When is the last time you laughed? Maybe a few minutes ago, right? And when is the last time you cried? I bet you can’t even remember. So, crying therapy comes in handy. Just like happiness, sadness is a normal emotion. Yet many people, both men and women, still find it hard to cry. We bottle up our emotions and relieve them in the wrong way.
At the end of this article, we will all go to agree on whether to hold back or let our tears flow. But first,
What Is Crying Therapy?
Crying therapy is a healing practice of acknowledging and processing emotional memories and situations, and releasing emotional pain through tears.
For some people though, it’s the tears that won’t flow. I will also share with you how to unearth these emotions.
The norm is that we don’t cry unless it’s safe. And sadly, for men in some cultures, crying is an abomination. Consequently, some of them turn to violence or drugs to deal with emotions and life frustrations. So, which is better; a few minutes of crying therapy or a year of rehab?
The Science Behind Tears
What happens to your body every time you shed a tear? Whether tears of joy or tears of sadness, your tear wells send a signal to the brain. To understand the science, let’s first understand the tear structure.
All humans have 3 types of tears:
#1: Basal Tears
We release basal tears every time we blink to keep our eyes moist. They have a mucus layer that touches the eyeball, an aqueous layer sandwiched in between for hydration and bacteria protection, and the outer oily layer to keep the tears intact (especially preventing loss due to evaporation), and give the surface of the eye that smooth shiny look.
#2: Reflex Tears
These link to the peripheral sensory system in your eyes. In fact, all living things on land except snakes and amphibians have these types of tears. They are not stored anywhere in the eye but are rather produced and released in response to a nervous stimulus. This would include mechanical (an insect gets into your eye), thermal (water burns you), chemical (cutting onions or your hair spray gets to the eyes), or pain stimulus (like a slap).
#3: Psychogenic (Emotional) Tears
The brain controls emotional tears via the prefrontal cortex and the limbic lobe (anterior portion). To better understand these, think of how infants cry uncontrollably just to get attention. For the lactating mom, a baby’s cry instantly induces the flow of milk.
And once babies develop speech, crying significantly reduces as they now use speech as a means of communication. Similarly, as an adult, sometimes we don’t have words to express what we need or what we are going through. We just find ourselves shedding tears. And for those who find it difficult to shed tears, a dark cloud of sadness engulfs them.
Science has proven that emotional tears are different from all the other types of tears. A study showed that the protein content in emotional tears is 24% higher than that of reflex tears. In addition, emotional tears fall more slowly on our cheeks hence giving more time for the people around us to react. Consequently, some scientists argue that it’s the attention after crying that gives more relief to those who don’t cry.
However, considering that after the age of 10 years men show a significant decrease in crying compared to women, the latter also naturally tend to respond more to a cry alert. So then again, our men are left to deal with their emotions in all the wrong ways.
That leads me to the next section, why is crying therapy important?
The Benefits of Crying Therapy
#1: A Self-Soothing Behavior
Crying is cathartic. Some people agree that sobbing is a significant psychological tonic. In fact, a study shows an accelerated heart rate with reduced breathing as well as a reduced heartbeat when people cry.
#2: Instant Mood Improvement
Crying triggers a release of oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone associated with social bonding. In other words, oxytocin helps improve our mood. Now scientists are still debating whether this release is directly linked to crying or the response we get from those around us when we cry.
#3: Crying Releases Endogenous Opioids (Endorphins)
These are feel-good chemicals naturally produced in the human body to get us into the “numb zone”. In so doing, they also increase our tolerance to physical and emotional pain.
#4: Lowers Stress Levels
Crying has been linked to lower stress levels in the blood. The science is simple. When you cry, your tears contain several stress hormones. So the more tears you shed, the more of these hormones you release out of your body.
#4: Crying Results in a Pleasurable Sensation
The researchers argue that the cool air we inhale while crying cools the blood which in turn cools the brain. As a result, this alters the activity of the neurotransmitter and creates a pleasurable sensation.
#5: Emotional Balance
See, we don’t always cry because we are sad, right? So when you cry after passing the test, then you cry after a terrible loss, this helps your body to balance out the emotional overload.
#6: Good for Your Eyes Health
Tears contain lysozyme which cleans your eyes by killing and washing away bacteria build-up. Like when an insect enters your eyes, tears flow uncontrollably until you get the intruder out. Similarly, your eyes are always wet to keep the eyeball well lubricated. This enhances clear vision. In fact, for some people, as you age you have to rely on medical eye drops that provide artificial tears. All serving the same purpose.
How Can I Trigger Crying?
The easiest way to cry is by evoking your emotional senses. Think of the saddest moment in your life. Is it when you went through that painful breakup? Or when you had an accident? Or even when you joined college and had to say goodbye to your ailing parents.
See, humans are emotional beings. A visit to these past traumas will instantly evoke tears. And when this happens, try not to block them. Keep going to that thought process until your body gives in.
The Bottom Line
I’m sure by now we can all agree that crying is beneficial. Whenever you feel sad or emotionally overwhelmed, find that safe spot and cry. It’s normal and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Besides, nobody will know you cried unless you tell them.