Breaking the Cycle of FOMO

We take a look at FOMO research and how to stop it

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

You wake up and check social media. You go to dinner and you’re wondering if the other tables are having more fun than you. You constantly check Facebook and all the other social media platforms that you’ve signed up for. You even (gasp) covertly check in on your frenemies and your ex. Sounding familiar? Hmmmm you wonder, is it really possible that everyone is is living a fabulous, glamorous, fun packed life without a sh*t pickle in sight? Truthfully? Probably not. You’re suffering from FOMO. That’s ‘Fear of missing out’ to the uninitiated. Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. We take a look at what causes it and how to break the cycle of FOMO.

We’ve all done it. Taken a sneaky peak (or two, or three) at what everyone else we know is doing. In happiness research it’s known as self referential processing. It’s the act of comparing ourselves to others and whether we come off well (or not) in those comparisons it’s bad for our self esteem, happiness and mental health. FOMO the scab we just have to pick until we bleed. We know it’s wrong, we know it leaves us miserable but we just can’t resist. Trouble is, the more we feed our FOMO the unhappier we become. The truth is, our FOMO triggers are based on fibs. Have you ever posted a picture of yourself looking exhausted, unkempt and bored? Thought not. Us neither. What you see onscreen is not real life. It’s a projection of how we want to be seen, not necessarily how we are.

FOMO entered the oxford English Dictionary in 2013 but we suspect it had been around the block a few times before then. Social media has given us more tools to engage in FOMO but it has always been there. A whopping 75% of young people admit to experiencing FOMO (we suspect it goes way beyond young adults). The truth is we have less FOMO when we’re happy. It’s when we’re unhappy and things aren’t going the way we want them to that we experience more of it.

FOMO is the all pervasive, uneasy feeling that you can’t shake where you believe everyone else is having fun except you. You believe that others have more than you, whether it’s happiness, fun, possessions, experiences….and it just isn’t fair.

Research by Andrew Przybylski and Valerie Gladwell (2013) examined what happens when we are driven by the desire to be continually connected. They used their FOMO Scale (yup, it even has a scale) to examine what happens when we just can’t bear to think that others are having fun without us. What did they find?

  • FOMO is associated with lower mood and life satisfaction
  • The more we engage in social media the unhappier we get especially Facebook
  • FOMO distracts us when we drive and when we study

Don’t beat yourself up if you recognise you’re in the grip of FOMO. Now you’ve recognised it, view your FOMO as information, it’s arming you with data & knowledge around your happiness. Reframe it as your FOMO A-Ha! moment. It’s a sign that things need to change. Recognising the symptoms is the first step to breaking the cycle of FOMO. As Socrates wisely observed,

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Now you recognise that FOMO is making you miserable, you’re ready to take action and start breaking the cycle of FOMO. We’ve got you covered with top 6 Strategies for Beating FOMO.

  1. Limit your time on social media (note, we didn’t say go cold Turkey). Social media is part and parcel of how we live. You don’t need to stop altogether but limiting your time each day is a great place to start. Try turning your phone off when you’re not using it or enjoy tech free meals. If you’re out with friends, take a couple of selfies and then forget your phone. Concentrate on your friends instead.

2. Don’t treat someone else using their phone as your cue to use yours. Train yourself to recognise when you’re feeling the pull to scratch the FOMO itch and disrupt that thinking. Breaking the cycle of FOMO requires control and self regulation.

3. Don’t take your phone to bed with you. You’ll just be tempted to have a quick glance and oh, before you know it you’ve been allowing that blue light to keep you awake way longer than you meant to.

4. Keep a Gratitude Journal. We know that decreased happiness is linked to FOMO so we’re going to use evidence from neuroscience to redress the balance. Gratitude boosts dopamine, and serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to happiness. By focusing upon what you’re grateful for you can increase the levels of this feel good chemical. At the end of each day ask yourself; What am I grateful for?

Even if you find yourself searching for a really, really, really long time it’s ok. It’s that seeking out moments of gratitude that is going to rewire your brain. When you make a decision you’ll feel more in control, activating our old friend dopamine again.

5. Set Goals. You’ll need these to move forwards, to make changes, when you start your new journey to becoming happier. Make a decision about what you want to change. Think about where you want to be in a year’s time and start to live more intentionally. Research suggests that when we set an intention and make those decisions, we activate dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Make a decision and you’ll be well on your way to breaking the cycle of FOMO.

6. Meditate. When you mediate on a regular basis you’ll learn to recognise when you’re in the striving mode that leads to FOMO. Rather than constantly being distracted by FOMO mindfulness develops the ability to be truly present, with non judgemental awareness of what’s going on for us. You’ll experience an increase in self compassion which means you’ll stop judging yourself (and others).

Mindfulness is a great place to start, take a look at our Free Mindfulness Guide . As little as 10 minutes a day will make a difference. Mindfulness will help you to stop the FOMO in it’s tracks and start living for yourself rather than what you think others want to see or will be impressed by. The only person you really need to impress is yourself.

Gill Crossland Thackray is Director of Koru, a business psychologist, Visiting Professor, coach & consultant. Koru specialise in Leadership, Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Women’s Empowerment and Resilience. If you’d like to know more about self esteem, growth mindset, positive psychology or our mindfulness courses, get in touch. We work internationally with Fortune 500 companies offering leadership and management courses, mindful leadership courses, executive coaching and mindful coaching sessions.

Originally published at

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Fighting FOMO and How to Beat It

by Delfina Forstmann
Photo by Meghan Schiereck on Unsplash

How to Let FOMO Spark Joy in Your Life

by Thomas G. Bognanno
Find moments to embrace the JOMO, think, breathe, and express gratitude

Embrace the JOMO over the FOMO

by Elisette Carlson

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.