Why Crying Actually Means You’re Mentally Tough
Although crying can feel unpleasant at the time, neuroscientists working on the psychology and physiology of crying have a clear message to communicate: crying is good for you!
It’s actually a healthy response to sadness and frustration—and if you hold back your tears then you keep in emotional stress that can be terrible for your body.
There’s even evidence that crying can reduce your risk of heart disease (along with other stress-related illnesses).
And although many people are embarrassed to cry and tend to associate frequent or intense crying with some kind of underlying weakness, in truth it means just the opposite—that you’re mentally tough. Here’s why.
1. Crying Means Facing Up to Your Feelings
When you cry, you’re meeting your emotions head-on. You are looking at them directly, allowing them to overwhelm you for a time, and then letting them go after your crying has run its course.
In contrast, resolutely refusing to cry means running from your feelings in a way, and failing to release negative emotions that are undermining your mental and physical well-being.
Crying does not mean that you can’t handle your life—on the contrary, it indicates a deeper capability for handling life, because you’re not prone to counterproductive escapism. Instead, you hold your ground and experience your true responses to life situations, regardless of whether or not they’re painful.
And if holding your ground in this way does involve crying, you know that this is letting your body get rid of excess negative energy and making room for rejuvenating. This approach is nothing to feel ashamed of or to apologize for.
2. You Don’t Care How Others Perceive You
When you cry, you openly display vulnerability. It’s brave to show your most emotional side to other people, without stopping to care about what they might think or assume. Many of us grew up in families where family members discouraged showing strong emotions, either on grounds of weakness or perhaps because it was “disruptive.”
Crying without care for how you’re perceived means you have rejected these negative messages and stifling social norms, and you know that showing emotions merely means showing others that you are human.
This disregard for the misguided views of others will bring you closer to the people who really matter. Friends, family or partners who want to see the real you will benefit from seeing you allow yourself to be fully vulnerable in their presence.
Meanwhile, you’ll know which people don’t really have a place in your life—those who are too uncomfortable with the idea of their own tears to engage with your own. You’ll find yourself surrounded only by people who help you grow and are not afraid of authenticity.
3. You’re Aware That Crying Brings Release
Pent-up feelings can make you angrier, more unhappy and less capable of regulating your emotional expression.
Many people who keep their feelings in and repress the urge to cry will end having a major emotional explosion at some point—after all, these feelings can only be kept in for so long, and repressing them gives you reduced control of their expression.
As someone who cries when it’s needed, you’re much less likely to have a major breakdown, instigate an impassioned but ill-advised fight, or displace your feelings and express frustration at an individual who doesn’t really deserve it.
Not only is it best for your health to avoid these types of outcomes, but it’s also best for your relationships. Those you are close to will know they don’t need to be
4. You Know Crying Improves Overall Health
As suggested above, scientists now know that crying offers more than just emotional benefits—it reduces the risk of certain illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease. Further, it promotes the release of “feel good” hormones and reduces levels of manganese (which, if allowed to get too high, cause increased stress and anxiety).
As a bonus, crying actively lubricates the surface of your eyes and stops them from becoming dehydrated or uncomfortable. Your tears also have anti-bacterial effects, and can even help to remove toxins from your system.
So, if you never cried you’d have seriously reduced well-being (in addition to driving yourself mad by silencing your need for emotional release).
5. You Assist Others With Self-Expression
When you’re comfortable with crying, you model this vulnerability for others, and they learn from your example. It takes someone who is strong and honest to cry, and people will want to emulate these admirable traits.
For example, you might find that friends who used to keep their feelings to themselves learn how to share them with you (along with their tears), confident that you will react in a non-judgmental, supportive way. This healthy type of emotional expression can ultimately spread to friends of friends—so, in sum, if you’re willing to cry then you are indirectly improving society as a result!