If you’ve become accustomed to holding back tears, it may be best to let them flow. It turns out that there’s a scientific reason that many people feel better after they cry — and it has to do with the deep release that comes with shedding tears. In fact, according to Mindbodygreen, crying helps the body emit hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins that contribute to feeling better. Avoiding the act of crying may keep things bottled up inside without the necessary experience of release.
Michael Chen, M.D. tells the outlet, “Crying can help one better manage their emotional stress and strengthen relationships as a result of a healthy, safe response to negative outcomes or situations. Crying can help one’s mood by improving sleep, reducing inflammation, and strengthening the immune system.”
Indeed, CNN reports that holding back feelings of sadness or grief can create an imbalance that makes it difficult to fully experience positive emotions like happiness. Furthermore, when you don’t address your needs for release, the sadness may come out sideways as anger or irritation. “Crying and honoring your own needs and sensitivities is a critical part of self-care and being loving with oneself, being aware of one’s needs and honoring them to benefit the health of the body, mind and spirit,” Dr. Judith Orloff explains.
There are various types of tears
Beyond just the tears that fall during emotional upheaval, there are also other types of tears. CNN notes that the three categories include emotional tears, basal tears that provide lubricant for your eyes and reflex tears that form around environmental irritants such as dust or onion skins. As the only mammals that have the ability to release emotional tears, there are important physiological aspects of crying that many underestimate.
If you struggle to cry, it could stem from a multitude of reasons, but the most prevalent revolves around shame. Mindbodygreen cites the cultural stigma that labels shedding tears as a weakness as the main inhibitor of crying. Indeed, withholding your tears may make way for depression and anxiety later, which are also results of feeling ashamed for crying throughout your life.
Avoiding your tears can also contribute to experiences of numbness. “The limbic system, which activates our fight/flight/freeze responses along with other parts of the brain that process emotions can be disrupted, and healthy neural activity impaired,” Mary Joye, LMHC tells the outlet. “There is nothing worse than feeling nothing at all.”
So, if you need to, let your tears flow. Take care of yourself by letting go of judgment and relaxing into whatever feeling you need to experience. The other side may be brighter than you imagined.
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