Whether your boss has reamed you out in front of your colleagues or you’ve had a nasty mud-slinging match with your best friend, when you find yourself on the brink of tears, all you want to do is bawl like a baby! But should you fight your tears or give in and have a “good cry”?
As a child, everyone told you that “big children” don’t cry, but scientists have now proved that crying (even in adults) plays a vital role in alleviating emotional distress and sadness. But why does crying wash away your pain?
Why Does Crying Make You Feel Better?
Crying is cathartic – it allows you to express deep emotions and once you stop crying you feel purged and “cleansed” of your negative mood. There are several physiological mechanisms that can account for this effect of crying on emotion and mood.
Crying Releases “Happy Hormones”
“Crying is associated with the release of endorphins and brain chemicals that block pain signals and produce a feeling of contentment”
Crying is a reaction to pain, and the body controls pain by releasing endorphins that are often referred to as “happy hormones”. Natural brain chemicals, such as oxytocin and endogenous opioids, block the transmission of pain signals and produce a feeling of contentment. It may take a while for these chemicals to produce effects and so you are likely to notice an upswing in your mood after crying.
Crying Stimulates The Parasympathetic Nervous System
“When you cry, your PNS is stimulated and this in turn triggers a state of relaxation and peacefulness, which is why you might feel sleepy after a good cry”
Studies show that crying stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is a part of the nervous system that controls various functions, including heart rate and gland activity. The stimulation of PNS induces a state of relaxation, while reducing any negative emotions. When you cry, your PNS is stimulated and this in turn triggers a state of relaxation and peacefulness, which is why you might also feel sleepy after a good cry.
Crying Is A Stress Buster
“Studies show that crying reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, helping relieve mental and emotional stress almost instantly”
Emotional upheaval and intense emotions cause a build-up of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. As the levels of cortisol increase, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, which is an automatic stress response to any threatening situation. Studies show that crying reduces the levels of cortisol in the body, helping relieve mental and emotional tension and eliminating stress almost instantly.
Can Crying Make You Happy?
“Researchers found that people who cried initially felt worse, but 90 minutes after crying, their mood improved drastically”
We have seen how cathartic crying can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation, but can crying make you happy? A team of researchers in Netherlands devised an experiment to determine if crying can make you happy. Researchers found that people who cried initially felt worse, but 90 minutes after crying, their mood improved drastically.
This benefit wasn’t seen in the “non-criers”, clearly showing that crying will not just relieve distress, but can actually make you feel happy!
How much you benefit from a good cry mainly depends on you – if you see crying as weak, you will feel ashamed after crying and it will not have as much of a positive impact, but if you are comfortable crying on the shoulder of a friend, you’re likely to feel a whole lot better! Just remember, experts agree that crying is not just a natural human response, it is also a healthy one.
So, the next time you feel depressed after a long day at work, don’t hold back – just cry into your pillow and wake up to a sunny day!
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