Wednesday, June 27, 2018

When Crying Feels Good -- 5 Benefits To Tears


I once heard someone say crying is like a celebration of that which you've lost. That was such an amazing revelation to me. That's often exactly how I feel. Like I'm enjoying a piece of history.  Emotions are not as cut and dry as we'd like to think.  Life is fluid why should we expect our emotions to be static as if they are box in neat little packages.  Reality is our lives and our emotions are dynamic and integrated with each other.  We can be happy and cry, sad and laugh, or even bemused and angry, all at the same time.  Embracing this dichotomy is healthy.

Have you ever tried to avoid crying, holding it all back, distracting yourself to keep the tears in, only to feel an immense release once you allowed yourself the freedom to let it all out?   I know I have. In fact, I find from time to time I need a good cry. It's like a cathartic release of stress, grief, anxiety, and in that moment I actually feel good.

Did you know there are benefits to crying.  Here are five:1
  • Part of healthy grieving
  • Helps with emotional balance
  • Restores body balance
  • Improves mood
  • It can dull pain
Crying is part of a healthy grieving process.  I already mentioned it's like a celebration of what you've lost.  That loss can be a person, job, dream, or even goal.  It can be part of life transitions for example your child who is now all grown up. These can be happy celebrations or real struggles. Granted we don't have to cry to grieve, each person has their own unique ways of dealing with loss, but often tears are a catharsis that is beneficial.

"'Crying activates the body in a healthy way,' says Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics. 'Letting down one's guard and one's defenses and [crying] is a very positive, healthy thing. The same thing happens when you watch a movie and it touches you and you cry... That process of opening into yourself... it's like a lock and key'... Stress 'tightens muscles and heightens tension, so when you cry you release some of that,' Sideroff says. '[Crying] activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance.'"2

Not only can crying work with the parasympathetic nervous system, but it can also trigger endorphins like oxytocin and opioids.  These chemicals produce a reaction in the body to produce a sense of calm and ease pain.1   This ability to dull pain might explain why children or even adults cry when injured.  Here you thought it was just to get sympathy.

So, the next time you feel a dampness around your eyes, don't hold back.  It's not only ok to express yourself, but it's healthy!

Next week we'll look at gratitude and the benefits of being thankful.

Sources:

1. “9 Benefits of Crying.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-crying. 

2. Govender, Serusha. “Is Crying Good for You?” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-crying-good-for-you#1.

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