Laughter is the best medicine.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Walking is man’s best medicine.
Most of us have heard these sayings and perhaps live by these mantras. But what about us bibliophiles? What’s our best medicine?
Not long ago, a reader posted a review on GoodReads, which said, in part:
“It had me laughing out loud one moment and wiping away tears the next, which is an effect that very few books have ever had on me. Second Chance Grill ended up being just what I needed at this time in my life: a reminder to slow down, ground my perspective a bit, and focus on the important things in life…family and friends…and being there for them no matter what.”
I’ve chatted with the woman in a book club forum and her life’s context is easy to picture: a thirty-something wife and mother snatching moments to read amidst the tinsel and wrapping paper strewn across the living room. Nearby, children scream in an amped up state of excitement for Santa’s arrival. Hubby dragging in from work, perhaps too exhausted to appreciate the holiday cheer she’d strived to create. And our faithful reader, nose stuck in the pages, submerged in an oasis of calm in an otherwise frenetic life.
We’ve all shared the experience of finding solace or excitement in the pages of a book. The experience proves a delight. Is it also, well, good for our health?
Turns out, it is. Cognition and neurobiology experts at Standford asked a group of literary Ph.D. candidates to read a Jane Austen novel inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and found that reading provides a neurological workout. Blood flow increases dramatically in regions of the brain normally associated with paying close attention to a task.
Other studies have found daily reading reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and helps to build new neural pathways as your brain processes the experience you read about.
Dive into the pages to ride the raging seas with an imaginary harpoon gripped in your fist, and your heartbeat accelerates. Conjure an image of a handsome stranger swirling you across a dance floor, and your heart shifts with longing. From your brain’s standpoint, an imagined event demands a cognitive workout as surely as a real event does.
So, is reading good medicine? Absolutely.