How do you feel about people who cry easily? If you think they’re emotionally weak, needy, and immature, think again. It takes real strength and courage to show emotions and break down in tears in front of others.
In fact, existing psychological research shows that people who cry often are emotionally stronger than those who keep their emotions hidden. There are also a growing number of scientific studies showing the positive effects of crying on health.
Crying and emotional strength
For a long time, our culture has celebrated toughness, grit, and emotional indifference as character strengths. At the same time, we have been underestimating vulnerability, openness, and the ability to express our feelings. But things are finally starting to change in terms of how we think and talk about our emotions.
When you allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of other people you run the risk of being hurt. This is why it takes strength to tear down those emotional walls and let others see your tears.
According to a study conducted by Paul J. Zak, a neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University, people who cry easily during movies are more emotionally and mentally resilient.
The study showed that people have increased oxytocin levels in the blood after a good cry. Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone”, improves our capacity to feel empathy and in turn, makes us stronger and better prepared to face life’s challenges.
Health benefits of crying
Crying is a self-soothing behavior that can be triggered by different emotions, ranging from happiness to sadness. In other words, crying is a stress release mechanism and as such, it is related to a number of health benefits.
According to Professor Junko Umihara from the Nippon Medical School in Japan, regular crying sessions can significantly reduce stress. This is because crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system which produces a relaxation response, slows the heart rate, and lowers blood pressure.
Crying also triggers the release of natural mood-boosting opioids which increase pain tolerance and produce a feeling of euphoria.
The chemical composition of tears is yet another reason why crying is good for you. Tears contain antimicrobial compounds which reduce the number of bacteria in and around the eyes, lubricate and cleanse the cornea, and protect the eye against infections.
Finally, crying isn’t just good for an individual’s level of health but may benefit society as a whole. When we see a crying person our natural instinct impels us to offer comfort, which is why crying helps us form closer bonds with other people and promotes prosocial behaviors, attitudes, and values.