Can Smiling And Laughing Help You Lose Weight And Burn Calories?
Laughing certainly does – a study published by the International Journal of Obesity (IJO) has shown that, depending on your weight and how hard you’re laughing, 15 minutes of hilarity can burn between 10 and 40 calories; total that up over the year and you’re looking at being one to four pounds lighter .
If you’ve ever found something SO funny you couldn’t stop laughing – you know, to the point where you almost cross the line into proper crying – you’ll know just how much energy you use and that you really do feel that you’ve had a good mini core workout!
In the IJO study it was discovered that laughing can increase the heart rate and calorie expenditure by up to 20% – FABULOUS!
But what about smiling?
Well, to my knowledge there aren’t any conclusive laboratory studies directly focusing on calorie expenditure, but there are plenty that look at the massive physical and mental health benefits of smiling.
Here are a few good reasons why you should SMILE 😀
1) SMILING WILL LIFT YOUR MOOD
If you’re feeling down, the simple act of putting a smile on your face (even if you don’t feel like it) causes the body to release endorphins (our natural painkillers) and seratonin (the happy hormone) into the blood stream – if you didn’t feel happy before, you certainly will after.
If you really want to make the most of this little trick – go and smile at yourself in the mirror, I’ll explain why in reason no. 2!
2) WE’RE ATTRACTED TO PEOPLE WHO SMILE AND THEY’RE CONTAGIOUS
Smiles are contagious . So if you’re feeling a bit down at the moment, go and SMILE at yourself in the mirror!
Not only will the body’s chemical effects kick in, but we react positively to people smiling at us and we find them much more attractive . It makes no difference whether that smile belongs to someone else or your own reflection either.
Chances are you haven’t actually seen yourself smile for a while. After all, how many of us actually go around smiling at ourselves in the mirror?!
If the mental image of yourself is a less than attractive one, with a big cheesy grin absent from your face – change that right now! Go and beam at yourself in a mirror and see if you don’t feel happier and more positive 😀
3) SMILING HAS A POSITIVE EFFECT ON YOUR ENVIRONMENT
People who smile have been found to have a more positive effect on their environment and others respond more positively to them 
The UK can be a pretty anti-social place – especially London during the morning and evening rush hours – so I rather enjoy playing the ‘SMILING GAME’ now and again. The rules are dead simple: throw a killer smile at someone and see if they smile back.
It’s a great game, not only does it make me feel good (see reason to smile no.1) but it will make the other person feel better too, especially if they smile back (see reasons to smile no.2 and no.3!).
If you work in the public service sector and want further reasons to smile at your customers, consider this: restaurant staff who give their customers service with a smile tend to receive larger tips  and repeat business too .
We don’t have to see the smile either to know it’s there and be affected by it. How many times have you spoken to someone who is cheery and smiley on the telephone and responded in the same manner? Plenty.
4) SMILING CAN REDUCE STRESS
This is linked to reason to smile no.1. Mark Stibich, PhD, consultant at Columbia University is of the opinion that if you slow down your breathing and replace a tight facial expression with an open smile then you may be able to reduce the negative effects of stress.
Reducing stress can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and regulate blood sugar.
5) SMILING CAN MAKE YOU LOOK YOUNGER
The muscles we use to smile ‘lift’ the face and makes us look younger. They make us very attractive to other people and not just in the physical sense of the word. So if you’re feeling old and tired, SMILE – it’s like a free facelift!
6) SMILING CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT
Well, based on all the above I certainly think so!
When we’re feeling upbeat, happy and positive we’re far less likely to seek emotional sanctuary in the nearest tub of ice-cream.
When we feel good about ourselves we’re more likely to do more things that will perpetuate this feeling.
Stress sparks the production of cortisol and THAT can cause our bodies to hang onto body fat (especially belly fat) – now if THAT wasn’t a good reason to start smiling the stress away, I don’t know what is!
So now you know – laughing and smiling CAN help you lose weight, burn calories and are SUPER good for you too!
Just in case you need a bit of a hand to get the laughter and smiles going, here are some videos and a GREAT song to help you along 😀
I’ve lost count of how often I’ve watched this Skype Laughter Chain video and, every time, WITHOUT FAIL I can’t talk for laughing when the two guys start laughing at the man in the yellow shirt.
By the time it gets to the chap in the t-shirt following them, and the girl who follows HIM I’m done – I’ve got tears of laughter rolling down my face, my abs are aching and I can’t breathe 😀
Be happy! Click play and if you join in with the silly dancing in the video, so much the better 😀
(1) Energy Expenditure of Genuine Laughter, International Journal of Obesity 2007
(2) Wild, B; Erb, M; Eyb, M; Bartels, M and Grodd W. (2003). Why are smiles contagious? An fMRI study of the interaction between perception of facial affect and facial movements. Psychiatry Res. 2003 May 1;123(1):17-36. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12738341
(3) O’Doherty, J., Winston, J., Critchley, H. Perrett, D., Burt, DM., and Dolan RJ., (2003) Beauty in a smile: the role of medial orbitofrontal cortex in facial attractiveness. Neuropsychologia, 41, 147–155.
(4) Abel, MH, Hester, R. (2002). The therapeutic effects of smiling. In An empirical reflection on the smile. Mellen studies in psychology, Vol. 4. (pp. 217-253). Lewiston, NY, US: Edwin Mellen Press. xiii, 275 pp
(5) Monetary significance of the affiliative smile: A case for reciprocal altruism. Tidd, Kathi L.; Lockard, Joan S. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, Vol 11(6), Jun 1978, 344-346.
(6) Affective Service Display and Customer Mood. Tsai and Haung 2002