In need of a good cry? Research shows you're in luck, because crying is actually good for your health. That's right! I know there are a lot of negative associations with crying in our culture: People who cry are often seen as weak, immature, or childish, especially when they're in a stressful or leadership-based situation. Now, not all settings are appropriate to open up your tear ducts, but in general, I think crying is a good and healthy part of dealing with your emotions. There's a lot of science behind why we cry, and recently, more and more studies have been exploring the positive effects crying has on us, in both emotional and physical capacities. In fact, a lot happens in our bodies when we cry, and while crying can have negative impacts (if you're already depressed, for example, crying is likely to make you feel worse), it also comes with a lot of positives.
So, who cries the most, and why? According to a study released by Cosmo in 2010, it appears that 75 percent of women cry once a month, with a third of women crying once a week. Additionally, a study released from the German Society of Ophthalmology found that women cry between 30 and 64 times per year — a range that's significantly higher than the number men reported, which is between six and 17 times per year. Gender norms typically dictate that boys don't cry, which ends up sending a harmful message to men that they can't express their emotions fully. In reverse, it sends the message to women that their tears are dramatic or an overreaction.
So, what are the actual benefits to crying? How does it help our health? Check out some key points below:
1. Crying Can Improve Your Mood
I know this one seems counterintuitive, but studies show that crying can actually improve your mood! In a study where participants were shown sad movies, researchers monitored who cried in response to the films and who didn't. Those who cried, unsurprisingly, initially felt worse, and those who had more stoic or neutral reactions felt about the same. However, 90 minutes after the film ended, researchers checked back in and apparently, those who cried during the film felt better than they did before the movie even started. Those who had stoic reactions still had the same level of happiness they'd had consistently.
2. Crying Helps Relieve Stress
Interestingly, crying causes a physical stress relieve, as well as an emotional one. When we cry, tears literally remove some of the chemicals built up during our body from our stress. That said, if you suppress your tears, it can increase your stress levels and contribute to high blood pressure, ulcers, and heart problems. So for the good of your health, cry it out!
3. Crying Can Help You Connect With Others
I know the cliche "misery loves company" is generally not a good thing; however, crying can actually make you feel closer to those around you. If you're experiencing a shared loss or pain, being vulnerable with your emotions can help you feel more connected to the other people in your shoes. If your experience is individual, putting your heart on your sleeve is still a good thing, because it lets people see into your world, which shows your complexity and depth. While putting on a brave face is sometimes necessary, and not all situations are appropriate for a cry-fest, there is no shame in sharing your pain through your tears. Sometimes, all you need is a good hug.
4. Crying Can Clue You Into Your Own Emotions
You know that sudden feeling where your chest gets tight, there's a lump in your throat, and all of a sudden you're weeping, seemingly out of nowhere? The truth is, it's probably not out of nowhere. Crying is a signal you need to address something. It's not a sign of weakness or immaturity, but a signal to yourself that whatever has been taking up space in your heart and mind is indeed still bothering you in a significant way. Denial seems like an easy route, but ultimately pain only builds, and it's important to deal with it as it comes. If you find yourself breaking into tears over something that normally wouldn't upset you (like Trader Joe's having no ripe avocados, for instance, or your local salon closing a few minutes before you arrive), it might be time to sit down with yourself and see what's really on your mind.
5. Crying Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
Sometimes when you're really upset, you're in that hybrid place between extreme anger and extreme hurt, and you end up crying your eyes out. And science says, that's actually good for you! Studies show that for patients who experienced rage and anger during therapy sessions, for example, that their blood pressure was lowered if they cried immediately after their appointment. Often, I think crying can have the connotation of being "weak" whereas anger can signal being "strong," but I don't think that's the case. If you're angry, feel angry! If you find yourself crying through your anger, or realize your anger is turning into sadness or grief, don't push it away. It's important to work through the spectrum of emotions, whatever they end up being.
Personally, I think people should express their emotions in the most healthy way they feel comfortable. Some people become embarrassed when crying in front of others, or experience a lot of anxiety about the notion of shedding tears, period. I think it's important not to press people too hard to express emotions in the way that we personally want them to. After all, as we know, society dictates many of our expectations of one another through gender norms, which mess with our perceptions and expectations of others. However, I do think crying has many physical and emotional benefits to our health, in spite of the negative reputation it often has.