Melissa Kuo

Designerd

554

6

The Salt That Kept Me Sane

My Himalayan salt crystal lamp sits silently in the far corner of my wooden desk at home — a humble but strong fortress of peace slowly collecting dust in its chiseled ridges. It's been months since I've thought to turn the light on...but that pinkish-orange chunk of salt used to power me through countless all-nighters in my years at art school.

I first bought the salt crystal lamp in my third year at CalArts. Third year was, by far, the toughest year for our graphic design program...balancing more than the average number of classes with multiple extracurricular activities left me little time for sleep. On average, I pulled three to four all-nighters per week just about every week that year (aka it is a miracle that I'm still alive today). My studiomates and I would work throughout the night in the studio, often turning the classroom lights off to indicate that it was nighttime and to soften the harshness of the fluorescent lights.

My studiomate Amanda had a salt crystal lamp and swore by it: "Trust me. It works. The negative ions clean the air and make you less stressed." And I didn't know if that was scientifically true or even possible, but it was a nice desk decoration that gave off a mesmerizing orange glow, and it did seem to improve the mood of those who sat near the lamp. I'm not one to believe in "chi", but it did feel like there was a different, calmer energy in the 10-meter radius surrounding the salt crystal lamp.

When I researched the benefits of salt crystal lamps, multiple sources raved that the negative ions that are naturally emitted into the atmosphere are good for you, restoring and neutralizing air quality, eliminating allergens, supporting the immune system, boosting seratonin levels, and improving mental alertness. Sounded great to this sleep-deprived college student! I ordered one off of Amazon; you can get an 8-inch tall one for under $20.

Throughout all the struggles of that year (who assigns 100 movie poster designs over Thanksgiving weekend?!), the sturdy glowing rock was a visible sign of hope. Whether or not it physically made a difference in the air quality or not, it did have the psychological impact of subconsciously convincing me that it was safeguarding me from the mountains of stress that would otherwise overtake me. Its warm glow assured me that staying indoors all day and all night wasn't as bad for my health as it probably was, and its steady light told my drooping eyes to stay awake. When studiomates felt stressed, we'd move the salt crystal lamp to their desk. It was like a mobile campfire that brought positive energy (though actually negative ions) and melted away stress levels.

I'm still impressed at how long the lightbulb lasted... that salt crystal lamp pulled as many all-nighters as I did. Now, it sits retired on my desk at home. Hopefully the next time I turn it on, it'll just be for decoration.

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