Contrary to the beliefs of some, crying is an important component of mental health and wellness. The benefits of crying are often unrecognized, overlooked and under- appreciated, as it can be good for us both psychologically and physiologically. Those who consider it a sign of weakness may want to challenge this assumption and belief pattern.
Crying is an important part of the process of healing and working through challenges, particularly as it relates to recovery from traumatic events. Not only is it necessary for healing and returning to a healthy state of equilibrium, it can provide numerous health benefits. It is a self-soothing behavior that is worth accepting and embracing.
Crying is a natural response to emotions such as sadness, depression, or stress. Psychologists suggest that in order to overcome some of these negative feelings, we need to get passed them through engaging with the emotion and crying. Individuals who have a healthy sense of emotional intelligence often appreciate the importance of experiencing negative feelings through crying. It is an important aspect of achieving mental health and balance. Crying can result in a feeling of releasing emotional burdens. People often report feeling lighter post a crying episode.
Additionally, crying is thought to actually relieve stress physiologically. Tears have stress hormones, so expressing tears through crying can provide a release from emotional tension. Crying can also release toxins that have been developed in the body. Expressing emotion through crying will help prevent that these negative feelings build up and fester in our bodies.
Crying can serve as an important part of relationship dynamics. It demonstrates a sense of vulnerability, which can build trust and intimacy. It also conveys the messaging that something is wrong and gives a signal that we need help. Being open with crying can also signal and give the other party permission to experience and express their feelings in appropriate ways as well. It can lead to more openness and improvements in communication patterns. People tend to feel closer to people who share and cry with them.
According to scientists, crying can be a pain reducer. When someone cries, their body releases hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins. Increases of such feel-good hormones can increase one’s tolerance to pain and can help restore emotional calm. This can explain why we cry when we get injured, as it can be the body’s natural pattern of responding to physical pain. It has also been supported that crying can lower blood pressure, potentially due to the sense of calm that can come after crying episodes.
Crying can even keep our eyes clean, as tears are what wash out bacteria and prevent the eyes from drying. Producing tears are good for our vision and have preventative mechanisms from vision loss. Another pro to crying is that it clears our nasal passages. Another important benefit is how it can boost the immune system. Crying lowers levels of cortisol, which in turn generally decreases stress. We are more likely to get sick when we are under stress and pressure. While the factors are not fully understood, it has also been suggested that crying improves sleep patterns.
Emotional health includes experiencing feelings across the spectrum. In order to experience positive emotions, having negative emotions is necessary. Part of the human experience is to engage in cycles and varying emotional intensity. The next time you feel the urge to engage in a good cry, try to let go and consider how it could benefit and help you.
Karen Doll has been a Licensed Psychologist in the Twin Cities for 20 years, working in organizational consulting. She leverages her education in Clinical Psychology with her leadership assessment expertise in her practice. She is an executive coach focusing on helping people maximize their potential.