In my teens, I got migraines. Maybe it was growing pains, but all I knew is that randomly and without warning, I’d get a splitting, seeing spots, curled up in a dark room headache. Painkillers didn’t help. Meditation merely distracted, diet was out of the question — hello, teenager — and I got regular exercise as part of the cross-country team.
After a particularly bad July, the girlfriend at the time suggested, “My Mom does biofeedback, you should give it a whirl,” to which I responded, “Does she sell mood rings, too? How about pet rocks? Hulu hoops?”
She ignored me. “It’s not like that. She can show how your body reacts to different stimuli.”
“Do I have to sing Kumbaya?”
I Think I’m Breathing
The process of being wired up for biofeedback is intimidating. A variety of sensors measure brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. Once wired, you can literally see the collection of systems that is your body working in concert.
It gets interesting when you start ignoring the feedback. “Rands, we’re going to try different relaxation techniques and see what works. How do you relax?”
TV? She turned the TV on for ten minutes. “Yeah, that doesn’t relax you. Your brain is working.”
Closing my eyes and breathing deeply? Five minutes later, “Again, it looks like you’re thinking too much about not thinking. You’re not relaxing.”
What about reading? She pulled a book off her shelf and I started reading. Within a few minutes, all of the feedback pointed out that my body was diving into a deep relaxation.
“Rands, reading chills you out.”
Weeks later, when the next migraine began to creep up the back of my head, I grabbed Ender’s Game and read. In 30 minutes, the tiny tendrils of pain began to vanish. In an hour, the migraine was gone. Reading was never a cure-all for every migraine, but reading gave me shot at by-passing a crippling day of pain.
Chilling Out is Essential
If my prior report that a third of high school graduates never read another book didn’t freak you out, here’s a different pitch on why we want people to pick up a book: reading chills you out.
I’ve no idea whether my biochemistry is indicative of the rest of the planet or not, but I know if the world is freaking me out, reading calms me down. The act of pulling words off a page and constructing a thought forces me to clear my head, discard stress, and find my mental footing. In a world where whomever is screaming the loudest sound bite is considered to be providing information, I think the act of chilling out is essential.
And you can help with the chill. I offer you the second Rands in Repose benefit t-shirt.
This year’s logo is designed by Victoria Wang, who designed the shirts for the now scuttled C4 conference. The shirt itself is a product of the Continental Clothing Company and is constructed of insanely soft 70% bamboo. If you haven’t given a bamboo shirt a try, you haven’t really chilled out. Once again, the folks at buyolympia.com have made finding, printing, and selling shirts a simple process.
As with the previous shirt, 100% of the proceeds from each shirt go to First Book, a nonprofit organization with the mission to give children from low-income families not just the opportunity to read and to own their first new books, but a chance to learn how to chill.