We know that laughing is healthy, but what about crying? It turns out that it can indeed be therapeutic as long as it is now and then and not all the time. After looking into it, I’ve discovered why a nice, old-fashioned cry can feel so good.
Crying is a natural response to sorrow, frustration and grief and helps relieve emotional stress. It lowers the risk for heart disease by lowering blood pressure and pulse rate and removes toxins from the body. William Frey II, a biochemist at the St Paul Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota, has been studying tears for over 15 years.
He found that tears from stress or sadness contain different chemicals than tears that are produced by an irritant. He has done experiments analyzing tears after subjects watched a sad movie vs. when they cut onions. The sad tears contained 24 percent more albumin than the onion-induced tears.
They contained an endorphin called leucine-enkaphalin (which helps control pain) and prolactin a hormone, which regulates milk production. Sad tears also contain 30 times more manganese as compared to serum levels. Excess manganese is associated with anxiety, stress and serious mood problems.
Not surprisingly, women cry more than men. On average women cry 47 times a year and men cry 7 times a year. The average cry lasts 6 minutes. Eighty-five percent of women and 73 percent of men felt better after a good cry.
Removing stress hormones through tears is healthy. Suppressing them is not and can even lead to stress-related disease. Tears have a cultural purpose as well. They evoke a quick empathetic response from others.
I know in the past I have recommended a funny movie to make you feel better. Maybe once in awhile it would be good to throw in a sad one so that you can have a good therapeutic cry. Of course, if you are Kurt Vonnegut you might want to stick with the funny ones!
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” ~Kurt Vonnegut
File under: Expert Spotlight
Dr. Robin Miller, Sharecare Editorial Advisory Board Member, currently practices Internal Medicine and serves as the medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine, a highly innovative Integrative Medicine clinic in Medford, Oregon. She has produced the award-winning health series, “Is there a Doctor in the House,” which is shown nationwide on the GE-sponsored Patient Channel, and is the author of "Kids Ask the Doctor" and the co-author of “The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife and Beyond: A No-Nonsense Approach to Staying Healthy after 50".
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