Magic bands a myth

A magic bracelet? Bracelets of silicone rubber, also known as Power Balance Bands, have become a trend on campus. These bands have become a confidence booster for many students who say they provide strength.

Natasha Ramchandani, 19, a communication student, purchased one of these bands outside of the University Center because she saw several people wearing them.

“People kept telling me it takes your stress away, and I am a stressed workaholic,” she said.

According to the Power Balance website, the bands are made of solely of silicone. There is no magic ingredient that goes into the silicone mix to create these bands, but there is a thin polyester film hologram on the surface, which the manufacturer says is infused with healing and restorative powers.

So, are UM students allowing a piece of silicone play with their heads?

In ancient times amulets offered peace of mind and bodily health. Today, the Power Balance Bands mimic the “magic” amulet of the ancient Egyptians, said UM Anthropology Professor Bryan Page. Power Balance Bands and ancient amulets can be seen as a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” meaning they give you the power that you expect from it.

“If given an amulet that you believe has powers then you will accomplish what you set out to do,” he said.

Page went further to connect to a more modern audience. These bands serve the same purpose as the black feather did in the classic Disney movie, “Dumbo.” The elephant in the movie, Dumbo, is given a black, magic feather to boost his confidence.

“There is some actual power in belief that the amulet would help you do the trick, with increased confidence one could perform better,” Page said.

Positive thinking, which is a mind-set that affects our thoughts and actions while being conducive to growth and success, is another possible answer for why the bands seem to work.

Eva Ritvo, MD, Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that positive thinking improves your mental health and reduces stress. “When you are optimistic, people are attracted to you. This leads to healthier relationships, more success and decreased emotional stress,” Ritvo said.

“The first week the band worked because it was all psychological,” Ramchandani said.  “It was the hype of it that was getting me to believe it did work, but not really, it didn’t.”

Ariele Gallardo, 18, a communication student also purchased one of these bands because of the results they claimed. “I bought the band for everyday to feel more balanced and relaxed,” she said.

Gallardo like Ramchandani did not get the expected results from these balance bands. “It didn’t work, and just to try it out like the guy in the power balance commercial I rocked back and forth without it and after I put it on I did the same thing and I felt absolutely no difference,” Gallardo said.

So why the fascination? How can a small silicone rubber band provide strength, balance and flexibility? This modern marketed amulet has not only taken over the students at the University of Miami, but also several professional athletes like David Beckham and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as celebrities like Joe Jonas, Gerard Butler, and even princess-to-be Kate Middleton.

Joseph Forgatch, 19, purchased the band because he saw professional athletes wearing them. However like other users the band did not work for him. “It most definitely did not work as I have played sports with it and I have noticed no difference in my performance, I believe it’s all in the head,” he said.

Although some may argue that the bands work, it’s easy to see how it can all be in your head. You may feel balanced and regulated because with the band you are made aware of your disposition and now want to change it. “It’s all mental, you make yourself believe that it’s going to work,” Gallardo said.

“We all have the capabilities to accomplish what we set out to do,” Page said, but sometimes we just need a little reminder on our wrist.

Like Dumbo it seems, sometimes all you need is to be given a black feather and then you are ready to take flight.

Alexandra Hurtado may be contacted at ahurtado@themiamihurricane.com.

April 27, 2011


Alexandra Hurtado

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