Jabez Crisp can pinpoint the exact moment he realised he had contracted a serious case of Jomo.
It was summer. On a whim, in the little spare time he had between his busy professional life as a private tutor and the hectic socialising that so often comes with living in a big city, he had taken to building a model ship.
‘But I’d hardly done any work on it,’ says the 27-year-old Briton of Dubai Marina. ‘I was working long hours during the day – trying to impress management – and then going out most nights, seeing friends, work socials, networking. Then, during any free time I got, I’d be on my phone, checking emails and Facebook.
‘I remember one evening sitting in a restaurant, very tired, and just having this absolute moment of clarity: I just wanted to be at home building my boat.
‘It sounds geeky but it was more symbolic than anything. I realised I’d spent so much of my adult life rushing about, wanting to be at whatever was going on. And, right then, I didn’t want to be doing any of that. I wanted to be unwinding. It was a gradual thing, but that was the tipping point, when staying in became more appealing than going out.’
He may not have known it at the time but Jabez had caught Jomo – the Joy of Missing Out – a social condition which, Dubai trend forecasters predict, more and more of us are set to contract this year.
Except there’s no need to worry. Experts reckon this is one trend that could improve your health, wealth and inner happiness.
Jomo is a reaction to Fomo. And if you don’t know what that acronym means, well, WHYB? Er, that’s Where Have You Been?
To clarify, it’s Fear of Missing Out; a constant worry that other people are leading a more exciting and rewarding life than you. It is, say experts, the great anxiety of the age; a 21st-century stress exacerbated by social media feeds, which constantly imply that others are enjoying parties, opportunities and experiences we are not.
Billions across the globe say they suffer. Millions are said to have burned themselves out accepting a constant stream of invites in a vain attempt to ensure they never miss a defining moment shared by friends or a professional project offered by bosses.
‘What we have seen in Dubai over the past couple of years is a constant stream of people coming to us completely wiped out,’ says Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Arabia Community Psychology Clinic in Umm Suqeim. ‘They’ve been overwhelmed by their constant need to stay connected to the world. They feel anxious when they’re away from their phones and too worried about missing out on anything to turn down invites. And it’s making them miserable.
‘They’re coming to us and saying it’s time to go back to basics. They haven’t found satisfaction in the way they are living. They have only found anxiety and stress. And they’re realising – slowly perhaps – this is not the way to meaningful fulfilment.’
Which is where Jomo comes in.
Instead of spending our lives in a whirlwind of events, functions and gatherings in a futile bid to be at the epicentre of some kind of mythical zeitgeist, many of us are beginning to seek satisfaction in sometimes saying no, giving ourselves space to think, and enjoying the moment we find ourselves in.
Key to that is refusing to be sucked into social media feeds showing (or seeming to show) friends and colleagues leading lives – parties and promotions, adorable children and envy-inducing staycations – that would make the most hedonistic and ambitious celebrities jealous.
‘It’s natural to compare ourselves to others,’ says Dr Afridi. ‘And in some ways that’s healthy – it means you push yourself more. But what you have to remember when you’re looking at someone’s seemingly glamorous Facebook page while you’re stuck in the office or at home is that you’re not seeing their real life. You’re seeing edited highlights. It’s not a true reflection of anything. You can’t compare yourself to an Instagram feed.’
We should embrace the moment we, ourselves, are in instead, she says. ‘If you always fear you’re missing something, you will never enjoy anything. This is why Jomo is a slight misnomer. If you make your own choices and make the most of them, then you never feel like you’re missing out. You are exactly where you want to be.’
Experts around the world are increasingly in consensus.
‘Sure, sometimes it’s great to burn the candle at both ends, but it’s also important to relax and take stock,’ is the wisdom of Dr Danny Penman, co-author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace In A Frantic World and a widely accepted expert on the issue.
‘Paradoxically, you can only do that by “missing out” on all of the meaningless fluff that swirls through daily life. So Jomo is a genuine rising trend because people are beginning to take time out for themselves.’
Certainly, there is evidence of such.
The first book on the subject – The Joy Of Missing Out by Canadian essayist Christina Crook – was released last year and sold well, while a number of influential thinkers and celebrities, such as editor Arianna Huffington and pop star Kate Bush, have advocated Jomo as a lifestyle choice. Along similar lines, a number of bands have taken to asking audiences not to film their gigs. ‘Live in the moment instead,’ Mumford & Sons told fans recently.
In Dubai, it seems at least some of us are taking heed. While Jabez was building his boat, model Patricia Vlad was also discovering the pleasure of saying no and shutting off her phone. ‘I like to make the most of my days and be productive,’ says the 23-year-old Cambridge University graduate from Romania, who lives in Dubai Marina. ‘You can’t do that if you’re tired because the night before you went to an event, which you didn’t even really want to be at anyway.
