9 Great Reasons Why Crying Is Good For You
As a phenomenon that is unique to humans, crying is a natural response to a range of emotions, from deep sadness and grief to extreme happiness and joy. But is crying good for your health? The answer appears to be yes. Medical benefits of crying have been known as far back as the Classical era.
Thinkers and physicians of ancient Greece and Rome posited that tears work like a purgative, draining off and purifying us. Today’s psychological thought largely concurs, emphasizing the role of crying as a mechanism that allows us to release stress and emotional pain.
Crying is an important safety valve, largely because keeping difficult feelings inside — what psychologists call repressive coping — can be bad for our health. Studies have linked repressive coping with a less resilient immune system, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, as well as with mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression.
What Is Crying?
Crying is a natural bodily function and emotion. One of the earliest known cry sounds is a human infant’s helplessly whining cry, recorded in the late 16th century by anatomist Antonio de Stefano. Crying is usually classified as crying, but there are other ways to cry, such as hiccups and heaving. (“Hiccups” refers to a sudden decrease in air pressure and triggers a cry.) The physical function of crying comes from a phenomenon known as the “throat barotrauma,” which triggers contractions in the smooth muscle of the larynx, or voice box. This results in some distinctive involuntary sounds and results in the sore-throat sound a baby makes when in pain.
Not All Tears Are Created Equal
Scientists divide the liquid product of crying into three distinct categories: reflex tears, continuous tears, and emotional tears. The first two categories perform the important function of removing debris such as smoke and dust from our eyes, and lubricating our eyes to help protect them from infection. Their content is 98% water.
As of this writing, the nation has registered over 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. The collective grief over these losses can only be described as staggering. It is no surprise, then, that at times like these our feelings are closer to the surface, and that many people who were not previously prone to crying find themselves tearing up more easily. In fact, as one medical professional put it, showing emotion in public may have become a new normal.
Crying And Health
The good news is that crying is associated with lower blood pressure in older adults. Likewise, a study in 2003 found that parents’ tears were associated with lower blood pressure in their toddlers. And last year, Harvard researchers reported a similar result in infants, who cry more when they are physically touched and feel reassured. In infants, crying may be a way of communicating, but crying itself seems to be a normal biological process that allows for psychological release, emotional rest, and clarity of thought. As both early 20th-century psychologists Irwin Stone and Lev Vygotsky observed, in infancy crying is a signal that “something has happened, that something important has happened to me.
There are times when crying can be a sign of a problem, especially if it happens very frequently and/or for no apparent reason, or when the crying starts to affect daily activities or becomes uncontrollable. Conversely, people suffering from certain kinds of clinical depression may actually not be able to cry, even when they feel like it. In any of these situations, it would be best to see a medical professional who can help diagnose the problem and suggest appropriate treatment.
As challenging as it may be, the best way to handle difficult feelings, including sadness and grief, is to embrace them. It is important to allow yourself to cry if you feel like it. Make sure to take the time and find a safe space to cry if you need to. Many people associate crying during grief with depression when it can actually be a sign of healing. Teaching boys and young men that it’s okay to cry may reduce negative health behaviours and help them have fuller lives.
If crying becomes overwhelming or uncontrollable, see a doctor or mental health professional for evaluation and treatment.
Why Crying Can Be Good for Your Mental Health
About 70 percent of therapists say they believe crying is good for their patients. In times of deep pain, anger and stress, crying can be a healthy coping option. Though more often associated with negative emotions, crying is more than just a symptom of sadness. Research suggests crying is an emotional release mechanism useful to your mental health for a number of reasons.
Catharsis is a type of emotional release where your feelings go through purification or purging. As the main health benefit of crying, catharsis aids you in processing, shedding and draining the negative emotions causing you pain. Though difficult to prove in a lab setting, a study of 196 Dutch women found that nearly 9 in 10 reported feeling better after crying.
While crying is relatively good for you, certain conditions should be met in order to fully reap the positive benefits. For optimal results, having a shoulder to cry on goes a long way. Someone you trust and love will make the feel-good effects of a cry that much stronger by the power of their social support. Also, crying in an appropriate place, a private setting free of judgment and strangers will allow you to let out a full cry without restraints.
It’s important to note that those with mood disorders are less likely to feel better after a good cry. Tears will often fail to help those with clinical depression or anxiety disorders. With mood disorders, the problem is more complex and calls for professional attention. But even under these circumstances, if you can’t help those tears from falling, let them out. Odds are, they’ll do better than harm.
