Go ahead and cry; it can help you feel better, according to a new study.
Though the reason why we cry isn’t quite understood, some experts believe its main role is to release emotions. For this study, 60 people watched two tearjerker movies. Nearly 50 percent of the study’s participants cried during both films. All participants were asked how they felt immediately after the movies, and again after 20 minutes and 90 minutes.
Immediately after seeing the movies, the mood of the non-cryers was unchanged, but the criers felt more blue. Within 20 minutes, those who shed tears had recovered to previous mood levels. After 90 minutes, their moods were even better than before they watched the movies.
The drop and subsequent return of emotions to previous levels might make you feel you’re in a much better mood after you shed your tears, said lead author Asmir Gracanin, of the Netherlands’ University of Tilburg. “After the initial deterioration of mood following crying, it takes some time for the mood not only to recover, but also to be lifted above the levels at which it had been before the emotional event,” Gracanin said in a release.
In addition to lifting our mood, here are four other reasons shedding tears is good for us:
- It zaps bacteria. Tears contain lysozyme, an antibacterial and antiviral agent that fights off about 95 percent of the nasties we pick up on shopping carts and in public bathrooms in roughly 10 minutes.
- It helps us see. Tears lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids, while also preventing dehydration of our various mucous membranes. Without this lubrication, our eyesight wouldn’t be nearly as good.
- It removes toxins. One study found that emotional tears–the kind we cry during grief or distress–contain more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (the kind we shed when we peel an onion). When we cry, we rid our bodies of those toxins.
- It lowers stress. Tears remove some of the chemicals built up in our body from stress, like the endorphins leucine-enkaphalin and prolactin. The opposite is also true: Holding back tears increases stress levels and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, like high blood pressure and ulcers. Think of crying as a cheaper form of therapy!
So go on and have a good cry!