‘There’s this idea that not going out might be asocial, but you just have to put some effort into ensuring you see your friends in other ways. Have a pizza night in, go for a walk, head to the beach, or – not my favourite – the mall. Then, when you do go out for the evening, I think you have a better time because it’s more of a treat. It’s about quality not quantity.
‘Plus you save lots of money – and that’s why most of us are in Dubai, isn’t it?’
There are indeed plenty of other benefits besides financial. While the stress and anxiety caused by Fomo can lead to detrimental health effects, there are real positives when it comes to finding joy in your own moments.
‘What you find is you have more time,’ says Dr Afridi. ‘And not only that, but time moves slower for you. If you’re not always rushing around, trying to get to the next thing, or spending hours attached to your phone, then you find things become less pressured. You have time for your mind to wander and your thoughts to order themselves. It’s in those moments that you are at your most creative and attuned to the world. That’s when you have the light-bulb moments, which can really change your life.’
If you go out less, you also sleep better and longer. This, in turn, has a whole range of positive effects, from improving moods and memory to clearing skin and boosting the immune system.
Along similar lines, choosing not to rush around allows you to eat better (‘you’re not grabbing something before charging off to the next big thing’); while checking your phone less has been shown to increase attention span and reduce low-level tension.
All of which perhaps leads to one big question: how do we go about replacing our Fomo with Jomo?
Perhaps, most obviously, one of the key steps is learning to say no to certain invites that you think you can decline, and being entirely content with that decision, says Cindy van de Kreke-Freens, personal and professional development coach at Authenticity Coaching and Consultancy in Al Barsha.
‘It’s not about refusing everything that comes your way or turning yourself into someone who never goes out,’ she explains. ‘There are several studies, actually, that show being open to new things is a very healthy way to live.
‘But we must also accept we can’t be at everything, and therefore, we need to make a value-based decision on what’s important to us. Do we really need to go to that restaurant opening, for instance? You will enjoy your time out of the house – and also in it – more for being selective.’
Complementing that would be to turn off mobiles and laptops for a period each day.
‘Disconnect yourself,’ adds Cindy. ‘This can be difficult for some people, so start with half an hour a day and take it from there. Having that break gives you real time to be alone with your thoughts and allows your mind to recharge.’
Meditation and mindfulness are also ways to enhance feelings of joy, say other experts. Taking a few minutes out of each day to sit and clear the brain offers a way of taking stock and instinctively prioritising what is important.
‘Mindfulness is about paying attention to whatever is going on around you and to your thoughts and feelings,’ Dr Penman says. ‘People think it is a mystical, spiritual thing, but it is extremely simple. Disconnecting and being more mindful reduces anxiety, stress and depression.’
Jabez is perhaps the proof of it all. ‘I can honestly say I’m less anxious than I was previously,’ he says. ‘When I hear people talking about a great night that I’ve missed out on, I think, “I’m glad you enjoyed it, but I had just as much fun building my boat”.’
From FOMO to JOMO
Colin Drury on his joy of missing out
In life – and in journalism – I always believed, in theory if sometimes not in practice, that yes was the key to the world. They are three simple letters that open all sorts of doors. They should, I felt, be the default reaction to any invite or request anyone ever receives.
Yes, I can find time to do that feature. Yes, I will go and review this restaurant. Yes, I will attend another opening.
Saying yes to things I wasn’t initially that bothered about led me to some of the greatest/strangest experiences of my life, from flying upside down in a fighter plane to performing a live stand-up comedy routine to – I really must include this – meeting my partner.
My view was simple: life rests on key moments, and those moments won’t come looking for you at home, with the curtains drawn, on a Thursday night. They’re out there in the city and in the stories waiting to be grasped. Looking back now, it’s obvious: I had Fomo.
I said yes because saying no closed avenues and I knew I’d end up wondering what was down them. I was scared to miss stuff.
Except in Dubai there’s too much happening. There are five or six things every night – openings, launches, regular leaving dos – which would be the week’s top draw in your home town.
If you accepted everything, you’d never be at anything. You’d just be sitting in traffic, trying to get from one place to another. On that path lies madness – and a big taxi bill.
So, I embraced Jomo. If I couldn’t go to everything, I decided, I’d start analysing what I really wanted to attend, and what I found was there wasn’t all that much. I rather preferred the company of a few friends than the networkers of organised events. Perhaps it’s getting old, but I rather enjoyed staying at home on my own, even knowing those key moments wouldn’t come knocking. Because, here’s the thing: while saying yes has led me to some weird and wonderful experiences, it also led me to a lot of situations I didn’t want to be in, with plenty of people I wasn’t all that fond of, spending money I didn’t really have.
Fact is, when you miss out, you’re not missing much.