Why a good cry can often be cathartic

When was the last time you had a good cry?  Not just a watering-up of your eyes but an actual all-out flood of tears streaming down your face.  If it’s been awhile, just know that crying is considered a natural human response to the wide range of emotions we all experience.  This includes not only the usual crying response to grief, sadness, or frustration, but also to joy, humor, and happiness. 

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Not unexpectedly, women cry on average about 3.5 times per month compared to men who cry an average of 1.9 times a month.  No matter what the situation may be that ignited the tears, whether a heartfelt movie or while chopping an onion, those tears falling from our eyes can help us many surprising ways. 

But, does that mean all crying, in all forms, is automatically a good thing?  Now always.  Anyone who finds themselves crying uncontrollably without good reason or is frequently feeling weepy, needs to discuss these issues with their healthcare provider to address what is causing extreme feelings of sadness possibly indicating depression. 

Why do we cry?

When we talk about tears, there are three types humans produce:

·      Basal – These tears are what keep our eyes lubricated.  Every time we blink, the tear ducts secrete basal tears which are a protein-rich antibacterial liquid helping to keep our eyes moist.

·      Reflex – Every day, our eyes get irritants in them from wind, smoke, or dust.  To flush out these irritants potentially harming our eyes, reflex tears will be secreted.

·      Emotional – These are the tears we are most familiar with and are what most people are referring to when they talk about crying.  As humans, we shed tears in response to a range of emotions – and humans are the only animals to do so.  Tears of emotions contain higher levels of stress hormones than either reflex or basal tears.

Why crying can be good for us

Often referred to as a sign of weakness, a good cry can also be a sign of strength and a way of releasing pent-up emotions.  Trying to suppress tears may result in missing out on a range of benefits crying has to offer.  So grab a tissue and find out why crying your eyes out is better for you than you think:

·      Crying relieves stress

All of us have watched a movie that made us cry.  Anyone who has ever watched the movie Brian’s Song or the cemetery scene from Steel Magnolias, most likely found themselves bawling like a baby but that was okay. When we feel stress or very strong emotions, we often feel much better after crying because it remove chemicals that build up during stress.  Trying to remain strong under pressure without showing emotion is a bad idea.  Suppressing tears increases stress levels and contributes to disease aggravated by stress such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and peptic ulcers.  A good cry is a way we can alleviate stress preventing stress from its harmful potential. 

·      Crying helps clear out our nose

When we cry, tears will travel down internally through the tear duct to the nasal passages.  Once they reach these passages, the tears will encounter mucus.  As the tears mix with mucus, this helps loosen and eventually shed the mucus, keeping the nose moist and bacteria free.

·      Crying cleanses and protects our eyes

When our eyes tear up, whether with emotion or because something got in your eye, can be beneficial.  If it is an irritant such as dirt or even a bug, tears contain an antibacterial and antiviral substance called lysozyme which nourishes the cells on the surface of the eye and inside the eyelids.  Lysozyme is so good at what it does it can kill 90 to 95 percent of all bacteria in just five to ten minutes. 

·      Crying brings out the best in others

How many of us have been around someone distraught by crying over an emotional event?  Most people witnessing such an act will feel compelled to want to comfort and support the person who is crying.  By showing our warmth and companionship, this builds friendships and community between each of us.  Tears can bring people closer together taking communication and understanding between people to a deeper level.

·      Crying lets go of feelings

Crying can be quite cathartic.  Sometimes, when we’ve pent-up feelings shoving them under our emotional security blanket, there comes a time when they must come out.  Feelings we’ve kept hidden will need to be felt, as painful or scary as that may be.  If we don’t release these feelings, they will eventually get the best of us and that is not good.  Every so often, we need to sob and wail, shake our fists or stomp our feet, letting our tears turn us into a blubbering mess in order to reset our emotional radar.  Once we allow that to happen, we can move on to a much healthier state of mind.