Rather than pushing away tears, it seems that having a good old-fashioned cry when feeling blue could be the best way to return to a normal mood. On a psychological level, crying is a good way to release built-up emotions, and often leads to a feeling of relief afterwards.
The reason why humans cry when we are sad stems from an evolutionary beginning. According to New York-based psychiatrist Emily Steinberg, crying is a basic type of human communication. “On a more evolutionary/interpersonal level, crying may also serve to communicate to others how you are feeling, promote social bonding, as well as be used for survival (especially in infancy) as a means of conveying vulnerability,” she said.
Unfortunately, there’s a heavy stigma attached to crying. Children, who use crying to communicate before they are capable of expressing themselves with language, are often encouraged very early on not to cry. Women who cry can be quickly stereotyped as hysterical, while a crying man could be accused of compromising his ‘manliness’.
The result is that we are taught to choke back our tears or only cry in private. This is a disservice to us all. Here are three good reasons why you should let it all out next time you’re feeling blue.
1. It releases the stress
There’s a scientific reason why you feel better after you cry and that’s because when you’re sad or stressed, cortisol levels in your body rise and your sympathetic nervous system goes into fight mode. After you cry, you feel more relaxed because your heart rate and breathing normalise, and your digestive function resumes. Crying is a way to allow yourself to experience the depth and range of your emotions, and to let them out so they don’t stay bottled up inside.
2. It allows others to cry, too
Crying makes you vulnerable in front of others, but that doesn’t mean you are weak. In fact, vulnerability is a sign of strength; it shows you are brave and honest about your feelings, and it lets the person you’re with know you trust them. When you are honest about your feelings, it encourages others to be honest with theirs. This is how deep and meaningful conversations take place. When you think about it, we are all just waiting for someone else to let go first.
3. It’s stickin’ it to the system
There’s a sexist undercurrent to the idea that we mustn’t cry. Both women and men suffer equally. Historically, women have always copped it for being overly emotional and irrational, as though it’s an inherent part of their nature, and that this somehow causes them to be bad at making decisions. Meanwhile, men who well up are at risk of being seen as weak, feminine and incapable of performing their masculine duties. In both cases, it’s femininity that is devalued, but either way you slice it, we all lose. So if you disagree with this system, give the women and men in your life (as well as yourself) an equal platform to cry.
A final word
Crying can become a problem if you do it too often or if it doesn’t make you feel better afterwards. If you experience this type of crying, it’s advisable to seek counsel from a GP or you can visit beyondblue.org.au for help.