writer, speaker, content creator

Verbing "Placebo"

In Conundrums, Self Improvement on August 4, 2009 at 10:28 pm

About twenty minutes ago, I had a headache. I took some pain relievers, and it’s gone now.

But I know that’s bullshit.

I know that pain relievers take longer than that to kick in, and the only reason I really feel better is because of the placebo effect. I don’t mind the placebo effect. It’s great, it tends to work okay, but I wish that I could get the results without the placebo.

Take, for instance, tea. I love tea. Every morning, I make a cup of it and drink it with breakfast, and I always feel way more awake with that initial sip of tea. But I also know that caffeine takes upwards of 45 minutes to really get going in your system, and that that little sip does nothing, really, to my body chemistry. Yet it works.

What I’d like to be able to do is tap into that feeling, that phenomena, whenever I like. I’d like to be able to trick my brain into getting the placebo effects of, say, caffeine or pain relievers without having to lean on the psychological crutch. Ideally, I’d just be able to “placebo” myself (to coin a verb) out of no where. If there is no real change in body chemistry, then you could theoretically summon up the effects without the focus, right? Could we placebo ourselves by sheer force of will?

If someone hasn’t done science about this, then they really ought to. I want to hack my brain to instantly get that “first-of-tea-okay-I’m-awake-now” feeling. It would come in handy.

  1. Try drinking a cup of water.

    Maybe hot water will provide more verisimilitude, but I've found that sometimes just drinking a cup of water in the morning wakes me up. I don't think I've ever gotten that to work throughout the rest of the day, though.

    Except, of course, for when I'm falling asleep at my desk and I actually get up to get water, but that's unrelated.

  2. I've found that sometimes taking a walk around the block does it for me. It's like my blood has gotten sluggish or something and, like a shark, I need to keep moving to keep it pumping adequately. Of course, unlike a shark, I then return to my desk and spend all afternoon in front of a computer. But that goes without saying: shark's can't type.

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