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The Scientific Reason People Cry (and Why It’s Actually Really Good for You)

PureWow logo PureWow 2/12/2018 letters@purewow.com (Sarah Stiefvater)
a person holding a baby © Twenty20

Our current book club book. Every second of every episode of This Is Us. A video of a baby putting on lipstick. These are all things that have recently made us cry.

OK, we’re saps. But is that really so bad? We’re glad you asked. There are tons of studies on the benefits of crying, and the short answer is that it’s a good thing…with a few caveats. Here’s the deal. 

"Crying activates the body in a healthy way," Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA and director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics, told WebMD. "Letting down one's guard and one's defenses and [crying] is a very positive, healthy thing."

You’ve heard the idea of “crying it out,” and that’s accurate—to an extent. "In surveys, about two-thirds of people generally report feeling better after crying," said Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychology professor at the University of South Florida, in a paper on the subject. But Rottenberg also says to be wary about how big an effect crying can have on your mood, since people often unintentionally overreport the benefits. Crying does help your mood, he concedes, but don’t expect it to be a cure-all solution.

Before you go sobbing willy-nilly, consider these tips from Psychology Today on how to optimize your cries: First, don’t wait to cry until something happens that society deems worthy of tears (like the opening ceremony at the Olympics). Just let yourself cry over anything that triggers you. Also, don’t set a time limit on your bawl session. When you’ve cried enough, your body will naturally stop.

There you have it. Now go forth and re-watch Steel Magnolias for the seventh time. It’s for your health.

Slideshow: 7 surprising things you should never do before bed (Provided by PureWow) 

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