September 21, 2018

My personal goal for 2018: actually prioritize my mental health. But for some reason, I’ve felt guilty or apprehensive turning down events for what I presumed to be due to one of (or a combination of) the following things: FOMO (fear of missing out); lame-shaming myself for not taking advantage of the fleeting warm summer nights, or feeling obligated to say "yes" so I wouldn’t let others down.

My goal for the year, at times, somehow ended up feeling like more of a burden. I felt the need to always be on and apologize when I wasn’t.

Like many overachieving, #teamnosleep urbanites, I had fallen prey to the ubiquitous and toxic feeling of glorifying busyness—and not just in the work sense. Being busy meant being productive, which for me manifested itself as either working hard or playing hard–no in-between.

Like many overachieving, #teamnosleep urbanites, I had fallen prey to the ubiquitous and toxic feeling of glorifying busyness.

Pedram Shojai, oriental medicine doctor (OMD) and author of The Urban Monk, explains in Well+Good how we falsely measure our self-worth based on our productivity:

"Everyone thinks they’re only as good as their ability to produce," he writes. "We get into this really challenging proposition where you can never be happy just relaxing. If you’re relaxing, you’re a loser.”

Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, is no stranger to this numbing behavior. She writes in her book: "We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”


But how do we move from a work hard-play hard mentality to something that lets us, yes, work hard and play hard—but also rest? The trick is first realizing and accepting there's another way for us to exist. We can pull our pedal off the gas for a little bit—and we won't necessarily fall behind in the race of life.

So how do you tap into your low-key love and dismiss stay-at-home guilt? Try these tips for starters.

1. Embrace JOMO

What if you pulled away from the fear of missing out and instead pivoted towards the joy in missing out? Yup, it's called JOMO, and it comes from getting grounded in why we decided to skip out on something and the benefits we get from that decision.

“Focus less on the ’potential’ losses and more on the immediate gains of the present,” Nick Hobson Ph.D., research psychologist and author of Ritual and the Brain, explains on Psychology Today.

So, rather than ruminating on how fun it would’ve been to see SZA live in the flesh, close your Calendar app, turn on airplane mode, and savor the simple pleasures of what is happening in front of you—a chance to recharge.

Need help getting in the JOMO mood? Listen to our Protect Your Energy meditation in the Shine iOS app.

Whether it’s curling up with a book or that Netflix series you haven’t gotten around to watching, doing a deep dive into the hobbies you enjoy will keep you more engaged in the present moment versus what’s going on out there (this gets a lot easier with age and, of course, less screen time). In hindsight, my low-key nights end up being some of my most satisfying ones.

In hindsight, my low-key nights end up being some of my most satisfying ones.

2. Switch Your 'I Can't' to 'I Don't'

How many times have we said "I can’t" to a commitment when we really meant "I don’t want to"?

Try flipping the script from: “I can’t go out tonight” to “I don’t want to go out tonight" or even "I don't go out when I feel exhausted from the week."

Though it may not seem all that different at first, it could be the ultimate empowerment switch you need to take control of your life. In fact, research from Vanessa M. Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt, published by Oxford University Press found that the shift in language might make it easier to excuse yourself from unwanted commitments. It can help you establish boundaries and rules for both yourself and your inner circle.

"While ‘I can’t’ sounds like an excuse that’s up for debate, ‘I don’t’ implies you’ve established certain rules for yourself, suggesting conviction and stability," journalist Kristin Wong explains in The New York Times. "And since it’s personal, it also maintains the social connection humans crave.”

3. Realize Everything Has an Opportunity Cost

When economists refer to the "opportunity cost," they refer to the benefit, value, or profit of something that must be given up to achieve something else. Russell Roberts, professor of economics at George Mason University and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, claims that to get the most out of life, you have to know what you’re giving up.

For instance, you get invited to go to a happy hour mixer in the city on a Monday night when you’d rather be in bed, planning your work week and spending time with your pup. The cost of going out could be getting to bed later, whatever else you would’ve spent the $20 for drinks on, and your enjoyment from quality time with loved ones; while the cost of staying in could be not seeing your friends that night nor meeting new people. Assuming your friends aren’t leaving town tomorrow, it may be safe to say the cost here was the time spent going out and whatever else you could’ve spent the cocktail money on.

That’s not to say that you have to live your life like a hermit. But considering the opportunity cost of each decision will help you make better decisions that are more meaningful for your time and more aligned with your goals. Remember: It’s OK to say "no" to more things in favor of saying "yes" to your future wellbeing.

It’s OK to say 'no' to more things in favor of saying 'yes' to your future wellbeing.

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