meet ben rabb

co-founder of and repeat, founder of cutting noise, and singer/songwriter, who believes in physical activity (for him, it’s surfing) as therapy.

Ben Rabb, co-founder of and repeat, playing guitar as his first health ritual.

How do you make your health a priority?

My mental health is directly tied to my creative output. I’ve been a songwriter since I was about 13, and writing has always been one of my biggest releasers. I get lost in the story I’m trying to tell and the feeling that comes from writing from an honest place.

Generally, I write late at night. I get some mood lighting going and grab my pencil and notebook. For the last four years, I nearly always write on the same guitar. It was my mom’s first guitar and it’s what I’m playing in this image. She passed away about 4.5 years ago and something special always happens when I pick up that guitar.

“For me, creativity has a direct correlation to my mental health.”

If I don’t have an outlet or can’t work on something creative, I feel like I’m slogging through the swamp. Everything I do and work on is affected and I know I need to carve out the time to get into the headspace where I can be hyper-focused, yet feel a sense of meditation when I’m done. I can forget about everything else and just play.

Ben Rabb, co-founder of and repeat, doing a handstand on a bike rack as his second ritual.

What is one of the most important hobbies or modalities you put first when it comes to your mental health?

Here, I am doing a handstand on a bike rack in a wet suit before I head out to the water to surf. I first got into doing handstands through yoga. I was practicing it regularly and the teachers would often have everyone take some time to try kicking up into a handstand on the wall. I saw a few people who could do it without the wall and found a challenge I had to figure out. Beyond the physical requirements, I really wanted to overcome the mental one. I quickly realized how fear created a big mental hurdle for learning to handstand. So much of the fear in kicking up is falling. But sometimes you have to fall a bit to succeed.

I quickly dedicated myself to learning how to hold a strong and long handstand. Now, after over a year, I can do a variety of tricks and hold a handstand on canes (handstand poles) or random objects like pictured above. There is a huge connection to my breath and it’s become an important mental and physical practice for me.

It’s a similar type of focus as paddling into a wave when surfing. For the last 5 years, surfing has been my biggest physical release. I often think of it as my therapy. When I’m feeling stressed or overloaded, I have a strong calling to clear my head and get into the water.

Ben Rabb, co-founder of and repeat, taking medicine as his third ritual.

How have you overcome a specific stigma in your life?

I’ve always been pretty private about my health. I can’t eat certain foods due to a genetic platelet disorder. Foods like flax, hemp, and chia all cause me to bruise and get joint bleeds. It took a long time for me to commit to avoiding these foods, especially compared to when I was younger and it was easier to eat something and have my hip bruised than it was to answer the inevitable question, of why don’t you eat X, Y, or Z.

“I’m in a different place in life now and have no problem speaking about my health, but still often avoid it.”

It was for that reason I wanted to include this photo where I’m taking my morning supplements. I take a B12 and Vitamin D supplement, which I started doing only a few months ago. I’m quick to brush my health priorities away since so many people have “real health challenges,” but I’m trying to shift my thinking around my own health.

When working towards launching and repeat, we spent countless hours talking about how putting a face to an experience can help remove stigma, create community, and spark real conversations that shift the way people feel about themselves. And that has to start with us. Being open, even in the smallest of health rituals, is important. Small health rituals can still have a big impact. They can change the way we feel about ourselves and have changed the way I feel about myself.

next story — Mandy Madden Kelley