Is Crying Good For Us?

“Big boys don’t cry”. “Don’t be a baby”. Have you ever heard any of these phrases? I am so sorry but I may have even said those things to my son as he was growing up.

An article by Serusha Govender has reviewed the health benefits of crying.  Naturally as babies we cried but as adults a lot of us try to hold back the tears, especially in public or at work.  This seems to be a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of.  Is it really or is the shedding of our tears really healthy?

According to this article it can be good for your health to shed those tears, especially in the right setting.  Having that good cry might just be what the good doctor ordered.  Some psychologists even believe that we might be doing ourselves a disservice by NOT tearing up regularly.  Well, I’m sure I’ve met my quota with every sappy film that comes along that I’ve watched.  Now that I’m older, my emotions seem to be on the surface of my sleeve.  Now, hiding them is a little harder.

The body is activated in a healthy way by crying, according to Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics.  When we let our guard and defenses down and cry, is has a very positive and healthy result.  That touching movie has a process of opening yourself up, kind of like a lock and key effect.

The health benefits of crying are so strongly believed by the Japanese that they have taken it to the next level.  There are now some “crying clubs” in some cities in Japan called rui-katsu (meaning, literally, tear-seeking) where people come together to indulge in good old-fashioned sobfests.  In order to promote the tear flow they watch tearjerkers.  They believe that crying releases stress and is a great practice when it comes to staying mentally healthy.

There is actually research out there that is backing up that theory.  It has been found that various kinds of tears have found that emotional tears contain higher levels of stress hormones than do basal (lubricating) or reflex tears (those that form when you get something in your eye).  There are more mood-regulating manganese contained in emotional tears than the other types.  Tightening of muscles and heightened tension is cause by stress, so when you cry some of that is released and activates the parasympathetic nervous system to restore the body to a state of balance.

Sideroff believes as well that crying clubs can provide a supportive and safe place to cry for those who struggle to express their emotions due to cultural or personal reasons and that it is a good idea.  He further believes that crying in a group can validate the practice and tell you that it’s ok to do.  A lot of people find it easier then to cry.

Crying in a group is very primal, says Judith Orloff, MD, a clinical psychiatry professor at UCLA and author of the book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform You Life.  She doesn’t advise crying in a business meeting or at work where it could be viewed as weakness, but it’s great if you are comfortable crying in public.  It is suggested that you find a place where you can cry in privacy when at work, such as an empty office or a bathroom stall.  Finding those safe spaces to cry in your day-to-day environment will make it easier for you to reap the physical and emotional rewards of crying, without fear of reprisal or judgment.  Then why am I always hiding the leaking tears during a sad movie or news report?  Why?  Because maybe I do not want to look weak, be laughed at or be made fun of. I have to rethink this because I want to stay as healthy as possible and be me. So tears, you come as you wish.

Dr Fredda Branyon