Making positive connections with others is vital to our emotional health and well-being. This is something most of us agree on and that scientific research has backed up for decades. In fact, a 2015 study identified a strong link between loneliness or perceived social isolation and cellular mechanisms that produce physiological changes that lead to illness or even premature death.
Simply put, the study found that social isolation is devastating to our emotional and physical health. As such, it’s easy to assume that social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and others, would be beneficial to our well-being. After all, these platforms provide additional means for connecting and interacting with others.
Instead, researchers are finding the opposite to be true: social media actually tends to engender loneliness and greater feelings of perceived isolation. One study looked at eleven different social media sites and the people who use them and discovered this direct correlation: the more time a person spent on social media, the more socially isolated they felt. Another study looked specifically at Facebook and found that “rather than enhancing well-being . . . Facebook may undermine it.”
The Royal Society for Public Health, based in the United Kingdom, has conducted what is perhaps the most thorough research to date on the effects—both positive and negative—of social media on teens and young adults. Its findings were somewhat astounding. Nearly 1,500 respondents answered questions about how they thought social media use affected their health, sense of identity, feelings of anxiety, connection to community, body image, sleeping habits, and more. Every platform but YouTube was found to have a net-negative effect on emotional well-being.
Overuse of social media can lead to unhealthy comparisons with others, jealousy, and even getting caught up in delusional thinking. We think going online to check Facebook or Instagram will make us feel better, but instead it makes us feel worse. Despite this, we return to it again and again, always thinking that this time it will be different. (Sounds a little bit like addiction, doesn’t it?)
Lately, more and more doctors and psychologists are recommending that we unplug from social media in an effort to restore our emotional health. But simply unplugging won’t do much good if the time you create by doing so isn’t well spent. Fortunately, there are dozens and dozens of things you can do to make the time you spend away from social media restorative, relaxing, and beneficial to your overall well-being.
You can likely think of many replacement activities right away: exercising, meeting up with friends, going on a date with your spouse, playing games with your kids, hiking, exploring your own hometown, gardening, reading a book, cooking, learning a new skill, and on and on. I’ve found that doing a mix of all these things has been great. One unique thing I do, however, is to incorporate essential oils into my “unplugged” time.
So many essential oils have properties that naturally relieve stress and evoke positive emotions that I feel it’s kind of a no-brainer to include them in my quest for better emotional health. It also helps me to look forward to the time I spend away from my phone, laptop, and other screens. The rest of this article will teach you seven great ways to use essential oils as you unplug.
At the beginning of every flight, passengers are reminded that in emergency situations it’s best to attach your own breathing device first and then help others. Following similar advice in everyday life is just as important. Failing to take care of yourself first leads to greater stress, which leads to more difficulty in caring well for those you love. Some of the best things you can do during your “unplugged” time involve destressing yourself, which is why the first 4 ideas on the list are all about relaxing.
Meditation relieves stress, improves your ability to concentrate, increases self-awareness, reduces anxiety, improves sleep, and can even help you control pain. It’s a fabulous cure for the over-connected, stressed-out person trying to unplug for a few hours each day. Pairing meditation with essential oils enhances the experience and, depending on the blend of oils you use, can help ground you, further relax you, or encourage enlightening thoughts. To use oils during mediation, simply diffuse the blend in a diffuser or use it topically. Topical methods can include applying the blend to your pulse points, massaging the blend into the bottoms of your feet, or even rubbing the blend into your chest or abdominal area. Experiment to discover what you like best. You can also try diffusing essential oils during yoga for a similar experience.
For a grounding blend, add equal parts sandalwood, frankincense, and bergamot to a diffuser. If applying topically, combine 2 drops of each oil in a roller bottle along with 2 teaspoons of a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil.
For a relaxing blend, add 3 drops wild orange, 2 drops frankincense, and 1 drop lavender to a diffuser. If applying topically, combine 3 drops wild orange, 2 drops frankincense, and 1 drop lavender in a roller bottle along with 2 teaspoons of a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil.
For an enlightening blend, add equal parts lemon, grapefruit, and fir (Siberian fir, white fir, or Douglas fir would each work) to a diffuser. If applying topically, combine 2 drops of each in a roller bottle along with 2 teaspoons of a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil.
