Laughter is often the best medicine, and comedic actress Melissa McCarthy has so many thoughts on how we can use it to better our lives. In a new New York Times interview, McCarthy explains some of the philosophies, attitudes and practices that have driven her impressive career, her ability to make humor in a sometimes bleak world, and her perspective on what comedy can do for us. Here, her most valuable advice:

1) In the face of tragedy, we need comedy.

McCarthy makes an important point in her interview about the power of laughter, and research backs it up. The Mayo Clinic recommends laughter as an aid for reducing stress, improving mood and even improving your immune system. “It’s why they make comedies after the war…. You need to see the human experience, and you need to be able to laugh at yourself instead of just making fun of other people. I’m not saying what we do is so important, but it’s a little stupid thing that maybe can take some of the tension off,” McCarthy says.

2) Infuse your morning with activities that make you feel uplifted.

McCarthy has an idiosyncratic morning routine: She wakes up at 4:30 a.m., so that she has time to make coffee and then watch an old TV episode. There’s no email in this routine, and no exercise or meditation. It’s only after TV that news, in the form of a print Los Angeles Times or an iPad-delivered New York Times, and a copy of National Geographic.

What McCarthy’s routine emphasizes is the importance of making sure your morning reminds you of what you love, and what inspires you — as well as what you need to know or do. The issues that populate our newspapers exist in concert with other, more uplifting realities — like National Geographic’s photographs: “Let’s talk about polar bears and the toucan… let’s also remember how amazing the whole planet is,” McCarthy tells the Times.

She doesn’t advocate jettisoning the news, or diminishing its importance — just contextualizing it, and making it part of a broader routine that emphasizes joy.

3) Choose conversation over scrolling.

McCarthy is anti-scrolling. She’s not anti-phone, although she and her husband Ben Falcone do practice a full-on weekend phone embargo; but she says she’s noticed that humor comes from putting your phone down, and she takes advantage of that on her set.

Her main rule when she’s working on set is to be present: “[When you’re scrolling,] You’re absent-mindedly removing yourself from the space you are in,” McCarthy tells the Times.

4) Multitasking isn’t helpful.

McCarthy doesn’t like open-concept design. She sees it as a trend that just incentivizes multitasking. When we knock down the walls separating kitchen from living room, we are making sure it’s possible to be everywhere at once: “We are literally knocking down walls to help ourselves multitask,” she explains to the the Times. “Maybe I’ll start a business called ‘Walls,’ and my specialty will be putting walls in, because in 10 years we’re all going to want them again because we’ve made our houses into studio apartments.” Research backs up McCarthy’s aversion to multitasking: According to the American Psychological Association, switching back and forth between tasks negatively affects productivity, costing us up to 40 percent of productive time. It’s worth staying on the lookout for McCarthy’s new “Walls” company — and in the meantime, focusing on the task at hand.

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  • Nora Battelle

    Multimedia Staff Writer at Thrive

    Nora Battelle is a writer from New York City. Her work has been published on the Awl, the Hairpin, and the LARB blog, and she's written for podcast and film. At Swarthmore College, she studied English and French literature and graduated with Highest Honors. She's fascinated by language, culture, the internet, and all the small choices that can help us thrive.