Are you crying because you’re sad or because something moves you? One person almost never cries and another cries their eyes out every month (or even more often). One thing is certain: we’ve all done it. Don’t try to fight the tears, but let them flow freely because crying also has some benefits.
Some try to suppress tears because they are scared it makes them seem weak, but science gives you good reasons to not hold those tears back.
Why do people cry?
Humans produce three types of tears:
- Basal: The tear ducts constantly secrete basal tears, which are a protein-rich antibacterial liquid that help to keep the eyes moist every time a person blinks.
- Reflex: These are tears triggered by irritants such as wind, smoke, or onions. They are released to flush out these irritants and protect the eye.
- Emotional: Humans shed tears in response to a range of emotions. These tears contain a higher level of stress hormones than other types of tears.
When people talk about crying, they are usually referring to emotional tears.
We all cry sometimes. One person more than the other, but the figures don’t lie. Research from the University of Tilburg shows that men cry on average 1 time per four weeks and women cry on average 2.7 times per four weeks. This is not a bad thing at all! Take a look at the benefits of crying below.
Has a soothing effect
Self-soothing is when people:
- Regulate their own emotions
- Calm themselves
- Reduce their own distress
A study found that crying may have a direct, self-soothing effect on people. The study explained how crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which helps people relax.
Gets support from others
Sometimes people don’t understand how much something is bothering you, but they suddenly understand it better when you cry. Research carried out in 2016 shows that crying is so-called attachment behaviour. This means that crying makes people want to comfort you and support you.
Helps to relieve pain
When you cry because something made you sad, the pain is often quite sharp, but you do feel relieved after you cry. Does this sound familiar? That’s not that odd. Researchers found out that your body produces oxytocin and endorphins when you cry. These components make people feel good and that’s why you experience the sharp pain a little less intense.
Crying may help lift people’s spirits and make them feel better. As well as relieving pain, oxytocin and endorphins can help improve mood. This is why they are often known as “feel good” chemicals.
Releases toxins and relieves stress
When humans cry in response to stress, their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals.
Researchers believe that crying could reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, which could, in turn, reduce stress. More research is needed into this area, however, to confirm this.
A small study in 2015 found that crying can help babies sleep better. Whether crying has the same sleep-enhancing effect on adults is yet to be researched.
However, it follows that the calming, mood-enhancing, and pain-relieving effects of crying above may help a person fall asleep more easily.
Crying helps to kill bacteria and keep the eyes clean as tears contain a fluid called lysozyme.
A study found that lysozyme had such powerful antimicrobial properties that it could even help to reduce risks presented by bioterror agents, such as anthrax.
Basal tears, which are released every time a person blinks, help to keep the eyes moist and prevent mucous membranes from drying out.
As the National Eye Institute explains, the lubricating effect of basal tears helps people to see more clearly. When the membranes dry out, vision can become blurry.