top of page
  • Writer's pictureScience & Environment

Is crying a good thing?

Shedding some tears could be the best form of stress relief

By Holly Ferguson

Photo courtesy of victorvote from Pixabay.

As winter rolls in, exams on the horizon, I’m sure many of us are starting to notice a change in our moods and motivation. Setting the scene, you are in front of your laptop, nothing makes sense, the deadline is in two days and the stress and pressure continues to build till… all of a sudden you are crying. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it can actually be a good thing. Crying actually has a range of health-related benefits that primarily aid stress-relief, as well as physical or emotional pain.

Crying is a fundamental human experience, which is thought to be exclusive to humans. Our body begins to cry when signals are sent to the part of the brain that controls emotions and this can trigger some tears. Emotional tears are expected to be different to tears that come as a reaction, for example, to cutting an onion or getting something in your eye.

The most prominent benefit is that it is a form of stress relief. By letting go and addressing your emotions, you are able to regulate how you feel and, therefore, calm yourself once the crying stops. It may provide some form of clarity afterwards as you manage to pull yourself back together and have another go at whatever you are trying to attempt. Crying stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has the function to make the body relax. So, once the last tear has been shed, don’t give yourself a hard time, just accept it has happened and move on, as you may feel lighter and less uptight afterwards.

Additionally, when you are crying, it has been discovered that oxytocin and endorphins are released, which are the positive chemicals often associated with exercise. These will soothe the body, bringing all the stress and anxiety back down to a manageable level, and at the same time, trigger the receptors in your brain to have a ‘feel-good’ feeling, resulting in you feeling a bit cheerier and relieved after a good cry.

This same calming and relieving effect has been suggested to help you sleep. A study monitoring babies found that the babies often slept better if they had been crying compared to falling asleep without. While there has not been a study on adults, it proposes that the endorphins released create a better and deeper sleep. I'm sure for anyone that has had a cry right before falling asleep, the sleep does tend to be phenomenal.

Another aspect of crying is that it shows our vulnerability to another person. This causes the other person to feel the same pain and empathise with you when they see you are upset. Professor Trimble, at the University College London, has stated that, during some point in evolution, seeing someone shed some tears would automatically cause empathy and compassion. Therefore, by allowing yourself to open up and communicate your worries or stresses will relieve some of the pressure and that ‘bottled up’ feeling. Additionally, it is always a good idea to talk to another person about any concerns you may have as they can not only listen but could provide you with some advice.

Crying is one of the body’s natural reactions, and as mentioned above, it is not necessarily a bad thing. On average, it is expected that women cry six times a month, and men three times a month.

While it may seem silly or unnecessary to be crying over a deadline or even a multiple-choice quiz, it is not. Crying is one of the body’s natural reactions, and as mentioned above, it is not necessarily a bad thing. On average, it is expected that women cry six times a month, and men three times a month. Obviously, crying constantly or feeling constantly down is more than a little uni stress, but the next time when your eyes start to water, let them fill up, and release all the worries that are right in front of you.


bottom of page