Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Why it’s good to cry

The British are said to have a stiff upper lip. We are conditioned from a young age – boys especially – that maintaining an emotional balance is the key to a happy, healthy life and that even the most trying of situations can be addressed with a cup of tea!

While culturally, this may be the way to do things, keeping our emotions bottled up can actually cause more issues than it solves. And sometimes the best way to deal with a negative or upsetting situation is to ‘let it all out’ and have a good cry.

According to this article in Psychology Today, crying helps us communicate how we’re feeling at times when language fails us – it’s a way of soliciting help and comfort from others to help us process and make sense of things that are happening to us.

There are a few reasons why we cry – it’s a natural reflex that keeps our eyes healthy by flushing out irritants, for example, or a natural response to physical pain – but what we’re looking at in this blog though are emotional tears, caused by sad or stressful situations.

So, what are the benefits of a good cry?

  • First and foremost, crying has a soothing effect on the body and calms us down so that we are better able to regulate our emotions and think about things more rationally. After a cry, we can physically feel our body relax – this is because our parasympathetic nervous system has been triggered. So, it makes sense that if you find yourself in a particularly stressful situation, a bit of a sob will do you good. It will help you relax and reduce the physical effects that exposure to stress can have on your body – such as tension headaches, high blood pressure and perhaps even digestive issues. Have you heard the saying ‘Cry it Out’? You’re literally flushing the negative emotions out of your body, which can only be a good thing.
  • As well as activating the nervous system, the act of crying releases oxytocin and endorphins, both hormones that help us manage our physical and emotional pain, which release feelings of general well-being. It also helps us break down the buildup of manganese in our body, which can lead to stress and anxiety if we have too much of it. After we’ve had a cry, we are often better able to find the clarity of thought we need to navigate through stressful situations. This is because we are not dealing with the situation emotionally, only with the facts. This leads us to make better choices and makes it easier for us to make decisions.
  • Some people may choose to cry in private, but for those of us whose emotions may get the better of them in front of others, crying also rallies support and emotional care from the people around us. We are conditioned to reach out to people when we see them crying – it’s an interpersonal cue that helps us get the personal interaction we need from others in order to feel better. It helps us find the support we need, but often don't seek – due to a fear of showing weakness, or not wanting to bother others with our own problems and issues.

So next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, don’t keep your emotions suppressed. Grab some tissues, find a quiet place and let it all out – you may be surprised by how much better you feel afterwards.

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