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Sometimes Crying Is Healthy

Sometimes Crying Is Healthy

In the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) takes a Hawaiian vacation to get over his recent breakup. But his ex and her new boyfriend turn out to be staying in his hotel. The discovery shatters him and he ends up sobbing on his balcony. Then the front desk calls: “We’re getting complaints about a woman crying hysterically,” the desk clerk says. “I think it’s from the floor above me,” he replies, trying to deflect blame. “You’re on the top floor,” is the retort.  

Being a crier like Peter may sound embarrassing, but science shows he was getting healthy on several levels.

  • Research indicates that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or your “rest and digest state.” That’s also equivalent to a meditation response to stress and the opposite of your alert, fight or flight state. Good for the cardiovascular system and the spirit.
  • Tears that express emotion contain beneficial chemicals and help eliminate toxins from your body.
  • Crying also stimulates release of the love hormone, oxytocin, a chemical associated with comforting and happiness.
  •  It is thought crying releases opioids in the brain, which help reduce pain. In short, crying is an effective form of self-soothing. (“There, there, things will be okay.”)
  • In the blink of an eye, you’ll be transferring oxygen, moisture, nutrients and antibodies that fight infection to your cornea.
  • It helps rally support from those around you when you’re down.

Our advice to Peter: Cry it out; hop the next boat to Maui; find a new gal! 

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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