrong with that?

In short, nothing. Humans are complex and complicated and feel different emotions at different times. So, if you’ve skipped an event and wished you would’ve been there because your friendship group started an inside joke that just won’t quit, you’re not alone. And on the flip side, if you’re someone who’s canceled plans and felt the sweet relief of watching Gilmore Girls on the couch for the umpteenth time, know that you're also in good company.

But having these emotions can also be a slippery slope in ways that both Dr. Silva and Patel say are worth taking into account. “Both JOMO and FOMO rely on outside events and people to bring you happiness when oftentimes happiness lies within yourself,” says Patel. “Specifically, if you have FOMO, you are more likely to try to attend everything, and you may overextend yourself. If you have JOMO, you may spend too much time alone and may tend to isolate yourself.” Below is a look at what’s at play with FOMO vs. JOMO.


With FOMO, Dr. Silva explains that there is a nagging sense that, “attendance is tied to their self-worth, so when a person isn’t in attendance their social stature may be threatened and anxiety results,” she says. Research indicates that those who feel FOMO are likely to have a great deal of stress in their lives2, be more anxious and depressed, and have their sleep regularly disrupted.

Much of this is due to the current technological environment that we find ourselves in. For those who experience intense FOMO, social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat can play a large role in showing you everything that you didn’t get to attend. “FOMO can result in compulsive social media checking to see if they ‘missed out’ on anything, social comparison about how they fell short, and a preoccupation with other people's social lives, all of which can be detrimental to mental health and overall well-being,” explains Dr. Silva.


“In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin,” jokes comedian John Mulaney. It's a feeling that those with JOMO understand well. If you’re someone who feels JOMO vs. FOMO when you cancel plans or are left out of a big group gathering (and I’m with you), know that Dr. Silva says it can help you process the reality of not having been invited or choosing to abstain from venturing out with your friends. “JOMO is a healthy way to handle not being at certain events that involves using skills such as acceptance, mindfulness, and reframing negative beliefs into healthier, more adaptive ones,” she says.

Importantly, however, this shouldn’t be a carte blanche call to only “socialize” with Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (even if Friday night dinners are your communing of choice). “While JOMO sounds like a completely positive alternative to FOMO, we must be cautious that people with social anxiety aren't purposely missing events to avoid social interactions, which will only perpetuate the anxiety,” Dr. Silva says.

In this case, the avoidance of events brings relief and joy, but it can also mean that you’re isolating yourself, which research has shown can bring on depression and loneliness3. As a result, it’s important to ensure that the joy of missing out doesn’t become the despair of being alone all the time.

Does having JOMO or FOMO mean that I’m basing my happiness on others?

Not necessarily. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that it’s natural—biological, even—to crave connection. “Many of us find fulfillment in being social and included in things, and having others consider us,” says Dr. Silva. “When you aren't invited, and watching from the outside you can…feel like your life has gaps.” In other words, it’s not an inherent flaw that the second you want to cancel plans you either feel a sweet hit of relief that you don’t have to crawl off your couch or that nagging sense that you’re missing out. That you feel those things is human.

However, it’s just important to take note of these feelings and how they change over time. If you consistently are feeling like you’ve got to attend every social obligation you’re invited to or if you’ve joyously canceled plans multiple times in a row and now the thought of going out brings you anxiety, it’s worth tapping into these feelings and doing some self-work to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“Finding joy in a way you can control is a major key to happiness,” Patel says. “You can’t always rely on others to bring you joy because ultimately others can't always be there for you and it's not their daily responsibility to make sure you are happy. Only you hold that responsibility.”

How do I make sure I’m finding internal sources of happiness?

Okay, so now we’ve reached the portion of the programming where experts say that you can start to base your feelings of happiness and contentment on what you feel—rather than your reaction to missing or opting out of plans with others. “If you can find joy in your passions, independence, interests, hobbies, and lifestyle, these are things you have control over. You do not have control over other people,” says Dr. Silva. Below are a few strategies to help you do that.

1. Take some time for self-reflection

We can get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that we can forget to take stock of what makes us happy outside of plans with others. “Oftentimes it takes self-reflection to understand who and what you are relying on to find joy and shifting that thinking to find areas in your life you can control,” says Patel.

To allow yourself to remember what brings you joy, take a minute to think back on activities that you participated in or one-off plans with friends that made you really happy, and then plan to do more of those in the year to come.

2. Write it down

Sometimes, putting something out there in the world by telling someone or making a physical record by writing it down can help you realize what your priorities are. “Take a minute to write down a list of all the things that make you happy,” says Patel. “Then split them up by things that are in your control and out of your control. Make sure there are enough things you can do and rely on daily that bring you joy that are up to you.”

3. Start with small steps

You don’t have to go from zero to a hundred in a single day, says Patel. So if you’re feeling intense FOMO when you see others carry out plans without you, don’t expect to never ever feel those feelings again. Instead, “take small steps in discovering what brings you joy and happiness. Oftentimes it's the small changes that make the biggest impact over time.” Patel says.

4. Do things that you’re great at

Feeling proud of yourself because you’ve accomplished something–something that you’re great at—can be incredibly rewarding and bring happiness to your life. “Engaging in activities that enhance both pleasure and mastery [can help you feel in control],” says Dr. Silva. “Pleasure is feeling joy when engaging in an activity. Mastery is feeling as though you accomplished something.”

5. Don’t worry about making excuses

Once you understand the things that really make you happy, you can free yourself from saying yes or no out of obligation and without excuse. This can begin to foster feelings of control and also allow you freedom to be at events when you truly want to be there, and not when you feel like you have to. “Many people are now practicing saying yes and no to events without excuses,” says Patel. Because, as she reminds us: “Oftentimes you have to love yourself and be in a good place yourself before you can love and be there for others.”

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4(1), 1-44.
  2. Liu, Xinyang et al. “The effect of fear of missing out on mental health: differences in different solitude behaviors.” BMC psychology vol. 11,1 141. 1 May. 2023, doi:10.1186/s40359-023-01184-5
  3. Matthews, T., Danese, A., Wertz, J., et al. (2016). “Social isolation, loneliness and depression in young adulthood: a behavioural genetic analysis.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 51, 339–348.

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Loading More Posts...