Is Crying Good for You? It Depends
Not all tears wash away emotional pain. Here's how to make your crying count.
Posted June 16, 2014 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
Some people cry frequently, but not fully. They’re good at crying but never seem to heal from what’s hurting them.
Crying is supposed to be good for you. Tears contain toxins, after all. And feel-good chemicals are released in the body whenever we cry tears of sadness.
So if crying is so good for you, why do some people cry all the time and not feel better?
Self-Criticism Cancels Healing
I remember spending an entire day in bed, crying over a breakup with a young man whose name and face I’ve forgotten.
By the time that day of crying was done, so was I. I had successfully cried that heartbreak out of my system.
Mind you, this wasn’t somebody I’d had in my life for long. It was a short-lived romance that ended as quickly as it had begun.
If the relationship had lasted longer, it would probably have taken multiple crying sessions to process all the heartache.
What I didn’t do while crying was to criticize myself. Instead of saying, “If I weren’t such a loser, I wouldn’t be lying here crying,” or “What’s the big deal? I barely knew him,” I just wallowed in my loss all day.
The feelings I experienced seemed bigger than that particular loss. But that didn’t mean I was overdoing it or making a mountain out of a molehill.
What it meant was that I was processing older feelings at the same time as new ones. The breakup had provided an opportunity for me to revisit earlier losses in my life.
This was a good thing. Better out than in.
Make Those Tears Count
Never judge your feelings while you’re having them; there’s always a reason something’s a big deal to you.
Follow these tips for a genuinely good cry…
1. Cry for your own pain, not just for other people. Crying while watching movies and when listening to sad songs is a good way to let off some built-up emotion. But you may not be dealing directly with your own hurts when that happens. Remember it’s okay to cry for yourself.
2. Let yourself cry over spilt milk. You don’t have to wait till somebody dies. You can cry about anything that triggers you, no matter how seemingly trivial.
3. Don’t set a time limit on tears. Your heart will decide when enough is enough. If you connect with the true source of your pain, you’ll find it’s finite. But you don’t get to dictate a time limit for your sorrow. Be patient.
4. Pick up where you left off. If you have to keep a stiff upper lip, perhaps because you’re at work, check in with yourself later and see how you feel. Reflect on the incident in private if you feel it’s unresolved. Don’t stress out if you can’t recapture the pain. Tears are like cats: You can’t lead them on a leash.
5. Speak only kind words to yourself. When you cry, watch for self-critical and invalidating self-talk like this:
"It’s not that big a deal."
"I’m too sensitive."
"Big boys/girls don’t cry."
Instead, say, “I’m sorry” and “I’m with you” and “I love you.” Don’t say these things in order to make yourself stop crying. Say them in order to be compassionate to yourself.
6. Cry in public. If you’ve never cried in public before, you may be surprised to find that many people will be drawn to you. Your tears make you vulnerable, and therefore no threat to others. Kindness is a frequent response to public tears.
If you remember just one thing from this post, let it be self-compassion.