9 Surprising Benefits of Crying
Here's why you should try crying it out, according to mental health experts.
Growing up, many people internalize the message that crying is a sign of weakness. They hold their feelings in, no matter how big, consequential, or damaging they may be. Yet mental health experts say that it's important to be able to shed tears, especially in instances of overwhelming emotion. The benefits of a good cry are clear and well-documented, they say, and denying yourself the experience could in fact be causing you harm.
"Tears are nature's paradox—a manifestation of vulnerability and a testament to strength. They help navigate the myriad emotions humans experience and offer physiological benefits that underscore the profound interplay between the body and mind," says Ryan Sultan, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist, therapist, and professor at Columbia University. He adds that embracing the therapeutic act of crying, in the right setting, can pave the way for emotional well-being.
Wondering what you stand to gain by letting your tears flow? Read on to learn the nine surprising benefits of crying, according to mental health experts.
Crying provides an emotional release.
When you feel intense emotions—grief, anger, or even joy—it's natural to want to express those feelings. It's also natural to feel relief from doing so. Tania Paredes, PhD, LCSW, a Miami-based therapist and social worker, says that just as eating comes as a physical relief when you're hungry, crying comes as a physical relief when you're overcome with emotion.
"Crying serves as a natural emotional release for built-up feelings. This release can lead to what's called a cathartic effect, where one feels a sense of relief and cleansing after a good cry," explains Bayu Prihandito, a life coach and the founder of Life Architekture. "It's not just about releasing negative emotions; it's a process of cleansing that makes room for renewed emotional resilience."
It can help you self-soothe.
As infants and young children, we learn to self-soothe when we experience negative emotions. As it turns out, this is an important ability to carry into adulthood.
"Crying can be a self-soothing action," says Sultan, explaining that it stimulates the production and release of endorphins. After crying, people often feel calmer and less emotionally dysregulated.
The psychiatrist adds that beyond the immediate relief of shedding tears, crying can lead to lasting mood enhancement by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). "The PNS helps the body rest and digest, essentially aiding in relaxation and recuperation after a stressful event," he tells Best Life.
Crying can strengthen social bonds.
When you allow others to see you cry, it can serve as a form of communication. "Crying in the presence of others can also create a sense of unity and mutual support. It's a silent language that communicates our vulnerability, and in response, others will often show empathy, understanding, and support," says Prihandito.
This honest show of emotion can ultimately help deepen the bonds between people. "In evolutionary terms, showing vulnerability and receiving support strengthens communal ties and promotes group cohesion," notes Sultan.
It can enhance mental clarity.
When emotions are running high, it can be hard to think clearly. By releasing some of that built-up emotion through crying, "the mind is often less burdened by overwhelming thoughts," explains Prihandito.
"This process allows for clearer, more focused thinking, offering a fresh perspective and renewed energy to tackle life's challenges," he says. "It's a natural mechanism that helps in restoring our emotional balance and helping us to face our challenges with a more calm and clear mind."
It increases self-awareness and problem-solving.
When you feel free to acknowledge and express your emotions, you also feel free to explore them. "Reflecting on the reasons behind one's tears can lead to increased self-awareness, understanding personal triggers and emotions better," says Sultan. "This introspection can further aid in problem-solving, enabling individuals to address the underlying issues that caused the distress."
Paredes agrees that crying acts as a kind of alert system that something is affecting us deeply. "Think of it as a flashing red light that goes off in the brain. We usually begin to question 'Why am I crying?' Then we move to correct or deal with the issue," she says.
Crying helps shed stress hormones.
Not all tears are created equally—emotional tears contain higher levels of stress hormones including adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and Leu-enkephalin, the experts explain. When you cry due to sadness or anger, your body uses tears to help shed these hormones and return to a steadier physiological state.
"Crying, thus, can be seen as a detoxifying process where the body disposes of these chemicals, reducing the body's stress levels," says Sultan.
It makes you more empathetic toward others.
A 2017 study published in the journal CNS Spectrums found another surprising benefit of crying: Those who are able to express their emotions through tears are more empathetic towards others.
The study followed 475 people who reported having lost the ability to cry and compared that group to 179 people with average crying frequency. The non-crying group was less likely to understand and share the feelings of others and were more likely to have an avoidant attachment style, the study concluded.
RELATED: 9 Affirmations to Always Stay Positive.
It improves eye health.
Though many of the benefits of crying are centered on your mental health, experts say that you also stand to improve your ocular health.
"From a physiological standpoint, crying helps to keep our eyes clean by removing irritants," says Niloufar Esmaeilpour, a registered clinical counselor with Lotus Therapy & Counselling Centre. "Tears contain lysozyme, an enzyme that can kill bacteria within minutes, providing protective benefits against potential eye infections."
Crying provides some physical pain relief.
When you cry, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which can help reduce pain sensations, says Harvard Health Publishing.
"Tears of pain contain a different chemical composition and can act as a natural painkiller," corroborates Brandon Santan, PhD, LPC-MHSP, a mental health counselor with Thrivepoint Counseling. "When we cry, our bodies release endorphins, which are natural feel-good chemicals that can help reduce physical and emotional pain. As a result, some people find relief from physical and emotional pain after a good cry."
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- Source: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cns-spectrums/article/abs/social-and-psychological-consequences-of-not-crying-possible-associations-with-psychopathology-and-therapeutic-relevance/03452EA1769227C492DEA75C9FA79923
- Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-crying-good-for-you-2021030122020