best medicine

Can Laughter Be The Best Medicine?

Can laughter really be the best medicine? Comedian, Jessica Holmes, sure thinks so (and so do I). You don’t want to miss this Q&A with Jessica.

Laughter can certainly be the best medicine, right? Sometimes it’s all you need to get you out of that funk. A good old fashion laughing session by yourself or with some folks does a good job of easing the pain of depression or anxiety.

My poor hubby, Eddy, sometimes gets the raw end of trying to make me laugh. He usually does a great job of it. But, sometimes I just don’t want to laugh. I want to be in my crappy mood. Makes sense, right? Nope, not even one bit.

So in those situations laughter is not the best medicine. Haha, it’s more like leave me alone is the best medicine. 🙂 Once I change my bad attitude for a slightly better one and give in to Eddy’s funniness then yes, laughter was the best medicine.

The times that he has gotten me to laugh when I’m in a bad mood it really makes the world of a difference. Laughter can lighten the mood and do a whole lot of good. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic there are short and long term benefits of having the giggles.

Short Term Benefits

  • Increases the endorphins
  • Activate and relieve your stress response
  • Soothe tension

Long Term Benefits

  • Improve your immune system
  • Relieve pain
  • Increase personal satisfaction
  • Improve your mood

You guys! You are in for a treat today. Have you heard of Jessica Holmes? Well, she is a super funny comedian living in Canada. She also lives with depression. You will definitely get a good dose of that best medicine when listening to her.

I was able to get a copy of a Q&A she participated in. Below are the questions and answers about her book, depression, and living a life as a comedian and mom with depression.

best medicine

Tell us about Depression The Comedy. Why did you decide to write the book?

It’s in my nature to turn negatives into jokes. Being depressed for two years would feel like a waste if I couldn’t find the humor in it and use it to validate others. I couched the book in comedy and cartoons and screwball anecdotes to soften the subject. I will sheepishly add that a defensive part of me wanted to write this book to enlighten the people who don’t believe in depression, who think “quit feeling sorry for yourself” as though it’s just a case of the lazies that a brisk walk through the forest will cure.

In the book, you write candidly about the challenges of managing an impressive TV career while also battling depression. What was it like to be viewed as a successful comedian and actress in public, while struggling with mental illness in private?

It was surreal. I remember being on stage one night at a private event, and as the crowd was laughing at my jokes I thought, “What must that be like? To just feel carefree enough to sit there, laughing? I wish I was them.” I was on auto-pilot, doing the exact same jokes I had memorized years earlier. I’d shine for an hour, then pay for it the next day by feeling like I was buried in cement. Since I could still function in a pinch, I didn’t recognize the depression. When I spent days on the sofa, instead of seeking help, I’d think: “I must need more iron,” or, “This is just part of being an artist.”

You write about emceeing an Oprah Winfrey event during this time. What was that experience like?

I was so foggy at the time that I never even mentioned to anyone but my husband that I’d been chosen to open for my idol. I figured, “This will fall through and I’ll be embarrassed when it does,” so I kept mum about it. Thank goodness for adrenaline because the day of the show, I was able to actually feel carefree on stage. It was the first time in six months that I wasn’t drowning in my anxiety (or binging on crackers and daytime television). Depression is different for everyone, but for me a lack of goals & stimulation are one of my triggers, so I find I’m at my best when someone’s given me tasks and deadlines. The pressure forces me out of my head.

As Depression The Comedy tells, you struggled with post-partum depression at one time. From your perspective, what is the biggest misperception the public has about post-partum depression?  

I’d only ever heard about PPD as it related to Marie Osmond. I thought, “That’s when you do a full 180 and drive off in a car abandoning your twenty kids.” But it’s actually a large spectrum. It can be anything from drawn out “baby blues” to anxiety to psychosis. My experience was feeling terrified of my own children; that I’d fail them, and the anxiety knocked me off my feet. They were four months and two years at the time, respectively, and one morning I just couldn’t get out of bed because the thought of being responsible for them paralyzed me with fear. I called my mother, who said, “Go see your doctor and don’t leave the office without a prescription.” Perhaps because it was such a quick downward spiral it was easier for me to recognize it and get treated. Years later when I went through a subsequent depression it was such a slow decent that it took me years to catch on. 

best medicine

Ever since childhood, you have kept a “joke journal,” recording bizarre and funny moments from your everyday life. How does this practice support your mental health?

