Smiling Improves Metabolism
Smiling and/or laughing, whether you feel like it or not, can have an immediate effect on your metabolism. You might not notice it straight away, but after a while you will start to see the truth in this statement. Even though there is limited science looking directly at this, it does make sense biologically speaking.
One study suggests that genuine, mirthful laughter, has a directly stress lowering impact. If for example, joyous laughter lowers cortisol and adrenaline, it is possible to extrapolate from this, an improvement in overall energy metabolism.
Everybody knows that laughter can feel good, and so it makes sense that if you can find a way to laugh, especially when you feel like it the least, this can work as an effective means to short circuiting chronic, habitual, stress patterns.
Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter; Am J Med Sci . 1989 Dec;298(6):390-6.
The mirthful laughter experience appears to reduce serum levels of cortisol, dopac, epinephrine, and growth hormone. These biochemical changes have implications for the reversal of the neuroendocrine and classical stress hormone response.
Maybe you aren’t quite ready for laughing, but you probably are able to force a smile, even if you have to fake it. There is scientific evidence suggesting that this is a good way to slow down a heart rate made fast by a stress response, again most likely lowering adrenaline, and other stress substances. Reducing stress substance release, enables digestion to function better, which has a beneficial impact upon all areas of metabolic performance.
It can be subtle at first, but after a while it becomes easy to notice the change that takes place in your body and mind, when you put a little smile on your face. It helps to practice throughout the day, so that you can get used to doing it even when you don’t feel like smiling at all.
Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response; Psychol Sci. 2012;23(11):1372-8.
Findings revealed that all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral group did, with a slight advantage for those with Duchenne smiles…findings show that there are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress.
There is plenty of good evidence showing that the substances which rise in the body when metabolism is interfered with and stress is high, promote the growth and spread of cancer, so it is likely that lowering stress is a useful approach to assisting with any kind of cancer treatment methodology, even the very dangerous ones.
Smiling and laughter can help promote a positive mental attitude, and a positive outlook is also something which has been shown to benefit cancer patients. The same is going to be true in relation to almost any kind of inflammatory disease state. Again, you don’t have to feel like smiling or laughing to benefit, and the more you practice, the better you get at it, and the easier and more natural and genuine it becomes.
Laughter and Stress Relief in Cancer Patients: A Pilot Study; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 864739.
A randomized controlled trial was conducted involving 31 patients who received four sessions of therapeutic laughter program…While no change was detected in the control group, the program group reported reductions…for anxiety, depression, and stress, respectively…Scores decreased significantly after the first therapeutic laughter session…
This next study shows how laughter therapy might have had an important role in an 88 year old cancer patient’s survival and improvement, even though the cancer was advanced, and cancer treatment was declined. It’s difficult to prove that the laughter therapy was directly responsible for the improvement, but it seems like it would have at least played a part.
There are numerous metabolic explanations for cancer development and advancement, including excessive reliance upon fatty acid oxidation, and the increased and chronic breakdown of protein, and there’s good reason to think that anything that is able to lower exposure to the substances of stress, and improve thyroid energy metabolism, is going to be protective.
A case of laughter therapy that helped improve advanced gastric cancer; Jpn Hosp . 2010 Jul;(29):59-64.
We have reported the case of a patient diagnosed as having advanced gastric cancer at the age of 88 years old. An endoscopy revealed a type-2 gastric cancer of 25 x 30 mm in the lesser curvature of the middle stomach body and an IIa gastric cancer with T2 SS and cardiac accessory lesions…Considering the patient’s age and her desire not to receive cancer treatment, we prescribed laughter therapy…One year and seven months later…A tissue biopsy revealed that nucleus abnormality clearly improved…Now, five years after the initial diagnosis, she maintains a good condition.
There has even been a study which has looked at changes that occur in the brain, from simply moving the muscles associated with smiling. Although it’s hard to be certain about the significance of the changes, there is reason to believe that just imitating a smile is enough to improve state of mind and metabolic function.
When you smile, you become happy: evidence from resting state task-based fMRI; Biol Psychol . 2014 Dec;103:100-6.
The resting-state fMRI results showed that compared with the HPL [holding a pen using only the lips…inhibiting the muscles typically associated with smiling] condition, significant increases in the amplitudes of low-frequency fluctuations were found in the right posterior cingulate gyrus…and in the left middle frontal gyrus…in the HPT [holding a pen using only the teeth facilitating the muscles typically associated with smiling] condition. These findings might be related to the initiation of positive emotions and to the control and allocation of attention.
So what is the takeaway from all of this. For me, the most important thing to remember is that the stress response can be a bit like a habit, and some people go into stress a lot easier that others, for no fault of their own in many cases.
If you want to break a habit like being stressed and feeling bad, and create a new habit that serves you, like being happy and feeling good, there’s going to be a period of time where the new way feels awkward or unnatural, or maybe even really uncomfortable. More often than not, all you need to do is grin and bear it for a while, and eventually you’ll see that it starts to get easier and work better. It’s almost always worth it. Ohh, and sugar helps too.