They say laughter is the best medicine. I say it has some competition with books.

The case for laughter’s medicine…

Just yesterday, while on the mend from one whopper of a cold, my stomach ached not from sickness but from laughing about an idea my family had to drive grandparents of the world crazy using Amazon’s Echo.

amazon-echo-16.jpgThe idea: Rig the Echo, using an app, to say weird things to your grandparents. The messages would be timed to go off at specific or random intervals during the day.

Imagine you know that Grandma gets up at the same time every day and has a cup of coffee. You set the app to leave her a little message at 8:05 when you know she’s just pulled the cup from the coffee maker. Echo (or Alexa as she is known to many) blinks on and in her sweet voice says, “Good morning, would you like some milk with that.” It would totally freak Grandma out, right?

Messages could also randomly say things like, “Don’t worry, I’m not out to get you,” or a more innocuous, “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” This works particularly well for any grandparents (or people of any age) who have the Echo but are wary of technology. You’d think such people wouldn’t buy an Amazon Echo. You’d be wrong.

(Side note: I just googled ‘evil amazon echo’ for pictures and some hilarious things come up. Forgive my rambling, I’m still not 100% well.)

In my family, discussion of an idea is not complete until we’ve taken it to extreme levels. Therefore, this little harmless prank escalated to machinations of duct taping a dinner knife to the Echo and setting it on a Roomba so it could chase people around the house while it repeated the words, “Here’s Chucky,” or something else equally as odd. Of course, the echo has to be plugged in, so we decided we’d have to make a little battery backpack for it to be mobile. (This joke went off on some weird tangents.)

Regardless, at the time it was the funniest thing I’d heard in days. In fact, it was one of the only things I’d heard in days thanks to my clogged ears and a constant ringing sound like a little fairy bell going off all the time in my head.

And so I laughed and laughed and laughed.

roomba with echo.jpg
Please note: My creative skills are in writing, not visual artistic endeavors.

And guess what? This absurd idea and it’s ensuing laughter made me feel better.

However, this was yesterday and yesterday, like today, I was on the mend. Sure, I’m  emptying tissues boxes at a rate that makes me think there aren’t enough tissues in the world to get me through this cold, but at least I can get out of bed and have a conversation. Not that anyone wants to talk to me with me. My Rudolf-like red nose isn’t a cute homage to the coming holiday season. It’s a red beacon to stay the heck away from the sick girl.

The case for book medicine…

Take a step back in time three days and things were very different. Three days ago, I could not even get out of bed. I had people calling me from work worried I’d died because I’ve never “gone off the grid.” (I didn’t check my email for five whole hours and this is what happened. I’m going to think about what that says about me later.)

During this feverish, fitful time, I ached all over and longed for the jackhammer in my head to turn off. I think I can safely say that by 3 am, laughter would not have been good medicine. I would have sputtered out a laugh and then grabbed my head and groaned.

The only thing I wanted was sleep and I tried everything to get it. I put on calming noises. I moved to different rooms. Nothing worked. Until I gave up trying and picked up a book.

And then something happened… A few pages in my mind felt heavy. I started drifting and then I fell (metaphorically). I fell and fell and smacked into sleep, finally.

It was 4 am.

At 5 am I was woken by the sound of my dog vomiting.

It wasn’t my night.

(Don’t worry my adorable dog is fine and spent the next day snuggling with me to make up for ruining my long desired-for sleep with her sensitive tummy.)

But even the next day, still sick and unable to concentrate on anything for longer than 10 minutes without feeling dizzy, I lay in bed thinking about all the parts of me that hurt. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I picked up a book. And guess what? I felt better. Or, more accurately, I forgot I felt horrible. There’s nothing like getting lost in the fictional problems of people fighting vampires to make you forget your head feels like it’s stuffed full of cotton balls.

There’s nothing like getting lost in the fictional problems of people fighting vampires to make you forget your head feels like it’s stuffed full of cotton balls.

If you think my claim that books are great medicine is just me, it’s not. This concept is based on science.  Here are some scientific-based findings that demonstrate how reading is good for your health.

  • A 2009 study by Sussex University showed that reading may reduce stress by as much as 68%. “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world,” according to cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis.
  • According to a study at Emory University published in Brain Connectivity, reading has been found to enhance connectivity in the brain, which in turn improves brain function.
  • The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting up a bedtime routine of sleep-promoting activities, one of which they suggest is reading.
  • General practitioners in Britain have begun prescribing book reading to patients who suffer from mild to moderate depression and anxiety, leading to improvement in symptoms for many patients.

So is reading the best medicine? It’s certainly not going to cure what ails you. But, in my experience, it creates a distraction and a sense of calm, which can make the process of getting well much less awful!