We’ve all tried to stop ourselves from crying, at one time or the other. We’ve gotten embarrassed by an outburst and tried to control ourselves, especially when we’re among other people. But why are we so ashamed of crying? Why are we always trying to get it “under control”? We forget that we are humans and that crying is a natural activity. But is it possible that crying could be a good thing for us?
How Does Crying Work?
We, humans, have three types of tears – basal, reflex, and emotional. Basal tears are always present in our eyes – they lubricate and protect our cornea. Reflex tears are what flush our eyes of harmful irritants like smoke, dust, or onion fumes. And emotional tears are a response to emotions like joy, sadness, or fear.
All tears are produced by the lacrimal glands located above each eye. When you blink, basal tears lubricate your eyes to protect them. Without your noticing, tears flow into the puncta of the eye — the tiny holes on the corners of your upper and lower eyelids — and then ebb into the nasolacrimal ducts in the nose. Reflexive and emotional crying is more overwhelming as it’s difficult to control by your drain system. The puncta are only about the size of a grain of rice. That’s why tears overflow and drip down your face.
How Is Crying Good For Our Health?
Current research shows that there are proteins and hormones present in emotional tears. Further research also found that crying can benefit both our body and mind, and these benefits begin at birth with a baby’s first cry.
1. Soothes Us
A 2014 study found that crying may have a direct, self-soothing effect on us. It helps us regulate our emotions, calm ourselves after releasing pent-up feelings, and reduce distress. Furthermore, it activates our parasympathetic nervous system, slows our breathing and heart rate, and relieves us. By releasing overwhelming emotions through crying, we restore ourselves back to our normal balanced state.
2. Boosts Mood
Emotional tears contain stress hormones as well as Manganese, which is associated with anxiety, irritability, and nervousness. So, when we cry, we release this tension and feel better. Trying to hold back tears because we feel shameful of our need to cry just increases the tension and represses our emotions, which can lead to poor immunity, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
3. Connects Us With Others
Yes, crying in front of other people is uncomfortable and some find it embarrassing. However, crying helps explain why you’re feeling a certain way and what you’re going through. It allows people to understand your condition and react in a way that could help you. This builds a strong social connection with others and also increases empathy, closeness, and support.
4. Helps Us Cope With Grief
Everybody experiences grief and crying is a natural response as it allows us to process the experience more fully. It helps us accept the loss that we’re facing. We go through different grieving processes in different ways. But if you feel your crying is uncontrollable and starting to interfere with your life, it might be a good idea to check in with a professional.
5. Restores Emotional Balance
Crying doesn’t only happen when we’re feeling sad. It also happens when we’re happy, scared, or stressed. Researchers at Yale University believe that crying to express emotions can help us restore our emotional equilibrium. It may be our body’s way to recover from feeling a strong emotion and we should let it flow naturally.
It’s completely OK to cry. It could also be very beneficial for you. Tears are normal, and a healthy way to express ourselves. So, don’t shy away from shedding tears if you need to release them. However, if your crying bouts are interfering with your daily life, it may be a sign of something deeper and you should consult a professional then.