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Some people need a good cry now and then. But guess what? Science says so, too! The scientific benefits of crying show it may improve your health and well-being.
A good cry because of sadness, low self-esteem, or other emotions can have huge benefits for you physically, mentally and, of course, emotionally.
Learn the science behind these benefits of crying and appreciate it next time you do.
1. Crying Flushes Out Toxins and Bacteria
…you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
The author of the A Series of Unfortunate Events young adult book series might not be the most literary writer that will be mentioned in this article, but his quote is among the most insightful. We feel better after crying, even if the only thing we’re left with is drier eyes.
Why is that? Because of the most obviously scientific benefit of crying, the act gets garbage, like toxins and bacteria, out of your body.
The biochemist and worldwide expert on tears Dr. William Frey discovered that tears formed based on emotions include more toxins, which means that when those tears leave your body you are cleansing yourself of those toxins. Tears fight against bacteria that we might get from communal items or areas as well, so if you cry you’re also less likely to have to waste a sick day at work!
As weird as it may sound, crying may do wonders for your overall health.
2. Crying Relieves You
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Dickens knew a lot about the benefits of crying, even without access to the scientific evidence that we have now. The main reason we are “better after we have cried” is that tears help us manage something called our manganese levels.
An overexposure to manganese often results in terrible feelings such as nervousness, irritability, anxiety, aggression and more kinds of distress. Tears that come from emotion actually lower our levels because they contain a higher albumin protein concentration, which helps transports small molecules through our bodies.
You might not totally understand the biology behind it, but the point is that you tend to feel better when you cry.
We also tend to feel less stressed out after a cry. Scientists say that tears leaving your body when you cry are similar to perspiration leaving you when you exercise. The chemicals that make up stress are directly leaving your body.
Relieving stress is high on a lot of people’s priority lists, the key to accomplishing the things we need to get done, and doing that can sometimes be as simple as shedding a few tears!
The parasympathetic nervous system is the nerve network we have that relaxes the body after stress and danger. When this system is activated, our heart rate and breathing slow down, our blood pressure lowers, and it promotes improved digestion. Basically, our body goes into a deep state of relaxation that can help with recovery.
Crying with deep emotion during stressful times evokes empathy, activates this parasympathetic nervous system, and helps calm us down.
3. It Opens Up Your Vulnerable Side
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.Robert Frost
In this quote famed poet Robert Frost (author of The Road Not Taken) mainly refers to the art of storytelling, but his message also aptly identifies how crying can make you connect more with certain individuals.
That doesn’t mean you should cry on the subway every day after work, but if the circumstances are right it shouldn’t hurt to shed some tears in front of a friend. More often than not, that person will appreciate that you opened up to them in such an honest way.
One of the most difficult aspects of building a friendship is peeling off the layers of someone to reach their core. Crying is often (and mistakenly) seen as a sign of weakness, but making yourself vulnerable demonstrates a real strength of character.
As we’ve mentioned before about happiness, it’s important to get past your pride. Remember, if other people are crying in front of you or you feel embarrassed because you’re weeping in front of someone else, just let the tears flow without regret.
4. Tears Help The Grieving Process
Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.Brian Jacques, Taggerung
As important as it is to get motivated when you feel depressed, the death of a loved one or a major loss of any kind often requires something sometimes referred to as a “wallowing period.”
Everyone needs time to process their feelings, maybe with the help of things like a big tub of ice cream and a favorite movie. Usually, grieving a loss also involves a good, long cry.
For each of the five stages of grief initially proposed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1969 book On Death and Dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), crying is arguably a key component. Each step may involve tears during the road to recovery.
5. It’s Is A Crucial Step To Start Moving Forward
Those who do not weep, do not see.Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
This quote is true symbolically and literally.
On a scientific level, tears make it possible for us to see. That’s literally what they’re there for. Tears lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids and help us prevent dehydration of our mucous membranes.
In the fascinating article “The Miracle of Tears,” author Dr. Jerry Bergman explains that without tears, seeing would be very uncomfortable in the short term and impossible in the long term.
Tears also help us “see” into our futures, opening ourselves to a life beyond what we’re crying about.
By letting go of bad memories and past regrets, we can move on to feeling joy about the present and the future. It’s important to release your emotions instead of bottling them up inside. That enables you to move forward and keep seeking out the success you’ve always wanted.
Crying is often seen as something bad, but releasing your emotions opens you up to something good in the future. Remember the health benefits of crying when you feel waterworks coming down the pipe.
6. Crying Can Aid Sleep
Crying can be calming, enhance one’s mood, and offer pain-relieving effects that help a person fall asleep more easily.
Emotional tears release stress hormones that can help improve our mood. When we cry, our stress levels lower, which can help us sleep better while strengthening our immune system.
Emotional Tears vs. Reflex Tears
Since we are talking about everything related to crying, we need to mention reflex tears and other types we may experience.
In a study published by Emotion, they found that crying facilitates coping and recovery skills during times of stress. Dr. Judith Orloff, the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, said that there are three types of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional.
Dr Orloff goes on to say, “The new enlightened paradigm of what constitutes a powerful man and woman is someone who has the strength and self-awareness to cry,” she continued, “Try to let go of outmoded, untrue conceptions about crying. It is good to cry. It is healthy to cry. This helps to emotionally clear sadness and stress.”
Reflex tears usually result from some kind of external stimuli, like when the cold wind hits you in the face or foreign particles or irritants invade, causing you to tear up. Internal stimuli, including stress and emotion, can also cause reflex tears.
Another category of tears is basal tears, otherwise known as continuous tears. Basal tears are those produced by a low stimulation level of the tear glands. They are often considered basic tears and contain oil, mucus, water, and salt. They are the ones that can help fight off infection. Basal tears can also improve vision and sharpen focus.
Also known as psychic tears, emotional tears are shed in response to a strong or intense emotion. For example, when we feel immense sadness, happiness, or grief.
The chemical makeup of emotional tears is the same as basal tears; however, the biggest difference is that emotional tears contain more stress hormones and can act as a much stronger and natural painkiller when they are shed during bouts of emotional crying.
How Much Crying Is Too Much?
Now that you know many of the benefits of crying, you may wonder when crying becomes too much and is no longer considered healthy or helpful. We can damage our eyes when we cry too much or too little.
If you have too many tears, the inner corner of the eyelid can swell up and become blocked. This means the tears will begin to overflow and produce too much oil.
Emergency tears resulting from dry eyes contain excess mucus and can lead to something known as mucus fishing syndrome. If you have dry eyes and don’t cry enough, you may need to consider purchasing artificial tears.
Pathological crying is considered a neurological condition. It causes uncontrollable tears. If this happens, it is best to consult with your doctor. If you feel you are experiencing a great deal of emotional stress and suicidal thoughts, reach out to your doctor immediately.
Is Crying Good for You?
According to Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA, “Crying activates the body in a healthy way. Letting down one’s guard and defenses 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.”
Yes. Crying is an emotional expression that is good for your mental health and overall well-being. It is self-soothing and releases oxytocin and endorphins—the feel good chemicals we need when we experience physical and emotional pain—and helps with emotional balance.
So, the next time you feel like sitting down and having a good cry, go for it! Don’t hold it in. You will feel much better afterward… and if you feel like you need a good cry now, also read our Sadness Quotes to help you process the emotions that are making you feel down.