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Western culture has told us all that crying indicates weakness and is only “acceptable” in certain circumstances like funerals. Pregnant women are often excused from excessive no reason at all crying episodes because of hormones. It’s okay for them to cry during songs or commercials or movies, but for the rest of us, we’d better suppress the urge otherwise we could be teased incessantly. Women are often criticized about how easily they resort to tears and men burst a button when they prove they can get through a normally tear-jerking moment without even their chin quivering.
Well, what if crying held the key for relieving stress? What if crying were actually good for our emotional state? What if science could help dispel this commonly held belief that is keeping many of us from expressing our emotions through tears when our body needs to.
Tearing up the Teasers
Contrary to popular culture, crying is extremely beneficial and not a sign of emotional or physical weakness at all. Who says we need to be emotionally strong all the time anyway? None of us are invincible, are we? So what’s wrong with a tear drop or two?
Crying is actually one of nature’s ways of relieving stress. The eyes produce three types of tears: continuous (basal) tears; reflex tears; and emotional tears.
Continuous, or basal tears, are the tears our eyes need to function and stay wet. Reflex tears are similar, but their main purpose is to flush out irritants or objects. Both these kinds of tears contain powerful antibacterial and antiviral enzymes that can kill 90-95% of all bacteria in 5-10 minutes (www.mindbodysanctuary.com).
Emotional tears, however, are the tears that relieve stress. When a person cries in reaction to stress (even laughter) the body actually releases “higher concentrations of proteins, manganese, and the hormone prolactin which is produced during stress-induced danger or arousal” (www.tranquilityisyours.com). They also contain enkephalin, an endorphin and natural painkiller.