This Is What Actually Happens to Your Body When You Cry
We all need a good cry every now and then. Whether you've just received some upsetting news or can't help but well up at a sad scene in your favourite rom-com (Marley & Me, anyone?), crying has actually been shown to have some helpful health benefits for humans. A little known fact is that our bodies can produce three types of tears—basal (to keep your eyes moist), reflex (to flush out irritants like wind and smoke) and psychic (in response to emotional distress). Other than feeling like you've had a grand piano-sized weight lifted from your chest, we've done some research into what is actually happening inside your body when you cry.
Helps you sleep
Crying can be a full-body workout sometimes, especially when you're in a state where you're no longer in charge of the tears coming from your body. Your shoulders are probably bouncing up and down and your cheeks might even get sore when you're in full blubber mode. As well as that, your heart rate naturally rises when you're crying because of your body's in-built fight or flight response to what caused the crying in the first place. Because of that, once you wipe away the tears and calm down, you might find it much easier to drift off to sleep because you've tired yourself out in the process.
If you find yourself bawling your eyes out because of a particularly stressful situation in your life, your tears will actually contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals, research suggests. Scientists who have studied the effects of crying on the body believe that by letting yourself cry when faced with stress can reduce these hormone levels in the body and in turn, lower your overall stress levels.
Oxytocin, or the 'love hormone' promotes feelings of bonding and wellbeing in our bodies and brains. Psychology researchers from various universities have proven that when we shed emotional tears, oxytocin as well as the feel-good hormones, endorphins are released at the same time. This explains why after a cathartic bout of crying you actually feel better because your tears act as a natural pain healer.
Calms you down
Self-soothing is the act of regulating your own emotions when faced with difficult or upsetting circumstances and be tricky for us humans to get a grip on sometimes. This study found that crying is one of the best ways to self-soothe when times are tough. To get technical for a moment, crying stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to calm you down and regroup.
It turns out that holding our tears back, in stressful, sad or painful situations isn't as healthy as letting it all out. Crying is a totally normal part of our human existence, and by letting your body respond automatically with tears, you'll feel better in more ways than one.
If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, your first port of call should be your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.