If you tend to benefits of crying as a symbol of failing, you power have a hard time believing that it can be good for you. However, crying is linked to physical benefits that control both body and mind. Here are seven of the most interesting and significant reasons why you shouldn’t try to fight your tears the next time you’re overcome by emotion.
1. Crying reduces stress
A leading biochemist at the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre in Minnesota conducted a fascinating study revealing that the tears cried during times of emotional distress are chemically different from those that are part of a physiological reflex. So, when you’re sobbing over a breakup, you’re actually producing something importantly different from the tears that stream in response to cutting a pungent onion. Specifically, crying due to sadness helps to gets rid of stress-related chemicals like an adrenocorticotropic hormone, leading you to feel less tense and upset as a result. These findings are supported by the fact that people demonstrate a slower respiration rate and heart rate after crying-clear signs of a reduction in physiological stress.
2. Crying can deepen intimacy
While it can be daunting to show the depth of your sorrow to another person, it also provides a valuable opportunity to deepen your bond. Research shows that most people respond to the sight of another person crying by experiencing empathy and wanting to help alleviate the apparent distress. So, if you tend to present an upbeat, unflappable exterior to a friend, you’re almost guaranteed to feel closer (and encourage more compassionate behavior) if you allow yourself to cry in front of her when you’re struggling with a loss.
Meanwhile, crying with your partner for the first time can be a landmark moment that heralds the onset of a new depth of emotional intimacy. Further, if you discover that a friend or partner can’t handle your honest expression of emotion, this gives you an important warning sign that they might not be adequately supported in the long-term.
3. Crying may lower your risk of certain illnesses
As mentioned above, your tears help to get rid of adrenocorticotropic hormone, and it turns out that this can impact on more than just how stressed you feel at the time of crying. Left to build up in your system, adrenocorticotropic hormone triggers excessive cortisol production, which is in turn associated with everything from heart disease to weight gain and mental health issues like depression. So, if you’re willing to let yourself cry when life gets hard, you could even be lengthening your lifespan.
4. Crying promotes endorphin production
You probably know about the link between endorphins and exercise, and have some awareness of how these “feel-good” chemicals lead to a boost in mood. However, what’s more, surprising is that some studies also show a link between crying and increased endorphin production. As well as helping you to feel better, endorphins are often described as a natural painkiller.
This means that crying may soothe some of the common aches and pains associated with emotional distress (e.g. stiff shoulders and tension headaches). Further, endorphins have a slightly sedating effect, which might partially explain why many people find it easier to fall into a restful sleep after crying.
5. Tears can combat pathogens
Your tears contain antiseptic proteins called lysozymes, which are both antibacterial and antiviral. In fact, these proteins can get rid of up to 95% of bacteria after less than 10 minutes of exposure. So, although you’re unlikely to be thinking about conjunctivitis when you’re crying, a handy side benefit of all that catharsis is a potentially reduced risk of eye infections.
6. Tears improve your vision
If you’ve ever felt the irritation and discomfort associated with dry eyes, you probably know just how important it is for the eyes to be continuously lubricated. While crying for hours might leave your eyes stingy and puffy, your tears can also naturally improve vision that was previously dulled by dryness.
7. Crying facilitates emotional confrontation
If you’re dealing with something difficult, allowing yourself to cry encourages you to face the full force of your painful emotions. While this can be agonizing at the time, it is better for your mental health in the long-term than repressing your emotions (which stops you from processing feelings in the way required to move on). Researchers at the University of Florida recently suggested that crying may be particularly helpful for people who struggle to describe their emotions in words-it’s a pure outpouring of feeling that doesn’t require an impressive vocabulary. Meanwhile, facing your feelings in this way can also facilitate self-knowledge that leads to greater ease in expressing other significant emotions in the future.
A cautionary note
Finally, while crying is undoubtedly linked to better psychological well-being and some impressive health benefits in the majority of cases, crying all the time is a different matter. If you’re fighting tears multiple times a day, this could be a sign that you are suffering from a mood disorder. And if your tears are related to depression or posttraumatic stress disorder, you are likely not experiencing many of the emotional benefits of crying discussed above. In such a case, it’s wise to visit your doctor and discuss solutions. Be sure to mention any other troubling symptoms as well, such as lethargy, apathy, anxiety, or reduced interest in socializing.