When was the last time you really cried? Not a Taylor Swift-circa-2006, letting-delicate-tears-trickle-down-your-guitar kind of cry, BTW; I’m thinking more along the lines of a mascara-running, heavy-breathing, throaty-sobs type of cry. It wasn’t too long ago that I experienced one of those massive breakdowns myself where, in the moment, you feel a little heartbroken, and maybe even a bit dramatic. But when the tears stopped, I felt so much better. No, nothing was necessarily solved once the moment passed, but crying really is good for you in that it's cathartic, though sometimes, it's more of a reflex. Either way, the end result of a good cry is normally, if not always, a better mood overall.
Now, a lot of people I’m close to do not like to cry, especially in public, and maybe you can relate. If it’s an emotional reaction, crying can be a very personal, extremely vulnerable thing, and I totally understand why you’d want to keep those tears to yourself. That being said, however, you should never feel ashamed to cry, and if you need to let the tears go, let them flow, friend. Crying is natural, it’s human, and I can guarantee once they’re out, you’ll feel a little more relieved.
You may not know this, but there are actually three reasons why you cry, and they're all really good for your mental and physical health.
Personally, I’ve always assumed crying was a reaction to something that either made me upset or scared, but I never even considered all those times I cut an onion open and my eyes swelled up with tears, or the moments when my eyes felt super dry, and my body willed me to suddenly tear up as a response to the irritation. According to Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, your body knows to cry as a response to both intense emotions, and as physical coping mechanism. What's more, he tells Elite Daily, there are three kinds of tears your body produces: emotional, reflex, and basal.
You’re probably most familiar with the concept of emotional tears. These babies roll down your cheeks when a range of emotions like sadness, fear, even happiness build up, along with higher levels of the stress hormone oxytocin, as well as endorphins. Glatter tells Elite Daily that by letting yourself cry, you’re actually allowing these hormones to release, which helps you “feel better by reducing both emotional and physical pain,” leading to a kind of euphoria that not only helps you feel better mentally and physically, but also lowers your blood sugar, too, says Glatter.
Reflex tears, on the other hand, are those super inconvenient tears that swell up and pour over your lids as soon as you pierce an onion open with a knife. They don’t exactly make for an easy time in the kitchen. Still, Glatter says, when any kind of chemical or smoke that clashes with your eyes triggers these types of tears, it’s basically your body’s way of “helping to flush out your eyes.” So I guess you can forgive them for the awkward onset of a stuffy nose and puffy eyelids.
Last, but not least, you have basal tears. When Glatter tells me “basal,” I instantly think of the herb “basil,” but don’t get the terms twisted, friends: One has nothing to do with the other. Basal tears, he tells Elite Daily, are rich in proteins and develop from your tear ducts. These droplets are far from emotional, but they have everything to do with what’s going on with your eyes physically. Long story short, these tears are pretty subtle, and they “help to keep our eyes lubricated and moist as we blink,” says Glatter, in order to avoid dry eye. So unless your eyes feel irritated, you probably don’t even notice these babies.
All things considered, crying offers a ton of benefits, so when the tears have to flow, let them go.
Before diving into the emotional benefits of crying, it’s important to touch on the physical aspects of it, as well. Tears do so much more for you than you realize — after all, on the surface, it’s just water, right? But circling back to the scientific side of tears, in that these tiny droplets are made up of largely intensified stress hormones, doctor of psychology and clinical licensed social worker, Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, tells Elite Daily the release of these hormones works as a kind of stress detox.
Also, by releasing these hormones, Glatter adds, crying can, in turn, reduce blood pressure, keep your heart rate leveled, and it just might help you sleep better at night, too. In other words, crying is just as physical of a relief as it is emotional, so if you stop yourself from crying, you're actually preventing your body from letting go of the tension it's harboring, which could be unhealthy.
What's interesting about the mental health benefits of crying, though, is that according to Glatter, humans are the only known species to produce tears as an emotional response. By reducing the levels of stress hormones that build up when you're angry, sad, or scared, crying literally and figuratively calms you, and the less stress hormones taking over your mind and body, the more room you can make for happy hormones.
So the next time you need to cry, cry. You might just need it more than you realize.