Why We Need to Cry More

Whether you prefer to cry in private or if you end up breaking down in public, crying can be essential in maintaining emotional health. But why is it so important?
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Young woman crying with tear drop.
Young woman crying with tear drop.

Do you remember the last time you cried? It's a difficult question to answer, and not necessarily because it's hard to recall. It's because it reminds us of a personal and intimate experience, or perhaps of a humiliating moment of a public display of emotion.

But why is it that crying makes us feel so ashamed? It shouldn't; it's a completely natural response to our environment, and it's one of the oldest forms of communication (along with laughing and smiling). It can bring us together, let us know how we stand with each other, and send a signal that something is amiss.

Whether you prefer to cry in private or if you end up breaking down in public, crying can be essential in maintaining emotional health. But why is it so important?

It steers your focus.
Sometimes we don't even know how upset we are about a situation until we start to cry. Crying as an emotional reaction can help you put things into perspective. It can help you realize, Okay, this is important to me so I need to deal with it. Otherwise, it may just be too easy to push it aside.

It steers their focus.
As much as we try not to, there comes a time when we will inevitably break down and cry in front of someone else. Whether it's a co-worker or a loved one, crying sends the message that you're hurt. And people aren't mind readers, without that piece of nonverbal communication, they may never realize how you're struggling. Embarrassing as it may be, the outcome can be comforting. They may change their behavior, open up about their feelings, or just give you a much-needed hug.

You feel better.
There's a science behind the reasons why crying can make us feel better. The tears we shed during an emotional outburst contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin, and some researchers believe they contain stress hormones as well.

It moves us.
Looking at a work of art, watching a movie, listening to music, or reading a book that moves us to tears is a memorable experience. We may end up forgetting all the enjoyable artistic pieces we've encountered, but the ones that brought us to tears are the ones that stick. What's more, we can build a memory based around the act of crying. For instance, we remember we cried at a certain movie, then we remember we were with our first love on a first date, and then we recall what we wore and how we felt, and so on.

It's a universal language.
While we may not speak the same verbal language as other cultures or regions, there are certain signs of distress that we can comprehend as humans. On the contrary, there are also universal signs of happiness and satisfaction. Crying can help us understand one another, and it can bring together the human population and give us clues to the plight of others. We may be oceans and continents apart, but we can find comfort in the fact that we share certain physical reactions.

Let it Out
It's possible that we attach shame to crying because when we recall the act, we evoke the sadness we felt at that particular time in our lives. It isn't easy to drag up those emotions. Instead of thinking about what caused the crying, focus on the potential benefits of having that natural release. When you recall the last time you cried, think of what became of your situation and how you handled the aftermath of your emotional response. Be in tune with the way it made you feel. Get to know yourself, and don't be afraid to cry when you need to.

Shauna is an award-winning entrepreneur, public speaker, and founder of Best Kept Self, a community of experts who believe in the power of self-care for the self-employed. For more tips on self-care and mindfulness, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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