Go on and have yourself a good cry

By Juliet O

The next time you find yourself heartsick and glum, please do yourself a favor and have a good cry. Your friends might tell you that he or she isn’t worth wasting tears over, but you’d probably yourself more harm to keep the tears in rather than just to let them out.

Crying may indicate, on the emotional level, that something is wrong. But did you know that the act of crying can actually be good for both your physical and emotional health? Conventional wisdom has stated for years that crying can be good for you, and recently, scientific research has also come to support that claim.

Human beings are the only living creatures who actually weep. While weeping is uncommon among the living species, the act of shedding tears is universal when it comes to the human experience. No person on Earth has not, at some point in their lives, cried. Babies are born crying and, from the time we’re born, we cry throughout our lives for a variety of reasons. We often find ourselves crying because of grief, pain, loss, stress. We cry at movies when something sad or sentimental happens on the big screen. Songs, books, and even newspaper articles can make people cry. That we can cry at not only our own sorrows but the sorrows of other people as well shows something quite amazing about the human ability to empathize and feel for our fellow creatures.

While tears are often associated with a feeling of sadness, we also cry out of happiness, pride, relief, and elation too. Looking back at some of the happiest and proudest moments of your life, did you feel your eyes dampen with emotion and that tight constricted feeling in your chest that indicates a wave of tears? I have definitely cried out of happiness, and it felt wonderful. In our lives there aren’t many things that happen that make us so joyous that we cry, so those moments and those tears seem extra special.

These aforementioned examples show how crying is emotionally good for you. Tears are a good indicator that your emotions are working and that you even have emotions in the first place. So how, you might wonder, is crying so good for our physical health as well?

Crying is scientifically proven to be good for your body because it releases stress hormones from the bloodstream. Prior to crying, your body’s levels of stress hormones is at a peak. We often cry because our bodies can’t physically handle all those stress hormones pumping through its system.

This is why we usually feel a pervasive sense of relief — what they call the calm after the storm — after a bout of tears. Compared to the heightened emotions that lead to tears, that relief feels soothing and wonderful. There is a scientific explanation for this. When we cry, we actually release stress hormones. Those hormones are regarded as toxic and bad for the body — high numbers of them can even cause brain and cellular damage — and when we cry, our tears contain large amounts of those hormones. In effect, we’re washing those hormones out of our bodies via our tear ducts. As more and more stress hormones get released, the calmer we feel: hence, that wonderful feeling of quietude one experiences after a good long cry.

I think we should promote a National Cry Day! With all the tax payer dollars spent on public health issues, particularly because of the high incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure (that scientists and doctors know are aggravated by things like stress and distress), don’t you think that a National Cry Day might be good for not just our bodies and our souls, but also society as a whole? Rather than telling yourself to keep a stiff upper lip, let yourself release the toxic and negative stress from your body and your mind.

photo credit: laradana