Sometimes all you need is a good cry. Decades of research have linked shedding tears to releasing emotions, from sadness to anxiety and frustration.
According to Junko Umihara, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Japan, crying may also be your best bet in reducing stress.
“Crying is an act of self-defense against accumulating stresses,” he said in the Japan Times.
In Japan, more schools and companies are apparently encouraging students and employees to cry because it relieves stress and thus improves mental health.
For example, Hidefumi Yoshida, a former highschool teacher who now calls himself “namida sensei,” or “tears teacher,” organises activities to help people in school and companies across Japan recognise the benefits of crying.
“The act of crying is more effective than laughing or sleeping in reducing stress,” he said. “If you cry once a week, you can live a stress-free life.”
Crying with emotion has more benefits than if our eyes simply water. This was demonstrated by the work of William Frey, a researcher at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis. He found that reflex tears are 98% water, while emotional tears also contain stress hormones and toxins. When we cry, we are effectively detoxing our bodies of these accumulated substances.
Other research has found how crying stimulates the production of endorphins, so we feel better.
“I am grateful when I can cry,” wrote psychiatrist Judith Orloff in a blog post for Psychology Today.
“It feels cleansing, a way to purge pent up emotions so they don’t lodge in my body as stress symptoms such as fatigue or pain.”
To stay healthy and release stress, she said, she encourages all her patients to cry, and not be ashamed of it.
“You don’t want to hold tears back. Patients sometimes say, ‘Please excuse me for crying. I was trying hard not to. It makes me feel weak.'” she wrote.
“For both men and women, tears are a sign of courage, strength, and authenticity.”
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