We spend so much of our lives pursuing happiness and avoiding sadness. We are always looking for joy and for things that bring it to us, and we probably shudder at the thought of letting negative emotions show, particularly to others. While some people may think that tears are embarrassing or a sign of weakness, we’re here to tell you that crying is actually very powerful and very beneficial to health.
Who would have thought, right?
Before we get down to the myriad benefits of crying, let’s take a look at the type of tears we’re shedding and what causes them. Though they may all look the same, there are actually three different types of tears: basal tears, reflex tears and emotional tears. And each type of tears has a different cause and serves its own purpose.
Basal tears are a protein-rich liquid that are secreted from your tear ducts in order to ensure that your eyeballs are properly lubricated. These tears are essential for protecting your eyes against dirt and other irritants, and these are probably the tears you’d be least embarrassed about. Reflex tears are a little less common but no less normal. You’ll shed reflex tears when you need to fight off occasional irritants like onions, smoke or allergens. These tears actually wash out the irritants from your eyes and purify them of bacteria and other harmful materials. And, finally, you’ve got good, old emotional tears. These tears are triggered by any emotional stimuli, whether positive or negative. Though they might seem inconvenient or uncomfortable, these tears are also important and do serve a purpose.
If you’re even a little bit emotional, it’s likely you’ve had someone in your life tell you to learn to control your emotions. While it is definitely important to not erupt with rage every time something bothers you, it’s just as important to feel your feelings sometimes. Crying helps us learn and become more introspective. It also releases a lot of other negative feelings (so not just sadness) like anger, frustration, stress, fear or anxiety.
When you cry as a result of fear, stress or anxiety, shedding those tears can actually help to calm you and turn off the cortisol-spiking fight or flight mode you may be in. Once the stressful situation has resolved and you burst into tears, the experience of crying can actually help to restore a sense of calm to your body and your mind. It will release all the stored energy and get you back to a more neutral place.
It may sound counterintuitive, but crying can also help to boost your mood. After letting it all out during an intense crying session, you’ll be much more able to handle whatever comes at you that day. Crying is a form of self-soothing, so your body will thank you with a better mood once you’ve finished. Turns out being a crybaby is actually a pretty good thing.
And, lastly, crying can also be helpful for letting others know that you need a little bit of care and attention. When we cry in front of others – whether we want or intend to or not – it alerts them to the fact that you need help, connection or support. If you cry in front of loving, compassionate people, it’s very cathartic, and they will be able to support you in the way you need. And if they happen to be tears of joy and not sadness? Well, that’s also a great way to bond. Crying happy tears in the presence of someone else boosts social connection.
So, no matter the reason, we encourage you to let it out. Crying is normal. Crying is healthy! Now, tell us. When’s the last time you cried?