Image: Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
If there’s one thing that exasperates my friends the most, it’s how easily I cry. A character dies in a film or book? I’ll bawl. My local bakery runs out of my favourite slice? On a bad day, I’ll cry you a river.
While I may be more weepy than some, I’m definitely not alone – research has found that women will spend more than 12,000 hours (16 months!) of their lives crying. So you can imagine just how excited I was to hear that a Japanese hotel is offering special rooms for women to cry in, stocked with sad films, manga comics, high quality tissues and eye masks.
It may sound slightly ridiculous but it serves as an important reminder that crying has significant health benefits. Yes, letting the tears flow is good for you physically and mentally.
1. Goodbye toxins.
The make up of tears caused by chopping onions compared to emotional events is very different. A study by biochemist Dr William Frey found that emotional tears have higher levels of some proteins and chemicals. Just like sweating, inhaling and urinating, crying is an “exocrine process”, which enables the body with a way to get rid of excess toxins and regulate their levels.
Crying can help to wash out chemicals like adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) which is a hormone linked to stress. ACTH is responsible for triggering cortisol, the stress hormone, so by removing the chemical from the body we can physically make ourselves feel better. (Post continues after gallery.)
2. Relieves stress.
According to psychologist Dr Marny Lishman, crying is crucial for when we have feelings that cause a build up of energy:
“The energy build up is made up of stress chemicals, toxins, tension and if not released, can cause all sorts of health problems,” she explains. “So there is definitely a physical benefit to getting rid of the build up.”
In his study, Dr Frey also found that tears contain leucine enkaphalin, an endorphin that modulates pain and various hormones that are released by the body during times of stress. As a result, tears are the body’s way of flushing out excess stress hormones. Brilliant.
3. Helps your vision.
Yes, without tears you’d eventually have trouble seeing. One of the most obvious functions of tears is to lubricate your eyeball and eyelid. They also prevent dehydration of your various mucous membranes which you would otherwise require medication for.
Tears also bathe your eyes in lysozyme, which is one of the most effective antibacterial agents. Studies have found it has the ability to inactivate 90 to 95 per cent of all bacteria in under ten minutes, which helps fight eye infections.
4. Makes you feel better.
A study by the University of Florida found that 88.8 per cent of people feel better after releasing pent up emotions through crying, which makes it more effective than any antidepressant drug on the market.
"You can liken it to other emotions like anger. It feels so good to be able to go for a big run or punch a boxing bag to get anger out. It is not good for us to sit with the anger churning inside of us. Same with crying. Bottling up emotions is not psychologically good for anyone," she says.
5. Helps you move on.
Whether it's after the loss of a loved one, a relationship break up or just a hard day, crying can help you move on. According to clinical psychologist Professor Roger Baker, "crying is the transformation of distress into something tangible, and the process itself helps to reduce the feeling of trauma."
6. It helps you bond.
There's no friendship bonding moment quite like bawling your eyes out to the same film. Getting teary is also the great way to connect with friends, family or even strangers over a sad event, like the loss of someone you love. (Post continues after gallery.)
7. Lowers blood pressure.
According to naturopath Barbara Filokostas, crying is a crucial function of our nervous system that has a significant impact on our health, including lowering blood pressure.
"Crying offers an essential release that has flow on benefits to the rest of our body, such as lowering our heart rate and reducing muscle tension," she says.
What makes you cry?