How often have you heard things like, “Don’t cry” or “Stop being such a cry baby?” And then of course growing up we receive numerous messages that big girls—and especially big boys—don’t cry. Tears are often considered a source of shame and weakness in our society, where putting on a brave face is valued and rewarded. But for all the bad publicity that crying gets, it is actually good for you.
When it comes to tears and crying, people often forget about the physical function of tears. Not only are they an indication of emotional trauma, they also signal physical difficulties. How many of us have been plagued by allergies and found ourselves with tearful watery eyes? And what about all those instances of stray eyelashes, dust and debris that find their way into our sight?
Crying releases some of these chemicals that have been stored in the body and brain in order to restore balance and harmony.
Aside from dealing with those foreign ocular invaders, tears in general help our vision. They lubricate our eyes. In fact without tears, we would likely lose our sight altogether. While moisture is a big benefit provided by our tears, they also have antibacterial properties that kill germs and bacteria—which is a welcome relief when you think about how many times a day we touch and rub our eyes.
Mental and Emotional Health
Have you ever been so stressed out that you cried? It’s okay to admit it. In fact it’s a downright healthy thing to do! We know from scientific research that stress leads to a build up of hormones and neurotransmitters like adrenaline and cortisol. Although they are helpful for dangerous situations requiring a fight or flight response, over a prolonged period of time they adversely affect our bodies and our brains. Crying releases some of these chemicals that have been stored in the body and brain in order to restore balance and harmony. Those tears from stress can indeed heal your brain chemistry.
And doesn’t having a good cry just make you feel better? Whether it’s due to a build up of little things or one distressing episode, crying serves as an emotional release—it’s cathartic and natural. It is also a trait that is unique to our species alone. No other animal cries for emotional reasons, not even our closest genetic ancestors—the primates. Although many animals are capable of showing compassion, sadness and even remorse, none of them shed tears for these reasons.
We know that tears have a great affect on our bodies, minds and emotions, but spirituality? Sure, why not? If you think about it, we are holistic beings and all these areas are interrelated. Crying can improve our spiritual health too.
Consider the term “tears of compassion.” When you see someone else cry isn’t your first impulse to ask what is wrong and offer to help? Those tears can be a signal for you to offer your love and support to another human being who is hurting. It is a chance for you to bond with another. That is a wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth—for both of you.
Tears can bring a community together. When thinking about some of the recent tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook, you can see how many of us cried and shared the sorrow with the victims. Collectively it’s an opportunity for us all to heal and to become more compassionate and spiritually aware. We can all grow and evolve by sharing our tears together.
So the next time you feel your eyes welling up and try to hold back the tears—don’t. Go ahead and cry your eyes out, those tears have great healing power.