2. Learn and practice the art of AromaTouch Technique or massage.
This is a great one to do with a spouse. Take some time to study up on AromaTouch Technique or massage, either through checking out a book at the library or taking an online course. Once you know the basics, you can use each other to practice on.
Try this blend to get started; it’s full of flowery, citrusy notes to stimulate emotional well-being and give you a little boost of sensuality. (It makes enough for one full-body massage.) Combine 13 drops bergamot, 4 drops vanilla, 2 drops clary sage, 2 drops grapefruit, 2 drops jasmine, 2 drops ylang ylang, and 2 ounces grapeseed or jojoba oil in a small jar.
3. Take a spa day.
Rather than spending big bucks at a ritzy spa to relax while you unplug (although that’s certainly warranted every now and then), try giving yourself a simple spa treatment at home. This homemade facial mask will lift your mood and brighten your skin.
In a medium bowl, combine 7 drops lavender, 7 drops tea tree oil, 1 ounce bentonite clay powder, and 3 tablespoons water. Stir to form a smooth paste. You can use this right away or store it in a small, amber glass bottle. Massage the paste into clean skin and let the mask dry completely. Be careful to avoid the eye area when applying. Rinse with warm water and pat dry. Follow up with your favorite moisturizer.
4. Treat your feet.
Another easy, at-home spa treatment is a good foot soak and scrub. You can make an invigorating scrub at home by combining ½ cup Dead Sea salt with ½ cup fractionated coconut oil, and ½ teaspoon peppermint oil. To use the scrub, first soak your feet in a tub of piping hot water (make is as hot as you can possibly bear) for about ten minutes. Next, rub each foot with the scrub and massage gently. Use a pumice stone to remove any callouses. Soak your feet another 10 minutes; this allows the oils to really work their way into your skin. Dry your feet with a clean towel when finished.
5. Improve your mental clarity.
Learning something new or studying up on something you once excelled at can be great “unplugged” activities. Diffusing just the right blend of oils while you study will boost your mental clarity and stimulate your mind. The same is true for kids: diffusing a great oil blend during homework time can promote concentration and associate a pleasant experience with a sometimes-stressful task.
Here are three blends to choose from:
Mental Clarity Blend 1: Combine 2 drops clary sage, 1 drop lavender, and 1 drop lemon and diffuse.
Mental Clarity Blend 2: Combine 4 drops bergamot, 3 drops frankincense, and 2 drops geranium and diffuse.
Mental Clarity Blend 3: Combine 3 drops eucalyptus, 1 drop basil, and 1 drop peppermint and diffuse.
There is nothing quite as restorative—not to mention informative and enlightening—as curling up with a good book. Combining good literature with another comforting ritual will give you something to look forward to whenever you unplug. One of my favorite wintertime rituals is to slowly sip Peppermint Hot Chocolate while I enjoy a book. Click here for a great Hot Cocoa recipe.
7. Take on a new hobby.
There are countless hobbies and trades you can learn during your unplugged time. Because this is an article about unplugging with essential oils, however, it only makes sense that one of my specific suggestions is becoming an oils expert.
Rather than learning everything there is to know about essential oils, take one aspect of the field and learn everything you can about it. If you’re fascinated by homeopathic medicine, learn about the medicinal uses of oils.
If you love behavioral science, learn about ways that oils can help children in school settings or provide calming comfort for anxiety-riddled kids. If you love baking or cooking, experiment with food-grade oils to try new and exciting flavors; you’d be amazed at the depth of flavor a drop or two of oil can add to a savory dish or a sweet dessert. If you love working with your hands, learn how to make soap, candles, or lotions that you can give as gifts or use in your own home.
The great thing about some of these hobbies is the ability to include friends and family members. Kids love helping out in the kitchen, and making sweet-smelling soaps is a perfect excuse to get together as friends and learn something new.
Choosing to unplug and replace that time with any of the ideas in this list can be the beginning of a fabulous new journey, where you find yourself connecting with nature, friends, family, and your authentic self rather than connecting to a screen that provides little or no genuine sociality to your life.