For reasons that are increasingly difficult to understand, society still has a lot of hang ups surrounding crying.
Some see it as a sign of weakness, but holding back tears inhibits a host of benefits that help humans cope. I cry at the end of Lord of the Rings, and it never fails to make me feel better about Frodo leaving the Shire.
Women have to contend with the ‘pretty cry’ – the weird, dainty sobbing so often portrayed on screen that tries to turn tears into an aesthetic – while for men, crying still elicits that skin-crawling, shudder-inducing, day-ruiningly awful phrase, ‘man up’.
Now, researchers have examined in more detail the effects of tears on wellbeing, and why there shouldn’t be any shame in letting them flow…
A consummate coping strategy
The new study, published in physiological journal Emotion, asked 197 female undergraduates to watch either sad, or emotionally neutral videos for 17 minutes, before undergoing a stress test.
The researchers used women because pilot viewings suggested that they cried, or at least revealed that they cried, much more readily than men.
The results were pretty conclusive: Participants that had watched the tear-jerkers maintained moderate heart rates and stable breathing, while non-criers recorded a marked increase in both.
The less you hold back tears, the study suggests, the better you may feel.
A crying consensus
It’s not the first time that studies have highlighted the positive effects of some well-placed weeping.
A 2014 study found that crying has a “self-soothing” effect, which helps people relax by regulating their own emotions. Other research has suggested that crying can help babies sleep, improve your vision, and kill off hostile bacteria.
Best of all, a 2015 study found that after watching Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (in which a dog waits for its owner at a train station for years after the man’s death), a good cry could lift mood to levels above it’s pre-Hachi state.
So crying doesn’t just dull the pain – it can cause a net improvement in wellbeing.
- Press Association