When we think of crying, we often associate it with sadness, grief, or pain. Crying is often seen as a negative emotion, and many people try to suppress it or hide it from others. However, the act of crying is much more complex than we may realize, and it has many surprising benefits that can improve our physical and mental health. Today we will explore the science behind crying, the many health benefits of crying, and how we can allow ourselves to cry more freely.
Why Do We Cry?
First, let’s take a closer look at why we cry. Tears are not all the same. In fact, there are three types of tears: basal, reflex, and emotional. Basal tears are constantly present in our eyes to keep them lubricated and prevent infection. Reflex tears are produced in response to an irritant, such as when we chop onions or get something in our eye. Emotional tears are the tears we shed when we are feeling strong emotions such as happiness, sadness, or anger.
The reason we cry emotionally is more complex than just a response to a particular feeling. Research has shown that emotional tears contain more protein and other substances than basal or reflex tears. Emotional crying is thought to be a way for our bodies to release excess stress hormones and toxins that build up in our bodies due to prolonged stress or emotional tension. In other words, crying can be a form of emotional release and a way for our bodies to cleanse themselves.
Health Benefits of Crying
Now that we understand why we cry, let’s explore the many health benefits of crying. When we cry, we are not only releasing toxins from our bodies, but we are also providing ourselves with emotional and physical relief. Here are some of the many benefits of crying:
- Lubrication for eyes: Tears help to keep our eyes lubricated and prevent them from drying out.
- Relief from stress and tension: When we cry, we release tension and stress from our bodies, which can reduce the risk of physical health problems such as headaches and high blood pressure.
- Removal of toxins: Emotional tears contain more toxic byproducts than other types of tears, so crying can help to cleanse our bodies and reduce the risk of illness.
- Improved mood: Crying can release endorphins, the feel-good hormones that improve our mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Emotional release: When we cry, we are able to express our emotions and release pent-up feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration.
- Reduction in anxiety and depression: Crying can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression by releasing tension and stress from our bodies.
- Stress relief: Crying can help to reduce feelings of stress by releasing tension from our bodies and allowing us to relax.
Societal Stigma Surrounding Crying
Despite the many health benefits of crying, our society often stigmatizes emotional expression. From a young age, many people are taught that crying is a sign of weakness or that it is not appropriate to cry in certain situations. This can have a profound impact on our mental health and emotional well-being. When we suppress our emotions and try to hide our feelings, we may experience increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The cultural significance of crying also varies widely across different cultures and genders. For example, some cultures may view crying as a sign of strength, while others view it as a sign of weakness. Similarly, there is often a double standard when it comes to gender and crying, with women being more likely to be judged harshly for crying than men.
How to Allow Yourself to Cry
If you have been taught to suppress your emotions or feel ashamed of crying, it can be challenging to allow yourself to cry freely. Here are some strategies that can help:
Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness and meditation can help us to become more aware of our emotions and physical sensations. By practicing mindfulness, we can learn to identify when we are feeling emotional and give ourselves permission to cry.
Journaling: Journaling can be a powerful tool for emotional expression. Writing down our thoughts and feelings can help us to process our emotions and release pent-up feelings. It can also be a way to identify patterns or triggers that may be causing us to feel emotional.
Talking to a therapist: Talking to a therapist can provide us with a safe and supportive space to express our emotions. A therapist can help us to identify and address the underlying causes of our emotions and provide us with tools to manage them.
Encouraging a culture of emotional expression
It’s important to encourage a culture of emotional expression, where people feel comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of judgment or stigma. This can start with simple actions, such as asking someone how they are feeling or validating their emotions when they do express them. We can also challenge societal norms and stereotypes around emotional expression by sharing our own experiences and encouraging others to do the same.