Whether from a movie or a chopping an onion your tears help you in surprising ways.
By Beth Levine
GO AHEAD AND CRY – IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!
There are three kinds of tears: reflexive (clears out irritants); continuous (keeps eyes lubricated), and emotional (responding to joy and sadness) Did you know that humans are the only animals who can do the third one? This fact has led many scientists to ask why? If evolutionary changes are based on improving survival, what about emotional crying is beneficial? The answer is quite a bit.
CRYING ACTUALLY IMPROVE YOUR MOOD
A recent Netherlands study showed participants really sad movies and then noted who cried and who didn’t. Those who didn’t felt no different emotionally after the movie, while the criers felt worse. However, within 20 minutes, the criers returned to pre-movie levels, and after 90 minutes, the criers felt much better than their stoic counterparts. “This pattern is often found in retrospective studies where people are asked to rate their mood levels after having experienced a good cry,” said lead author Asmir Gracanin of the University of Tiburg in the Netherlands.
CRYING HELPS RELIEVE STRESS.
William H. Frey II, Ph.D., a biochemist and director of the Psychiatry Research Laboratories at the ST. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center. Professor and Director of Alzheimer’s Research Center Regional Hospital Foundation in Minnesota, also made his study participants cry by showing them sad movies. (Brian’s Song was a biggie) His theory was that we feel better after crying because it remove chemicals that build up during stress. “We don’t know what those chemicals are, but we do know that tears contain ACTH, which is known to be increased in stress. We don’t know if they are increased in tears,” reports Dr. Frey
Frey continues, “It’s important that we evolved this ability. If you can alleviate stress, you can prevent stress damage to the heart and brain, and improve long-term survival. We shouldn’t be conditioning young children not to cry; we should be happy that they have the ability.”
TEARS CLEANSE AND PROTECT THE EYE.
Non –emotional crying has health benefits, too. You know how you tear up when you’re chopping onions? A chemical from the onion is released hits the surface of the eye, and creates sulphuric acid. In order to get rid of it, your tear glands produce a lot of tears to wash the chemical out of the eye. Tears also contain lysozyme, which is both antibacterial and antiviral, and glucose, which nourishes the cells on the surface of the eye and inside the eyelids.
TEARS ALSO HELP OUR NOSE:
Tears travel internally through the tear duct to the nasal passages, where they encounter mucus. When enough tears mix with the mucus, it loosens and is shed, keeping the nose moist and bacteria free, says psychiatrist Judith Orloff, M.D. author of Emotional Freedom
BIG BOYS DO (AND SHOULD) CRY.
Dr. Frey discovered that women cry an average of 5.3 times a month, while men cry an average of 1.3 times per month. Part of that discrepancy is because testosterone (higher in men) may inhibit crying, while the hormone prolactin (higher in women) may encourage it. Dr. Frey reports also that tear glands between men and women are anatomically different. But a major part of the stoic male can be laid at the door of gender and cultural norms, which generally leaves men out of the loop in reaping crying benefits. “Try to let go of outmoded, untrue, conceptions about crying. It is good to cry. It is healthy to cry, and that’s true for all sexes.” Urges Dr. Orloff.