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When emotions are held back, such as swallowing or holding back tears, the emotional energy gets congested in the body. Rather than having that flow of emotional force circulating and completing its cycle, it gets stopped up. Thankfully, however, this cycle can be reversed.
Eastern practices of medicine like acupuncture and massage believe that the body physically stores emotion.
For many people, stress causes headaches, neck aches, shoulder tension, and backaches. People have tight hips because the hips are one of the body’s major emotional energy storage spaces. Certain exercises & meditation practices mitigate these physical effects.
The Social Challenge Associated With Expressing Our Emotions
Sadly, society has stigmatized the expression of sadness. When somebody cries the common reaction is to make the crying stop. Unknowingly, when someone responds to tears with “Ssssh don’t cry” they’re actually saying, “Stop expressing your emotion through crying, it’s making me uncomfortable,” which really says “Your emotions make people uncomfortable,” which eventually translates to, “feelings are bad”. It’s a tough situation trying to feel! Coincidentally, it is not the comfort, tears, or sympathy of another person which alleviates the emotion behind crying. High percentages of people feel a sense of relief after crying.
Understanding The Complex Importance of Grief and Other Emotions…
Crying is a sign of strength because it is a demonstration of a completely comfortable relationship with the self. Choosing to cry and feel is a choice in the interest of one’s emotional health. Choosing to cry is also choosing not to care about the opinions of others. Since crying is so stigmatized, rising above society’s thoughts is pure authenticity. Crying also helps set an example for others. Especially in recovery when peers are struggling to connect with, articulate, and express their own emotions, seeing someone freely express themselves is inspiring. Not only will they learn from the act of crying, but they will see the transformation that takes place from working through emotions.
When you cry, your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activates. Your PNS helps your body digest food and rest better. Any symptoms of stress, such as stomach aches and restlessness, can be relieved after a couple of minutes of merely crying. This will help you self-soothe and feel better.
Crying Lessens Pain
Whether you are experiencing physical or emotional pain, crying can help lessen the severity of this pain. Endorphins are released while you cry, helping numb the pain and giving you a sense of overall calm. This process also plays a role in self-soothing as well as lessens the intensity of pain felt.
Crying Alerts You That There Is Something Wrong
Sometimes you may be suppressing painful emotions without realizing it. Crying can help you recognize that something is wrong, whether it be emotional or a physical situation you are in. Once you realize that something is going on, you can take the proper steps to identify precisely what that is. From there, you can cope with your emotions healthily to avoid further suppressing them.
Crying Gets You The Support You Need
Feeling down can cause you to isolate or simply not tell those around you that you are struggling. However, crying can notify those close to you that you need help. This begins when you are a baby, as crying is an attachment behaviour that humans engage in to receive support from others. Crying for support doesn’t stop when you are an infant; it can continue into adulthood. When others can see you are struggling when you cry, you can grow your support circle for further friendship and assistance.
Crying Can Encourage You To Seek Help
If you find yourself crying emotional tears consistently over an extended period, it could allude to a deeper issue at hand. This could mean it is time to seek help from a professional to help your overall mental health and wellbeing. There is no shame in needing extra help sometimes, and crying can alert you that it is time to seek it out.
Crying Helps Heal Grief
If you have ever gone through the grieving process, you understand that it takes time to move through the various stages. Crying can help you through each step of grief as it aids in accepting losing a loved one. While crying does not work for everyone during this process, some find comfort in releasing emotions and helping them process their loss.
Crying And Psychological Benefits
We all cried when we were babies. But now that we're adults, many of us often try to hold back our tears in the belief that crying — particularly at work or in public — is seen as a sign of weakness, or as something to be ashamed of.
Having a good cry can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. In fact, some psychologists even suggest that we may be doing ourselves a disservice by not tearing up regularly.
Crying activates the body in a healthy way, says Stephen Sider off, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics. “Letting down one's guard and one's defences and [crying] is a very positive, healthy thing. The same thing happens when you watch a movie and it touches you and you cry… That process of opening into yourself… it's like a lock and key.
Being able to cry about life’s ups and downs provides a sense of control that gives us a greater chance of psychological well-being.
Being able to cry about life’s ups and downs provides a sense of control that gives us a greater chance of psychological well-being, explains Hefei Wen, a research scientist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. One theory on why we cry is that we cry when we realize that it’s too painful to keep those feelings inside.
Keeping a painful emotion inside for a long time actually makes it more painful because, psychologically, it makes us feel alone and isolated from others, Wen says. Feeling that other people are with us in our pain can help. Crying also releases a lot of the chemicals in our body and allows our body to naturally rebalance.
