Is Crying Good For You?
Crying is unique to humans. Despite being a trait that sets people apart evolutionarily from other animals, society still stigmatizes crying (particularly by gender). By and large, it's frowned upon to cry in most situations.
Ever been told to "stop crying" when you were an adolescent? Part of crying's stigma comes from its association with children and the assumption of weakness (read; femininity). TLDR; crying is stigmatized when it really should be normalized. Why? Sometimes, crying can be good for you.
While there should be balance (if you're crying every waking moment for weeks you should seek professional help) humans aren't meant to be emotional stoppers. Bottling up emotions, stress, anger and anxiety leads to disruptions in cortisol, lowered immune system functions and at times chronic illness. Goes without saying that in addition to your soul, cortisol and hormonal imbalances are destructive to the skin.
One proof point we have on crying being helpful is a study that found emotional crying to be chemically different than onion crying. According to studies conducted in the 80's, the tears in emotional crying contained certain molecules that were not present in non-emotional tears. The long and short of it is crying appears to be an evolutionary tool that can help with coping, healing and human connection.
Here are a few reasons you should cry if you haven't in a while;
It may help destress you (in the long run)
A study from 2008 published in the Association for Psychological Science found that "criers do show calming effects such as slower breathing, but they also experience a lot of unpleasant stress and arousal, including increased heart rate and sweating. What is interesting is that bodily calming usually lasts longer than the unpleasant arousal. The calming effects may occur later and overcome the stress reaction, which would account for why people tend to remember mostly the pleasant side of crying."
So while the actual crying bit may be stressful or overwhelming, the soothing and calming effects tend to outweigh it.
Releases toxins your body produces in response to stress
Crying according to research by Dr. William H. Frey, a key researcher in the role of crying in humans and other studies found that crying reduces the body's manganese levels. Manganese impacts mood and is found in high concentrations in tears. When you have too much manganese in your system, it’s been associated with anxiety, irritability and aggression. Crying has also been shown to remove cortisol buildups helping you manage stress and emotions better. While cortisol wreaks havoc on many parts of your body, increased cortisol over time has been shown to be detrimental to collagen levels and healing times.
Crying can boost oxytocin
In 2014 this study found that crying not only helps you self-soothe by putting it in a more calm state (activates the parasympathetic nervous system), but some forms of crying can release oxytocin.
It can strengthen relationships
Dr. Oren Hasson, an evolutionary biologist from Tel Aviv, found in research that tears have emotional benefits “helping make “interpersonal relationships stronger.” While crying in a group may not be as beneficial, crying with someone you trust can deepen connections and feelings of closeness.
So the next time you're happy or sad and feel like crying, don't bottle it in. Drop that coffee and you're upset about it? Cry. Someone do something incredibly kind for you and you're overwhelmed? Let it out. Crying can lead to vulnerability and connection and should be normalized.
Psychologists at Yale theorized that crying is a way for our bodies to find equilibrium. That being said, if crying is accompanied with feelings of hopelessness, prolonged irritability, changes in appetite, lack of energy, sleep disruption and other negative symptoms, call local emergency services.
Humans have evolved to be able to cry. It's a healthy way to express emotion. Think of it like a detox that's free and actually works.