Cry it out: 7 surprising health benefits of tears
Babies cry. Yet as we grow older, bursting into tears can be seen as a sign of weakness, something to be ashamed of. Imagine if your tears held a healing power - the body's natural valve to release bottled up emotions, so they don't manifest as pain, fatigue or illnesses. Grab that box of tissues, read on, and enjoy!
The secret is out
"Don't cry like a baby"
"Boys don't cry"
"Don't be so emotional"
These are just some of the words that condemn tears.
Many of us were told to hold back our tears in the belief that crying is a sign of weakness. In fact, having a good ol' fashioned sobfest might be just what the doctor ordered to release stress, sadness, grief, anxiety and frustration.
The Japanese have understood the benefits of crying on our mental health. Some cities host "crying clubs" (called rui-katsu, meaning "tear-seeking") in an attempt to create a safe space to shred tears and release stress. So let's look at why crying is good for you.
The 9 health benefits of shredding tears
We all had a good cry - whether it was triggered by a movie, a frustration at work, or the end of a relationship. But lately, I surprised myself when the tears started rolling down my cheeks for no good reasons whatsoever - until I realised that it was my body's way of healing bottled up emotions that were triggering my chronic pain and autoimmune disorder. The result? The next morning, my inflammation was gone. Is that simple.
1. Detoxify me
Tears have a detoxifying effect: clearing our eyes from dust and protecting them from infection. Emotional tears are also believed to get rid of the chemicals that raise cortisol, the stress hormone. When you cry, you're effectively flushing out toxins from your body!
2. Soothing tears
Tears activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can help us relax and bring our body back into balance (that's called homoeostasis). No need to "stuff your feeling", have a good cry instead to regulate emotions and release emotional trauma.
3. Pain be gone
Crying releases oxytocin and endorphins. These feel-good hormones can help ease both physical and emotional pain, bringing you a sense of calm and well-being. Next time you have a tension headache, reach out for the tissue box rather than the pain killers.
4. Lift my spirit
Forget about anti-depressants, a good sobbing might be all you need to improve your mood. Unless you're suffering from severe anxiety or mood disorder, you may be well on your way to experience the positive effects of crying.
5. Rally support
Babies cry to let us know they need our care and comforting touch. In the same way, shredding tears as adults can be a way to alert others that we are in need of a little love, and support when things get tough. Tears can also open up the dialogue in a relationship.
6. Help me grief
If you're grieving, you may experience sorrow, numbness, guilt, and anger. Crying can help you process the loss of a loved one, or even the frustrations you may have with your body when healing from an injury or illness. Grieving is a process and so is healing.
7. Help me sleep
A small study shows that crying help babies fall asleep and reduce sleep disruptions through the night. Although more research is needed for adults, you may have already experienced the calming effect of an evening sobbing.
How much crying is too much?
It’s OK to cry. And, as we've just seen it may even be beneficial to you. If you feel the need to cry, don’t hold back. Tears are a normal, healthy way to express emotions. However, excessive crying can be an alarm bell that it's time to seek help.
The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. If crying starts to interfere with your everyday activities, it may be a sign of depression and you should talk to your doctor. You can read more about signs and symptoms of depression or call a helpline near you.
See the list of US-based hotlines
See the list of Australian-based hotlines
Cry it out: free yourself from negative emotions and transform your health and your life!