When is the last time you had a good cry? Newborn babies cry out when they are hungry, tired, or when a stranger approaches them. They cry without a care in the world as soon as they feel any stress. This is because crying is one of the few ways babies can express their emotions and cope with stress. However, as we grow older we have fewer opportunities to shed our tears. Many of us may even believe that “crying is an embarrassment” or that “grown-ups shouldn’t cry.” As we grow old, we suppress this instinct-driven highly effective stress-coping method we already hold. The effectiveness of stress relief through our tears has been gaining interest in recent years.
What Kind of Tears are Effective?
There are several types of tears when we talk about tears. For one, there is the basic functional tear called the basal tears. These are tears that are constantly released to keep the eyes from drying up. The second type is reactive tears. These tears are produced when the eye is stimulated through dust getting into the eye, or when we cut onions. Finally, emotional tears. These tears are considered to be effective in relieving stress.
Note that reactive tears from cutting onions don’t help with stress-relief because it doesn’t accompany any emotion.
Why is Crying Good for Us?
Emotional tears are released in large quantities through the tear glands when a person feels deeply moved. Our autonomic nervous system has both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, and it’s generally believed that a sympathetic-dominant state promotes tension and stress, while a parasympathetic-dominant state allows the brain to relax. Tearful responses are triggered when our minds are stimulated through emotions of sadness, frustration, or feeling deeply moved. Shedding these emotional tears relaxes the sympathetic nervous system, instantly creating a state of parasympathetic dominance.
In general, we should cope with stress through mental and physical resting, so that our parasympathetic nervous system gradually switches into a dominant state for natural relaxation. To effectively do this, it usually requires meditation and self-reflect or the use of methods that help switch mind states like aromatherapy. In comparison, our tears can effectively switch the nervous system into a parasympathetic-dominant state in an instant. Our tears can instantly reset any stress that the mind is carrying.
How to Hold Proactive Cry Sessions
The stress-relieving effects of crying have attracted a lot of attention in recent years, especially in Japan. A new activity called “Rui-katsu” (literally “tear activity”) is emerging where people are encouraged to shed tears together to manage their mental wellbeing. Rui-katsu group cry sessions are held across the country gathering people under various stresses. They watch emotional movies and talk about sad stories with each other to trigger tears.
Of course, there’s no need to attend a public cry session event in order to shed stress-relieving tears. Below we’ll share tips on how to cry and stress relief at the comfort of your home.
Sympathize Through Stories
Stress-relief can be more effective when we cry and sympathize with compassion for what others are going through – like when we invest in a movie character or story plot. This is supposed to be better than crying for our own negative experiences and emotions of anger or sadness. Events that are not directly related to us doesn’t require any difficult action from our side to resolve the situation. This is why we feel more refreshed and exhilarated after shedding tears for others because, in the end, the character’s problem is not ours to solve. Try to hold a self-cry session through the power of tear-jerker movies!
Find What Triggers The Tears
People who generally lack opportunities for tears may find it difficult to cry through typical movies that strike our heartstrings. Some people are easily moved by sports games, while others are easily moved by the innocence of animals or children. Knowing what moves your heart and what stimulates a natural tear flow is essential in crying more efficiently, and holding personal cry sessions.
Create an Environment to Focus on Crying
If crying in front of others or holding cry sessions aren’t your thing, create an environment where you feel safe to cry alone without concern. Prepare tissues and handkerchiefs or have a cushion or stuffed animal to hold onto. It may be difficult to concentrate on a movie or TV series when our body is tired and deprived of sleep. When we engage in cry sessions, we want to make sure that we’re ready in terms of physical condition and environment so we can concentrate.
Wash Away Stress Through Tears
People today are under a lot of daily stress due to complex relationships and social anxiety. If we are exposed to excessive stress and do not have a way to relieve it, the accumulated stress may eventually lead to serious mental conditions such as depression. It’s beneficial to occasionally return to our childhood state of mind and just wash away our sorrows through crying.
Arita, H. (2007). Rui-Katsu and Stress Relief. Folia Pharmacologica Japonica, 129(2), 99~103. doi: 10.1254/fpj.129.99