2017—what a year! A great one if you’re Meghan Markle. For just about every other person, the past year was fine at best and a series of endless crises at worst, stacking up like push notifications on the iPhone X screen of your being. Personally, 2017 was a truly harrowing experience—each day a constant rain of hellfire, each night a sweat-soaked orgy of anxious thoughts. Or it was until this summer, when I started getting acupuncture to deal with my stress. Bi-weekly appointments have lifted my average disposition from the dangerous red zone to an ambivalent yellow. Life is 35 percent more bearable, all thanks to the strategic placement of some needles in my skin.
I go to Rest, an immaculate white box on New York’s Lower East Side that’s strewn with pothos plants and filled to the brim with ambient and respectful flute music. It is decorated in a way that marries austere Japanese minimalism with designy Scandinavian minimalism—Marie Kondo for Ikea—and that also makes your eyelids heavy when you walk in. Yukiko Naoi, the licensed practitioner who co-owns Rest, is the nicest person I have ever met and will ever meet. She touches my arm lightly sometimes, mid-conversation, and it makes me feel like a wounded bird.
Acupuncture is an ages-old Chinese healing practice you’ve already heard about but probably never tried because of the whole needles thing. But unlike with many other treatments that casually refer to your body as a series of "energy highways," the benefits are fairly well-documented: There’s evidence to support acupuncture as an effective form of alternative medicine for those with trouble sleeping, those prone to migraines, those with lower back pain, and me with my obsessive anxious thinking. It’s absolutely worth noting that acupuncture is a difficult clinical test—the conundrum is establishing an effective control group, and as Naoi explained, “You either have a needle in you or you don’t.”
All descriptions of acupuncture assume that you believe your body to be an interconnected network of energy channels, regulated by the strategic placement of tiny, adorable needles barely 1/16th of a centimeter into your skin. This doesn't hold up for skeptics, so why does it really work? Rest offers a brief menu of hour-long treatments tailored to things like relaxation (although they offer private consultations with custom treatments for more chronic ailments)—you simply lie down, Naoi puts her needles in, and you lie beneath a blanket of woodwind music until you are on the brink of nirvana. The most remarkable thing that happens, the most vaguely science-y thing that happens, is that you hemorrhage body heat. When I first went, Naoi asked me if the temperature in the room was okay (it was perfect!). Halfway through the session, I realized I was suddenly chilled to the bone, and just then, as if summoned WITH MY MIND, Naoi came over and laid one of those mylar heat blankets on me. It was the most incredible feeling.