Ever since I was little, I have always been told crying is good for you. I vividly remember the first time I heard this, a feeling of distraught came across me. Why would something associated with something so sad be good? Is it actually true? This didn’t make any sense to me, and hasn’t for years, so I decided to look more into it.
To clarify, there are actually three types of tears: reflexive, continuous, and emotional. While reflexive and continuous tears are used to help keep your eyes clean physically, emotional tears are patently due to a reaction from your emotions (psych today). In this blog, I will therefore discuss the effects of emotional tears.
Structurally, tears contain chemicals and toxins. Therefore, when we cry emotional tears, feel-good chemicals get released (Gilbertson 2014). For example, it has been found that out of the three types of tears, emotional comprise of the highest level of stress hormones (Govender). Thus, when we cry, we release some of this stress. These types of tears also contain the most manganese (Govender). Manganese affects mood, so when we cry our body reduces its manganese level, and thus our mood is improved (Sollitto).
Another reason crying is good for you is because it helps you emotionally internally. Tears do this by exposing your true emotion, and allow you to actually deal with said emotion. According to an occupational health psychologist, Professor Gail Kinman, this is due to the Freudian theory. This theory implies that it’s more advantageous to let your feelings out, opposed to bottling them up, because if you bottle them up for too long, you will not only likely to be psychologically negatively affected, but physically affected too. (Mann 2011).
In a recent observational study, this theory was supported. In this study, participants were shown a sad movie, and whether people cried or did not cry was noted. The study shows the progression of the participants moods after different time increments. Immediately after the movie, the non-criers felt the same as they did before the movie, while the criers felt worse. Then, after 20 minutes, the criers felt as they did before they watched the movie, and after 90 minutes, the criers even rated their mood higher than the non-criers did by this time. (Levine 2015). Here it is clear that crying has the ability to improve one’s mood. William H. Frey, a biochemist conducted a similar experiment where he also made participants cry by showing sad movies and found the same result; crying made the participants feel better (Levine 2015). Frey concluded that this happens because crying releases the chemicals: prolactin, adrenocortiotrpoic, and leucine enkephalin which are the chemicals that produce stress while watching said movie (Mann 2011).
Although these studies and observations support the phenomenon that crying is in fact good for you, there are restrictions and exceptions. First of all, to actually improve your mood from crying, you must cry after you’ve solved or fixed the reason as to why you are crying. This is due to the fact that if you cry before the reason is fixed, there is no benefit to the crying. Another exception is that crying will most likely not improve your mood and/or health if you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety and/or depression (Thompson 2010).
In conclusion, it is evident that crying does in fact improve your mood, so it therefore is good for you. Although this is true, we have to remember it is not true all of the time, and that if there are more serious conditions, greater action needs to be placed instead of relying on a good cry to fix everything.