How to Cry More (and Why You Should)

How to Cry More (and Why You Should)

We have lots of reasons to suppress the urge to cry, from throwing a bully off your scent in grade school to trying to appear professional in an important meeting. You may have preconceived notions about how crying can make you seem weak, or that it’s an undesirable vibe to put out in tense situations. However, good things can come from crying when you do it in the safety of an emotionally supportive environment. Not only does it let people around you know that you need their help, it lets you release endorphins and stress so you can start feeling better.

Why do we cry, anyway?

Why we cry as a result of intense emotions or physical pain is an ongoing area of study. Consensus says crying functions a social signal to elicit comfort and support from other people. But from an evolutionary perspective, it’s very hard to study, researchers say, because humans are the only animals who cry. Other animals whine and vocalize, but humans are the only animals who do this coordinated action of producing tears, vocalizing, facial contractions, collapsing posture, and shuddering that we call crying.

Generally speaking, humans produce three types of tears

  • Basal: produced all the time for general eye health.
  • Irritant: for flushing harmful things out of the eye.
  • Emotional: caused by strong emotions and pain.

Reasons it’s good for you to cry

Like I mentioned, the main scientific theory for the value of crying is that it triggers empathy and compassion in others, thus promoting human connection. It’s a way for you (or a baby or anyone) to signal you need help and to make people who see and hear you crying more likely to help.

Aside from the social benefit, it’s widely believed that crying has physiological benefits, too. Some research shows that crying could be a form of self-soothing. It may help relieve pain by releasing opioids and oxytocin. In 2020, a small study showed that crying therapy improved emotions and physiology in breast cancer survivors. Grief therapist Gina Moffa, author of Moving on Doesn’t Mean Letting Go: A Modern Guide to Navigating Loss, says not only can crying elicit empathy from others, it helps us release stress and pent up emotions.

“Crying can be a therapeutic release that releases endorphins and helps to create a sense of calm,” she says. “Emotional tears can help us flush out toxins in our bodies, lubricate our eyes, or lower blood pressure and reduce distress. It can have a social benefit of eliciting empathy or care from people around us that can help us feel safer and coregulated.”

While there’s no evidence that you need to cry on a certain schedule, she says, it is encouraged to let your tears flow in a safe way and in a safe place.

How to turn on the waterworks

So, we’ve established that crying is important, but how do you do it? If you’re a person who has worked hard to hold back tears in the past, letting them flow freely may take some practice.

“For some people who were taught emotions were not safe or for those who have not been modelled how to express emotions, crying can seem elusive,” Moffa says. “Some of the ways I recommend to allow the emotions to be released through tears is to make a playlist of moving and personal songs, to journal and write freely about feelings, watch a meaningful or sad movie, [try] somatic release, or on a more positive note, create a genuine gratitude practice.”

Maybe you’ve seen the trending TikToks about a somatic release technique to induce crying. It’s worth a try, Moffa says, but be sure to do it in an environment where you can get emotional support.

“I believe in the safe release of our emotions, whether through tears we have naturally or tears we trigger. It can be a healthy release to try a somatic release exercise we have been seeing all over social media. My caveat is that you are in a safe place and have support if needed afterward,” she said.

7 techniques to help make yourself cry

If you need some additional resources to help open the floodgates, try one (or several) of the techniques below.

  • Make a sad playlist of songs that get you every time (you know the ones).
  • Just ask TikTok or YouTube for videos that will make you cry. See what pushes your tear button, whether it’s inspirational, sentimental, sad, or tragic.
  • Try somatic self care.
  • Listen to a sad podcast.
  • Watch a guaranteed tearjerker movie.
  • Journal about your personal sadness and grief.
  • Try a yoga pose to release sadness. (Pigeon is often cited to cause crying.)

Lead Image Credit: Ian Moore

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