We are generally taught from a young age to stop crying.
This tends to begin in childhood once we leave the baby phase of our life. Even as toddlers, we are told to “stop crying” or “stop making a fuss”.
This continues as we get older and we suddenly become “overly emotional” or “hormonal” in our teenage years.
Even when someone is trying to comfort us and be a safe space, they will inevitably say something along the lines of “aw, don’t cry”.
I believe much of this comes from this belief that it is not ok to be upset. We must be happy, or as close to displaying happiness, at all times. Even at funerals, you will hear people making judgmental comments if someone is believed to be “overly grieving”.
There are a myriad of other examples that I’m sure you have witnessed or been a part of yourselves. The short of it is that we simply live in a society that doesn’t like crying.
It is not a far leap to claim that this is a very unhealthy and emotionally-oppressive way to live.
How can it be good to keep emotions bottled up like that? Why is it so wrong to allow your body to shed tears if that is what it is telling you it wants to do?
This article isn’t meant to answer those, or other, important questions regarding a widespread global culture of suppressing powerful emotions.
Instead, it is to illustrate how important and healthy crying actually is.
For one thing, crying is a bodily urge not too unlike having to sneeze or go to the bathroom. We don’t tell people to try and stifle those bodily movements, and crying should be no different.
When was the last time you had a really good cry? Not just a few tears, but I mean a full bodied sob? Whatever caused it was surely painful, but how did you feel in the minutes after crying? It is likely you felt pretty numb. This, in itself, might not be a great feeling, but it sure beats whatever emotional or physical pain you were going through just a bit earlier. That numbness was a result of crying. It is like a built-in pain reliever.
This is actually proven by science. When we cry for long periods, our bodies release endorphins that help soothe our physical, emotional, or mental pain.
It also helps calm and soothe. Have you ever noticed how tired you feel after a good cry?
Crying may also help to literally get your emotions out. There are three types of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional. The first two are more about keeping your eyes clean and moist. The last kind is what happens when we cry from some type of emotional trigger. Research has shown that emotional tears contain stress hormones and even toxins. So your tears are acting like a detox.
The quick breathing we experience when sobbing helps get more oxygen into our system while also cooling the brain down. Both of these are known to be mood-boosting.
Because of all the above, many scientists hypothesize that crying may be the body’s way of mood regulation. This could explain why we not only cry when very sad or hurt, but also when we are happy, excited, or scared.
There are also social benefits of crying, but that gets a bit complicated depending on the location and people around you. In a safe space, crying can alert others that your are hurting and need support. This could backfire if you are in a location where displaying emotions is frowned upon (work, public transportation, etc). When embarrassment is mixed with crying, it can actually make the situation worse.
In conclusion, if you feel like crying, cry. Make a safe space somewhere in your home where you no you can sob as loudly, messily, and for as long as your body needs to. If you can’t allow yourself to cry at any given moment of the day, set aside a specific time for when you will be able to.
Remember, your body is telling you what you need. Listen to it.
I used the following link as a reference for the scientific benefits of crying.