There’s that universal principle, “what you pay attention to grows,” and so I look for the funny in all situations. Usually it means I’m laughing at inappropriate moments, but then I get to sit with my kids and recount the funny stuff we’ve seen over the years, as thought it was a photo album. It frames life as a win-win: when things are good, they’re great, and when things are bad, I’m laughing about them anyway. Even recently, my daughter had a health scare and (she’s fine now) we were all so tense. The doctor came in to the room and asked me, seriously, “Are you and your husband related other than by marriage?” My daughter started laughing at the implication that Scott and I are cousins, and it broke the tension. “There’s the funny,” I thought, and put it in the journal.

It’s amazing how candid you are about your marriage in the book. Was Scott on board?

Yes. He’s just that nice a guy that he said, “If you think it will help people, go ahead.” Depression is so taxing on your closest relationships, and I knew that anyone going through depression, or who loves someone going through depression, would relate. A spouse bears the brunt of your irrational frustrations. I blamed my sadness on him: on his height or his social life or his giant shoes cluttering up the foyer (not my finest hour!) but he still stood by me. When I recovered I proposed to him and we renewed our vows on the cheap by sneaking into someone else’s wedding gazebo and holding a quickie ceremony (which I also officiated).

When did you begin to feel comfortable speaking about your own struggles with depression? What changed—and what motivates you to do so?

I was so relieved to have a name and course of treatment for my misery that three minutes after my diagnosis, I started calling friends to tell them “Here’s what’s been wrong with me.” The consequence of that is having to politely smile through people’s well-meaning but over-simplified reactions; which range from, “You just need fresh air” to, “My cousin cut out gluten and his depression went away. So you should just cut out gluten and ta-da!” As though it’s as simple as following Ikea instructions! It’s completely worth it, though. My goal is to make talking about depression as stigma-free as talking about brushing your teeth. 

You are a certified Life and Career coach. What are three pieces of advice you would offer to individuals who are struggling with a lack of motivation or with self-esteem issues?

I have to clarify that lack of motivation and self-esteem issues are not the same as being depressed. But they are still big ol’ pains in the arse so I’m happy to address them. For me, exercise, reaching out to friends for validation, exercise, working toward creative goals, and exercise worked well (can you tell exercise is my greatest pick-me-up?) My other favorite is a Cognitive Behavior Therapy exercise where you ask yourself: when was the last time I felt really energized? Connected? Fulfilled? And whatever your three answers are (dancing alone while I pretend to be Beyonce’s backup dancer/being a screwball with my friends/reading a Malcolm Gladwell book), you go out and do those things ASAP! It’s the principle that what worked for you in the past will work for you today (usually). Try it now for yourself – ask yourself those three questions. I also advocate spending less time on social media (which is like a mean time travel machine: you go on it for five minutes and suddenly it’s an hour later and you feel like everyone’s life looks better than yours). When it comes to treating depression though…professional help is best. There’s no quick fix for depression as of yet, but the book does explain the many approaches and therapies and activities I tried and re-tried until finally I started improving. Spoiler alert: the book has a happy ending.  

From Sarah Silverman to Spike Jones, dozens of big-name comedians have spoken recently about their mental illnesses. Can you speak to the connection between depression and comedy—both from the perspective of a comedian, and as someone who enjoys experiencing comedy (as a member of the public)?

The late Comedian Mike MacDonald says “there are two types of comedians: diagnosed and undiagnosed.” I interviewed him for the chapter on Depression & Comedy because it’s such a big subject. In a nutshell, you have to be an internalizer and deep-thinker to be in comedy in the first place; to grow up analyzing the world. And that can be a tricky mindset. Then you get into a career that’s a roller coaster taking you from gratifying, glorious fulfillment to unemployment back and forth again and again. One month you’re buying a car, the next month you’re selling old clothes on eBay. I had to learn to make my life steadier, so that when my career ebbs and flows, my life stays stimulating and steady.

I for one am excited to get my hands on her book. When I can relate to things the humor seems tenfold. Is that the same for you? This is going to be a great read! And talk about that best medicine!

And one lucky reader on Instagram will be able to win a free copy of her book!! Woohoo!! You don’t want to miss it, so head on over to start following me if you already aren’t. And remember laughter can be some of the best medicine!

Xoxo, Steph

If you feel you need more then laughter to help you with any mental illness you have please, PLEASE, reach out to your doctor. I am taking antidepressants. It was a hard choice but so necessary. I talk all about why in this post.

You are NOT less of a person for needing real medication to help you. You are a warrior! You are strong! I believe in you!!

You can find Jessica here:

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  1. I like the concept of laughter being the best medicine and Jessicas’s new books sounds like it takes an interesting new outlook on it!

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