Why do we hold back tears? We apologize for something our body feels it needs to do. Crying usually is seen as an expression of distress or pain. It can also be the action of expression of any emotion felt: happiness, anxiety, frustration, fear–the list goes on. It is the human body’s natural release of the strong feelings that we all, inevitably, feel. It is innate; we came to this earth knowing how to cry, no one had to teach us how to cry. But as we grew this bodily function was instructed to stop by our caregivers or ourselves; because "big girls/boys don't cry". Did you know that crying this therapeutic? Crying has many heath benefits as well. Crying doesn't mean you are weak, in fact it is a sign of emotional maturity.
Studies show that crying improves mood, detoxifies the body, helps self-sooth, dulls pain by releasing beneficial endorphins that are helpful to your body and mind. Crying also adds in restoring emotional balance. Are you suppression your tears? Let's agree to stop. Here are 10 safe way to get yourself to cry when you feel you need to release extreme emotions:
Ask for a hug from a friend, parent, trusted person. Sometimes the feeling of compassion and genuine human interaction can help the tears come.
Watch a sad movie or episode of a tv show.
Watch a ridiculously funny movie or episode of a tv show (popular suggestions from my clients include Friends and The Office), and laugh until the tears come.
Listen to a sad song or playlist, and really be mindful of the lyrics.
Look at photographs that may evoke strong emotion.
Exercise! Many cycling and boxing classes are now held in darkness which offers a safe, private space to let go of some emotions (and sweat!) even in a group of people. Yoga is wonderful, heart opening, and always a safe place to release emotion. Try a Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga class, which are less intense, and can be times of deep reflection. Please talk to your doctor and/or therapist before starting any exercise routine. Make sure that exercise is safe for your body and never exert yourself to the point of pain.
Get a back rub or massage. Many emotions are stored in the body and sometimes a muscular release can help.
Confide in a close, trustworthy friend or relative.
Talk to your therapist. They can likely help guide you to go deeper in therapy and help you gently access buried emotions.
Let me know your thoughts. Will you try to cry? Do you feel you stop yourself from crying? Let me know your thoughts.
Gračanin A, et al. (2014). Is crying a self-soothing behavior? ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/
Hesdorffer DC, et al. (2018). Social and psychological consequences of not crying: Possible associations with psychopathology and therapeutic relevance. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28831948/
Millings A, et al. (2016). Holding back the tears: Individual differences in adult crying proneness reflect attachment orientation and attitudes to crying. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934120/
Mund M, et al. (2012). The costs of repression: A meta-analysis on the relation between repressive coping and somatic diseases. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22081940/