All the Healthy Reasons to Let Yourself Have a Good Cry

Go ahead, let it out—crying is healthy.

If you ever had a good cry and instantly felt better, there's science behind that phenomenon. Crying helps you feel better mentally and emotionally, and brings unexpected physical benefits. While excessive crying can be is a sign of depression, anxiety, or certain neurological conditions; a good cry (on occasion) is an important way to refresh our minds and bodies. Here's why.

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Crying benefits our eyes.

To understand how crying benefits our eyes, it's important to know how the three different types of tears work and their roles in protecting our ocular health.

Our eyes regularly create the first type, basal secretion tears, to keep them nourished, clean, and free of bacteria. These are generally always present.

The second type, reflex tears, respond to things like smoke, particles in our eyes, cutting an onion, or handling powerful spices.

It's the third type, emotional tears, that responds to emotions. "Emotional tears are unique in that they contain proteins and hormones not found in basal secretion or reflex tears," explains board-certified ophthalmologist Diane Hilal-Campo, MD. "These 'additives' can have relaxing or pain-relieving properties that help regulate the body and return it to its prior state."

She says crying helps rehydrate eyes, which improves vision overall. Plus, tears have the power to kill bacteria. "Tears are cleansing and help remove the potentially damaging irritants that your eyes are exposed to daily," she describes. "Tears are 98 percent water, but also contain salt, fatty oils, and 1,500 different proteins, as well as an antibacterial chemical known as lysozyme that helps fight off infections."

In a nutshell, tears are essential to our eye health. Board-certified ophthalmologist Yuna Rapoport, MD, MPH, adds that working from home can increase eye dryness, making healthy tears more important than ever. "Crying is actually quite good for our eyes, especially dry eyes," she says. "We all have a level of dry eyes right now, given that our blink rate is significantly reduced when we're on our computers."

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Crying is emotionally cathartic.

Crying is a natural way to show or release emotions: sadness, anger, or joy; among other feelings. Research points to crying having a cathartic effect that can bring us relief. Some studies suggest that inhibition of expression, or not crying, can promote mental problems and illness.

"Have you ever heard the term 'big girls or boys don't cry'? The truth is that all humans can benefit from a good cry," explains mental health counselor Kelly Houseman, MS, LPC, NCC. "We are not meant to hold things in, pretend we have it all together, and fake our way through life. Just like a boiling pot on a stove with a lid on, these emotions have to come out."

A 2012 study showed strong emotions, like crying, can be a result of excessive emotional energy, which tears help release. They found that crying can diminish tension and negative feelings, regardless if the source of stress was removed.

"A good cry is a cathartic release and often results in feeling lighter and having greater clarity when it's done," Houseman says. "It's also a way to connect with humanity and helps with empathy. Everyone deals with heavy emotions, and sometimes a good cry is the perfect way to process them."

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Crying is normal in healthy amounts—but what is a healthy amount?

With no hard numbers as to how often we should cry, the American Psychological Association states that, on average, women cry emotional tears several times a month (30 to 64 times a year), while men may cry once every month or two (5 to 17 times a year). So, if you fall into that range, you're crying a healthy amount, but it ultimately depends on your personality and your life circumstances.

Excessive crying is a key symptom of mood disorders like depression or anxiety. Some neurological states that result from injuries or brain disturbances can lead to a condition called pseudobulbar affect. In this involuntary neurological state, people may experience uncontrollable laughing or crying.

If you're crying excessively, it's essential to seek help. Contact your doctor to discuss your concerns and talk about treatment plans. If you're crying a typical amount, it's healthy for you; so go ahead and let it out.

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