“Hey, you okay?”
“Sorry, I really don’t know why I am crying… I’ll stop, I’ll stop, I’m sorry…I am okay, please don’t worry.”
Have you ever encountered the scenario above?
Growing up, we have always been taught to not cry. We were taught to be strong and not let falls and challenges faze us. For males, having been told how crying is not manly meant that they are even more prone to the desire to look tough. As we grow up, these words are etched in our minds, we build walls and hide our tears behind a smile.
It takes a lot of unlearning to understand that being strong,independent and resilient can co-exist with the shedding of tears. It is okay to let our tears flow. In fact, it requires a lot of courage to be vulnerable and to acknowledge and experience our feelings.
Perhaps you are asking yourself why crying is beneficial. To help you understand, here are some benefits of crying:
1. Crying helps us to relieve stress and regain balance
If you recall a time when you felt a little lighter after a good cry, it is due to the positive physical impacts of crying. Tears help us release excess stress hormones and toxins, regulating our mood. After crying, the release of endorphins and oxytocin leading us to feel more relaxed and experience an overall sense of well-being. Crying from a joke that was too funny, or from being surprised from a scary scene is our body’s attempt to regain emotional balance.
2. Crying helps us reflect and learn about ourselves
Crying is a uniquely human experience. Only human beings shed tears when faced with emotional distress. When we cry, we let our guard down temporarily, allowing us to relieve some of the stress that we face. During the process, we can think, reflect and focus our attention inwards. Having control over our emotions does not mean stopping ourselves from feeling but rather about regulating these emotions. Crying helps us experience our emotions, recognize why we are feeling them and move forward with a better understanding of ourselves.
3. Crying serves as a social cue for others to support us
Did you know that there are “crying clubs” (涙活read: rui-katsu) in Japan, where people gather to watch a sappy movie and cry together? They do this to create a safe space for each other to express their emotions openly. Crying is a social cue that signals to others that you need support. While we often think that crying should be a private affair, crying in front of people you trust can be a very liberating experience. However, it does require an extra step of courage to share your story and ask for the support you need.
Crying is a self-soothing experience. The next time you find yourself holding back tears, consider just letting it out. Turn on a sappy romcom, a sad song, or a hilarious movie. Let yourself relax and fully embrace your emotions. Feel free to let the tears roll down your cheeks (or a tissue paper for a less dramatic effect). Be reminded that as those tears flow, you are still strong.
When we start to open up and experience our emotions fully, there may be a chance of reopening old wounds. How then can we learn to overcome our suppressed emotional pain? Stay tuned for the next article to find out more!
While crying has many benefits, it is also important to monitor you and your loved ones. If you notice crying episodes persist longer than usual or happen more frequently such that it interferes with your daily activities, it could be a sign that you, or your loved one is in distress. If you notice that you or someone you know starts to have suicidal thoughts and feelings, do turn to a trusted friend, adult or mental health professional.
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