Sometimes for no good reason we sit down and have a quiet weep. Sometimes for very good reasons we sit down and sob. And sometimes we have a blubbering heart wrenching ugly cry because life was just hard and our feelings were too big to handle.
Whatever or whenever, tears are a remarkable phenomenon that are really good for us.
We actually produce tears all the time. We only see the tears running down our cheeks when the drainage opening (in the nose corner of your lower eyelid) actually overflows. That is because two of the three types of tears - basal and reflex - are needed physiologically. Basal tears keep our eyes moist and lubricated. They help us see - literally by lubricating our eye balls. Reflex tears we cry in response to physical triggers like dust, noise and plucking nose hairs. These tears are like an emergency mechanism to provide that immediate lubrication and protection to the eyeball. These two tear types are mostly water but they do contain an enzymes that kills 90% or more bacteria. It is like having an endless supply of anti bacterial hand wash in your eyeball.
All animals produce tears to lubricate their eyes but only humans can produce the third type of tears - emotional tears. Only humans can weep.
Having a good weep actually makes us feel better - physically, mentally and socially. Emotional tears release oxytocin and endorphins - helping us to feel good and ease pain. It is a physical clean out as emotional tears contain toxic biological products acting as an excretory process too. Plus they clear out hormones that build up during stress as well as manganese, a mineral that negatively affects mood in high concentrations.
Suppressing a good weep can make us feel worse. In fact it will increase stress levels as your brain tells your adrenal glands to release stress hormones.
Socially tears are an extremely effective way to communicate and show we need support. In fact they elicit sympathy much faster than any other means. Think of babies who can only communicate through tears that they need something. This may be the reason why emotional crying persists into adulthood as an attachment function - acting as “social glue” to evoke social support intentions. Warning here - it may only be cathartic if you are around people who support you.
Not surprisingly women cry more than men - women about 30 to 60 times a year and men between 5 and 17. Now before all the women accuse men of being stereotypical hard arsed insensitive cavemen, there could be some good reasons. Like testosterone which may inhibit crying (and they have more of it than women) or prolactin which may promote crying (which women have more of especially when pregnant and breastfeeding - and this really does explain why you fall pregnant and weep at soap or washing powder ads).
So next time you need a good cry, let it out.
Crying releases feelings that gather in our heart, our brain, our minds and our cells. Whether you wail, weep, sob, bawl, blubber, turn on the waterworks, leak from your eyes or sweat from your eyeballs, don’t take your tears for granted. And don’t suppress them.
We need tears for happy healthy eyeballs and happy healthy souls.