I found myself in tears the other day over a deep and painful memory. At first, my inner mean girl came out and berated me for my breakdown. I thought to myself, "I should be stronger than this and that I should be beyond the pain this is causing by now!" But then I remembered that crying offers a significant number of health benefits. So, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and wrote this blog article so you too understand that it's more than ok to cry and the many benefits crying offers us.
Let's start with what crying is...
Crying is a phenomenon that is unique to humans. It's 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 is yes, but first let's talk about why all tears are not 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.
It’s the third category, emotional tears (which flush stress hormones and other toxins out of our system), that potentially offers the most health benefits. Crying releases the endorphins oxytocin and endogenous opioids. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain. Popular culture, for its part, has always known the value of a good cry as a way to feel better — and maybe even to experience physical pleasure. The millions of people who watched classic tearjerker films such as West Side Story or Titanic (among others) will likely attest to that fact.
The Health Benefits of Crying
The truth is, no one likes to cry, especially in front of others. Crying often leaves us feeling vulnerable and at times even broken down or weak. However, when it comes to crying there is nothing to be ashamed of and as mentioned offers many different health benefits that may cause some to argue that we should be crying more often.
Crying is an important safety valve, largely because keeping difficult feelings inside — which is a repressive coping mechanism — 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. Crying has also been shown to increase attachment behavior, encouraging closeness, empathy, and support from friends and family. This leads me to the health benefits crying offers.
Here Are Nine Amazing Health Benefits of Crying:
1. Crying can improve your mood
Have you ever noticed that you generally feel much better after you’ve had a good cry? There’s a reason for that. When we cry we are actually relieving our body of countless toxins and hormones that contribute to elevated stress levels. This in turn can help individuals to sleep better, strengthen their immune systems, and avoid gaining weight. By lowering our stress levels, crying may also help lower our blood pressure.
2. Crying helps to relieve pain
In addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins as mentioned above. These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.
3. Crying releases toxins and relieves stress
When we cry in response to stress, our tears contain a the stress hormones mentioned above and other chemicals. Crying can reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, which can, in turn, reduce stress.
4. Crying can improve your vision
How do you feel after a busy day when you haven’t had a chance to drink much water? Chances are you’re pretty thirsty and perhaps a bit dehydrated. Our bodies require water to keep us going and to help us stay hydrated. Our eyes aren’t much different from the rest of our bodies; they too, need water to stay hydrated. When we cry we are really helping to re-hydrate our eyes which can help increase our ability to focus our eyes and improve our overall vision.
5. Crying can help protect your eyes
Every day we expose ourselves to thousands, if not millions, of particles of dust, dirt, and other debris. These particles are often too small for us to see, however, they can and do make their way into our eyes. This can cause irritation and potentially harm our eyes and in turn, our vision. When we cry, our eyes are actually cleansing themselves which can help to remove these irritants and protect our eyes. In addition, tears contain lysozyme, a powerful anti-bacterial chemical that helps fight infection.
6. Crying can help clean our noses, too
Very few people realize it, but our tear ducts are actually connected to the insides of our nose. This means, when we cry, we get the same benefit of flushing out bacteria and irritants from our noses as we do with our eyes.
7. Crying can strengthen our relationships with others
Yes, crying does make us feel more vulnerable and we often try to avoid crying in front of others at all costs. When we can’t hold it in any longer though, we are often left feeling ashamed or embarrassed. However, crying in front of others shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. When we cry in front of others we are inviting them to see a different side of us. They can see our feelings and emotions in a way that no words can portray. This can create a deeper emotional bond between family, friends, and those around us.
8. Crying has a soothing effect
Crying has a direct, self-soothing effect on us. Self-soothing is when people regulate their own emotions, calm themselves and reduce their own stress. Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax.
9. Aids sleep
A small study in 2015 found that crying can help babies sleep better. Whether crying has the same sleep-enhancing effect on adults is yet to be researched. However, it follows that the calming, mood-enhancing, and pain-relieving effects of crying above may help a person fall asleep more easily. I always sleep better after a good cry. How about you?
When Tears a Problem
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 crying starts to affect daily activities or becomes uncontrollable. Also, 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 and work with a transformational life coach that can assist in helping you identify what is keeping you stuck in patterns that bring you down, and re-imprint new ones to live a more joy filled life.
So, next time you feel your lip begin to quiver and your eyes begin to fill, don’t hold it in! Let it all out and enjoy all of the health benefits those tears have to offer!