‘Maybe crying is a means of cleaning yourself out emotionally. Or maybe it’s your last resort; the only way to express yourself when words fail, the same as when you were a baby and had no words’ – Aristotle
Crying is a natural response for us humans. We do it in response to sadness, grief, loneliness, frustration, anger, pain, empathy and happiness. We might also cry because we’ve got something in our eye and the tears help to remove it. There are actually three types of tears: basal which are the tears constantly produced by the tear ducts and which keep our eyes moist and healthy; reflex which, as the name suggests, are the tears caused by something such as smoke, an irritant in the eye, or when peeling and chopping onions; and emotional which are the tears we shed in response to an event or feeling. Interestingly, whilst animals have basal and reflex tears, humans are the only animals to produce emotional tears!
‘Uncried tears have a way of filling the well of sadness even more deeply’ – Robert J Grover
Many people try to suppress their tears as they see it as a sign of weakness but they could be missing out on a whole range of benefits by doing so. It’s been proven that suppressing your tears can lead to irritability, sleep issues and anxiety in the short term, and high blood pressure and heart problems in the longer term. Learning to let go and express our emotions could be the thing we need to not only make us feel better emotionally, but also improve our health.
Researchers have discovered that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins, the feel good chemicals. It might seem strange but the link to these chemicals shows that crying actually helps to ease both physical and emotional pain. When we cry we activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps us to relax and self-soothe ourselves, by reducing our distress and regulating our emotions. Some cities in Japan believe in the benefits of crying to such an extent that they now have crying clubs called rui-katsu (which literally means tear seeking) where people come together and cry. The idea being that this releases stress, tension and anxiety and is a really good thing to do to stay mentally healthy.
So crying relieves stress. We know that chronic stress causes all sorts of health problems including increasing the risk of heart attack and migraines, adding to digestive problems and damaging parts of the brain. Crying also reduces blood pressure by letting go of those feelings inside. High blood pressure is linked to heart attacks, stroke, and dementia amongst other things. On top of these things, crying also removes toxins from the body and reduces levels of manganese, high levels of which is linked to anxiety, irritability and aggression.
I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying – Charlie Chaplin
Whilst some of us feel ashamed or embarrassed about crying and might try to hide it, it’s a perfectly normal human function as we’ve seen. Hiding it is not only unnecessary, but can also make us feel even more upset or emotional as it makes us feel alone, as if no-one else in the world could possibly understand us or what we are going through. In reality, expressing our emotions by crying can bring us the comfort we need and even help others by showing that raw emotion is normal. Of course, excessive crying can also be a sign of depression so if you are crying for no reason or it is happening frequently and uncontrollably or affecting your ability to do normal everyday things, please seek help.
‘I’m not crying, I’m ordering dinner’ – babies everywhere!
Babies, of course, cry because they don’t have the words to express their needs and emotions. They might be hungry, tired, too hot or cold, wet or dirty, in pain, need a cuddle or for no reason at all. Whilst most of those things can and should be dealt with as soon as possible, various studies have shown that babies actually sleep better after a period of crying. It might not be easy, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but there is a chance it might actually help baby to develop good sleeping habits.
So if you feel like you need a good cry, just do it! Let it all out and you’ll almost certainly feel better afterwards. For your tiny tweak this week, just remember that crying is good for you and there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. But if you don’t feel the need for a cry, then why not channel that inner child and express what you need more openly without worrying about what others might think of you? Try it, you might be surprised at the results!
Until next time xx
If you enjoyed this post, please like it and let me know in the comments. Do you like a good cry? Does it help? Or are you someone who keeps it all in? Let me know in the comments, I love to hear your feedback!