Why it really is OK to cry – a new study reveals that it helps your wellbeing

Why it really is OK to cry – a new study reveals that it helps your wellbeing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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