Lee Ann Sunny.jpg cropBy Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown

Usually, at the beginning of each month, I decide on a new word that is going to be my “Word of the Month.” I then like to try and add that word into my conversation and writing as often as possible, hoping that with repeated use over time, it will become part of my everyday vocabulary. For this to happen, I must consistently put the use of the word into practice until it becomes natural to use it. This month, my new word is joinaphobia.

If you Google “joinaphobia,” it will not show up as an actual word because it is a word that I have made up. However, after we all begin using it and it begins to catch on and goes viral, I am sure that it will be added into the “New Words” section of whatever dictionaries exist. You will agree that the word “joinaphobia” is sure to catch on when you understand its meaning and how importantly it applies to your life.

Joinaphobia: the fear of joining anything health- or fitness-related or related to the reduction of stress.

As with so many other things that come with age, I didn’t realize how this fear had taken me over until I found myself not going to my favorite Zumba classes. Instead of paying by the class, as I had been doing religiously three times a week for the last two years, one day I got a spur-of-the-moment idea and decided to go ahead and pay for a whole month in advance. Then I promptly stopped going. I was distraught. Even though I was now owed a month’s worth of classes that I had already paid for, it took another 10 months before I felt like I was choosing to start going back again. Until then, I just couldn’t bring myself to go. That’s when it hit me. I suffer from joinaphobia.

It has taken me this long to recognize a pattern within myself whenever I get the crazy idea that I should join some new club, spa, group, or class. The minute I sign the contract, I never want to do it again. It completely takes all the fun out of it. It now becomes something that I have to do. It’s just another mandatory chore to check off of my to-do list, just one more thing hanging over my head on my crowded schedule that I have to fit in. After all, I have paid for it. I have to go. And frankly, I am just too much of a rebel for that. I rebel against myself by not going.

I was once a member of a health club for two years and the only time I ever saw it from the inside was the day I took the tour and signed the contract. Of course, I drove by and saw the outside of it every day. But I just couldn’t bring myself to go in. Another time, I was considering signing up for a gym membership and found out that I was already a member. At the beginning of one new year, I decided to hire a personal trainer and pre-paid for three months of sessions and never went back after the first one. They still owe me, but they went out of business. For one whole year I had to force myself to go get massages, which I loved until I joined the club and it became mandatory. And then it was so stressful that I couldn’t relax enough to enjoy them. I never did use them all before I finally canceled.

Feeling like I have to go to the class or club, or whatever it may be, takes away all the fun for me, even if it is me who is making me go. I don’t like the feeling of not being in control of my choices. That’s why I like the pay-as-you-go approach. It makes me feel good about myself, like I am making good decisions—I am going to do something good for myself today because I decided to, not because I have to! But, sadly, there just aren’t that many programs that offer the pay-as-you-go approach; everyone wants to force you to make a commitment.

So, as the pressure intensifies this month for us to join that gym, exercise class, or yoga group, I will just keep repeating the word of the month to myself: joinaphobia. I will use it in a sentence, such as, “I suffer from severe joinaphobia and it is a costly condition that sucks all the joy and money from my life.” It is a gentle reminder to myself not to sign on the dotted line and become a victim of this debilitating fear that keeps me from doing the things that I enjoy. If you, too, recognize this same pattern of joinaphobia in your own life, I invite you to make it your word for the month of January, as well. It will be the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves this year. Won’t you join me?

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016!

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