Shedding a tear or two is a natural response humans have to a range of emotions.

This emotion includes sadness, grief, joy and frustration. It’s a part of our human emotional package.

When people talk about crying, they are usually referring to emotional tears (and women tend to do this a lot more than men).

As human beings, both men and women (boys and girls) produce three types of tears:

  • Basal: Here, the tear ducts constantly secrete basal tears which are a protein-rich antibacterial liquid that help to keep the eyes moist every time a person blinks.

  • Reflex: These are tears triggered by irritants such as wind, smoke or onions. They are released to flush out these irritants and protect the eye.

  • Emotional: Humans shed tears in response to a range of emotions. These tears contain a higher level of stress hormones than other types of tears.

People may try to suppress tears if they see them as a sign of weakness, but science suggests that doing so could mean missing out on a range of benefits.

Some of the benefits of crying (shedding emotional tears) includes:

1. Crying has a soothing effect

  • It helps with self-soothing when people regulate their own emotions

  • It can help calm yourself

  • It reduces personal distress

2. Crying helps solicit ‘support from others’

  • As well as helping people self-soothe, crying can help people get support from others around them.

  • Crying is primarily an ‘attachment behaviour’, as it rallies support from the people around us. This is known as an interpersonal or social benefit.

3. Helps to relieve pain

  • Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins.

  • These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.

4. Enhances your mood

  • Crying may help lift people’s spirits and make them feel better.

  •  As well as relieving pain, oxytocin and endorphins can help improve your mood. This is why they are often known as “feel good” chemicals.

5. Releases toxins and relieves stress

  • When humans cry in response to stress, their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals.

  • Researchers believe that crying could reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, which could, in turn, reduce stress. 

However, more research is ongoing in this area to confirm this.

6. Aids sleep

  • Crying can help babies sleep better. 

  • However, it follows that the calming, mood-enhancing and pain-relieving effects of crying above may help a person fall asleep more easily.

7. Fights bacteria

  • Crying helps to kill bacteria and keeps the eyes clean as tears contain a fluid called lysozyme.

  • Lysozyme has such powerful antimicrobial properties that it could even help to reduce risks presented by bioterror agents, such as anthrax.

8. Improves vision

  • Basal tears, which are released every time a person blinks, help to keep the eyes moist and prevent mucous membranes from drying out.

  • (As the National Eye Institute in the United States of America, explains) the lubricating effect of basal tears helps people to see more clearly. When the membranes dry out, vision can become blurry.

Wow.... So much value from ‘shedding tears’

Next time you see a friend, colleague or family member ‘shedding a tear or two’, just simply give them a pat on the back, as we are all likely to feel much better after the whole episode.