1. Detoxifies The Body
There are three different types of tears:
- reflex tears
- continuous tears
- emotional tears
Reflex tears clear debris, like smoke and dust, from your eyes. Continuous tears lubricate your eyes and help protect them from infection. Emotional tears may have many health benefits. Whereas continuous tears contain 98 percent water, emotional tears contain stress hormones and other toxins. Researchers have theorized that crying flushes these things out of your system, though more research is needed in this area.
2. Helps Self-Soothe
Crying may be one of your best mechanisms to self-soothe. Researchers have found that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS helps your body rest and digest. The benefits aren’t immediate, however. It may take several minutes of shedding tears before you feel the soothing effects of crying.
3. Dulls Your Pain
Crying for long periods of time releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain. Once the endorphins are released, your body may go into somewhat of a numb stage. Oxytocin can give you a sense of calm or well-being. It’s another example of how crying is a self-soothing action.
4. Improves Your Mood
Along with helping you ease pain, crying, specifically sobbing, may even lift your spirits. When you sob, you take in many quick breaths of cool air. Breathing in cooler air can help regulate and even lower the temperature of your brain. A cool brain is more pleasurable to your body and mind than a warm brain. As a result, your mood may improve after a sobbing episode.
5. Rallies Support
If you’re feeling blue, crying is a way to let those around you know you are in need of support. This is known as an interpersonal benefit. From the time you were a baby, crying has been an attachment behaviour. Its function is in many ways to obtain comfort and care from others. In other words, it helps to build up your social support network when the going gets tough.
6. Helps You Recover From Grief
Grieving is a process. It involves periods of sorrow, numbness, guilt, and anger. Crying is particularly important during periods of grieving. It may even help you process and accept the loss of a loved one.
Everyone goes through the grieving process in different ways. If you find that your crying is extreme or starting to interfere with your everyday life, it might be a good idea to check in with your doctor.
7. Restores Emotional Balance
Crying doesn’t only happen in response to something sad. Sometimes you may cry when you are extremely happy, scared, or stressed. Researchers at Yale University believe crying in this way may help to restore emotional equilibrium. When you’re incredibly happy or scared about something and cry, it may be your body’s way to recover from experiencing such a strong emotion.
8. Helps A Baby Breathe
A baby’s very first cry out of the womb is a very important cry. Babies receive their oxygen inside the womb through the umbilical cord. Once a baby is delivered, they must start breathing on their own. The first cry is what helps a baby’s lungs adapt to life in the outside world.
Crying also helps babies clear out any extra fluid in the lungs, nose, and mouth.
9. Helps A Baby Sleep
Crying may also help babies sleep better at night. In a small study on infant sleep, 43 participants used graduated extinction, also known as controlled crying, to put their babies down to bed. With controlled crying, babies were left to cry for a set number of minutes before intervention from their parents. The crying increased both the sleep length and reduced the number of times the infants woke during the night. A year later, the crying did not appear to increase stress in the infants or negatively impact the parent-child bond.
As I discussed at the beginning of this article, despite our cultural uneasiness with this, crying is actually quite common. What’s more, it’s a relatively healthy and positive thing to do.
Why do we cry?
Medical professionals identify six basic reasons why humans cry.
Excessive emotional pain
While crying can sometimes be a normal and adaptive emotion, excessive emotional crying may be caused by emotional injury and thus requires medical attention. Suffering trauma can produce strong emotional responses. Women, people in stressful work and/or family environments, and people with disabilities and chronic pain are particularly at risk for excessive crying.
Sometimes, people have the urge to cry when they don’t want to and while it is important to note that there is nothing wrong with crying, there are some ways to control and prevent it from happening.
It is important to remember that crying could be a sign of a deeper problem, and if anyone suspects this is the case, they should visit their doctor.
According to one survey, 46% of women had experienced crying after sex at least once in their lives, while 5% had experienced it as recently as 4 weeks before the survey.
Another study of PCT in men found that 41% of 1,635 participants had experienced PCT at some point in their lives, while 3.1% experienced it on a regular basis.
Although many men do experience PCT, studies have found that women are 2.87 times more likely to experience it at some point in their lives.
Crying after sex, or PCT is a sudden and often unexplained feeling of sadness, irritation, or anxiety.
PCT is not rare. In fact, it affects a significant amount of sexually healthy adults. Counselling, therapy, and sometimes medications can help people manage PCT.
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