Is Crying Healthy?

Client: please teach me how not to cry.
Me: what would happen if you did?
Him: it’s not acceptable. 

Crying is a natural response humans have to a range of emotions, including sadness, grief, joy, anger, and frustration. It is not unusual to cry, and both sexes cry more than many people may assume. In the United States, women reportedly cry an average of 3.5 times per month and men cry an average of 1.9 times a month. This is likely to be under reported. According to neuropsychology, there are a number of benefits to being able to shed tears.

It can have a soothing effect
Self-soothing is when people regulate their own emotions, calm themselves, and learn to reduce their own distress. A 2014 study found that crying may have a direct, self-soothing effect- crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which helps people relax. Crying doesn’t only happen in response to something sad. Sometimes people cry when they are moved, happy, scared, angry, or stressed. It may help to restore emotional homeostasis- your body’s way to recover from experiencing strong emotion.

It helps ameliorate pain
Crying for long periods of time actually releases oxytocin and endorphins. These natural feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain. Oxytocin can give you a sense of calm or well-being. It’s another example of how crying is a self-soothing action.

It may help people receive support from others
As well as helping people self-soothe, crying can help people get support from others around them. When I was an undergraduate, I did developmental psychology research at a pediatric ward, observing the behaviors of premature babies. The actual crying of the babies elicited a caring and attachment based response in most caregivers. 

Enhances mood
Crying may help lift people’s spirits and make them feel better. As well as relieving pain, oxytocin and endorphins can help improve mood. This is why they are often known as “feel good” chemicals.

Releases toxins and relieves stress
When humans cry in response to stress, their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals. Research indicates that crying could reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, such as cortisol, which could, in turn, reduce stress.

Crying aids sleep
A preliminary study in 2015 found that crying can help babies sleep better. Whether crying has the same sleep-enhancing effect on adults is yet to be comprehensively researched. There might be something to the old adage of crying yourself to sleep. 

Fights bacteria
Crying helps to kill bacteria and keep the eyes clean as tears contain a fluid called lysozyme, that is a natural cleanser. A 2011 study found that lysozyme in tears has significant antimicrobial properties.

Improves vision
Basal tears, which are released every time a person blinks, help to keep the eyes moist and prevent mucous membranes from drying out. The lubricating effect of basal tears helps people to see more clearly. When the membranes dry out, vision can become blurry. Crying actually helps with clarity. 

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