When was the last time you just cried your eyes out? A month ago? A week ago? Maybe you’re drying your eyes from your last good cry as you read this. It’s okay to feel vulnerable after you shed a few tears, but you have nothing to apologize for.
In fact, crying is not only a perfectly healthy thing to do, but it’s also a sign of strength and resilience. Here are four reasons why you should feel empowered, not pathetic, after crying.
You Know How to Relieve Stress
A 1983 study from the American Psychological Association showed that most people feel more relieved after crying that was due to stress from interpersonal relationships and anxious or sad thoughts. (1)
Crying is one of the best ways to channel and filter out the thoughts and events that cause us worry or grief. Bottling up your emotions by holding back the tears can lead to long-term psychological damage that we’ll discuss later on.
When we cry, we are releasing negative tension that builds up from our day to day lives, allowing us to feel comforted and recharged so that we can pick ourselves back up afterward. Emotional tears also contain hormones that escape our body that could improve our mood after crying. (2)
Professor Roger Baker from Bournemouth University said that crying is the transformation of distress into something tangible, and the process itself reduces the feeling of trauma (source). So, when people encourage you to “just let it out,” now you know why.
It Shows You Don’t Care about What Others Think
The feeling of vulnerability and feebleness when we cry usually results from when other people are around. You feel the cracks in your voice; you feel the tears well up and the blood rush to your face, but you try your hardest to suppress these responses until it all comes bursting out. (3)
Society conditions us from an early age to believe that displaying negative emotions in front of other people is something that should be avoided at all costs. But human nature shows that we are all intelligent and sensitive creatures, and we can’t constantly keep up our emotional guard.
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A 1964 study found that people respond less negatively and more compassionately to people who are crying. The study looked at the self-reported emotional response of people when they are in the presence of a crying person. (4)
Although the study found that crying made most people feel uncomfortable, crying in front of others shows that you place your feelings above the social expectations of those around you. That is a feat many of us can only wish to achieve.
You Aren’t Afraid of Your Feelings
Human beings cry for all sorts of reasons; hormonal imbalances, anger, loss, loneliness, stress, and low blood sugar are just some of the many reasons we weep. Sometimes it’s something that seems trivial like a sad movie or a nostalgic song, and often times we don’t even know the root cause of why we’re crying.
The important part of it is that you are acknowledging your emotions and confronting them head on. Not facing negative feelings can risk leading you down a dark path; alcoholism, depression, anxiety disorder, drug abuse or any kind of unhealthy compulsive behavior can stem from a refusal to face one’s emotions.
Feelings of guilt, fear of punishment or judgment, and self-doubt in all forms are some of the hindrances that cause people to choke back tears and disassociate. But allowing yourself to let go of that self-doubt for the sake of your own mental health is a sign of courage and control.
Crying Makes You a Better Friend
We talked earlier about “letting down your emotional guard.” This does more than send people a message that you’re strong; it shows your friends and family that you are honest and open when faced with adversity.
If you’re in a situation where you are with a friend, and both of you received some upsetting news, taking the first step in crying will allow other people to feel comfortable expressing their own emotions. Those who accept sadness when it stares them in the face allow others to do the same.
This does amazing things for your character and the strength of your relationships. Breaking down these walls that so often separate us from our fellow human beings can lead to more cohesive and meaningful friendships.
Crying makes you learn about who your true friends are, as well. Those who avoid you or bring you down when you already feel your most vulnerable are probably people you should consider removing from your life.
Crying and Mental Illness
If you find that you cry or have the urge to cry on a nearly constantly recurring basis, you should look into talking to a counselor or therapist. Chronic episodes of crying can be signs of depression and anxiety which can arise from a myriad of circumstances.
These conditions affect millions of people across the globe and can lead to self-harm or even suicide if they aren’t addressed. Click on links for anxiety and depression if you want to learn about how these conditions can affect your physical health.
Here are three online starting points if you think may be suffering from a mental illness:
Crying is one of the healthiest mechanisms we employ to cope with our emotions. It elevates our mood in the long term, relieves stress, builds character and fortifies relationships. So, the next time you feel the dreaded waterworks approaching, don’t repress the feeling. Let those tears help you to grow socially, mentally and spiritually.
- Martin, R. B., & Labott, S. M. (1991, July). Mood following emotional crying: Effects of the situation. Journal of Research in Personality, 25(2), 218-244. doi:10.1016/0092-6566(91)90017-k
- Patel, V. (1993). Crying behavior and psychiatric disorder in adults: A review. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 34(3), 206-211. doi:10.1016/0010-440x(93)90049-a
- Acebo, C., & Thoman, E. B. (1992, March). Crying as social behavior. Infant Mental Health Journal, 13(1), 67-82. doi:10.1002/1097-0355(199221)13:13.0.CO;2-#
- Hart, B. M., Allen, K., Buell, J. S., Harris, F. R., & Wolf, M. M. (1964, November). Effects of social reinforcement on operant crying. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1(2), 145-153. doi:10.1016/0022-0965(64)90016-5
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