Crying may be good for you: Scientists discover shedding a few tears helps people ‘self soothe’ and even regulates their heart rate
- Volunteers watched a sad or ‘neutral’ clip before putting their hand in icy water
- Those who sobbed during the clip were able to maintain constant breathing rate
- The ‘criers’ also saw their heart rates slow before they started blubbering
They say there is no use crying over spilt milk, but research suggests shedding a few tears may actually be good for you.
A study looked at nearly 200 volunteers who watched a sad or ‘neutral’ video before submerging their hand in icy water.
Those who sobbed during the clip were able to maintain a constant breathing rate during the endurance test, while the dry-eyed participants’ breathing turned more erratic.
The ‘criers’ also saw their heart rates slow before they started blubbering, with it gradually returning to normal as they composed themselves.
Researchers from Australia believe crying may help people ‘self soothe’, while also ‘regulating their heart rate’.
Crying may be good for our health by helping to ‘regulate our heart rate’ (stock)
The research was carried out by the University of Queensland and led by Leah Sharman, of the school of psychology.
Crying has been shown to ‘facilitate coping and recovery’, the researchers wrote in the journal Emotion.
This is thought to occur due to the ‘psychological changes’ that take place when we shed a few tears.
‘One of the main ways crying is often thought about is that it gets rid of toxins or brings about some kind of biological change that helps us to deal with stressful or painful situations,’ Ms Sharman told PsyPost.
‘So we thought it would be interesting to try to test that.’
The researchers analysed 197 female volunteers who were randomly assigned to watch a sad or ’emotionally neutral’ video for 17 minutes.
Women were chosen after a pilot test found they are more likely to cry than men, Forbes reported.
Of the 132 who watched the upsetting clip, 71 cried and the remainder stayed composed.
All the participants were then exposed to ‘physical stress’ by submerging their hand into icy water for as long as they could stand it.
Their heart and breathing rates were recorded throughout the experiment. Salivary samples were taken four times to measure levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.
THE MOST COMMON REASONS THAT BABIES CRY
The most common reasons for crying are: hunger
– a dirty or wet nappy
– wanting a cuddle
– being too hot or too cold
Results revealed the ‘criers’ maintained a stable breathing rate throughout.
This is compared to the non-criers and neutral participants, whose breathing accelerated.
Those who cried also saw their heart rate slow down just before they started blubbering.
Once they composed themselves, it returned to normal.
‘These results suggest crying may assist in generally maintaining biological homeostasis’, the researchers wrote.
Homeostasis is the process of maintaining a constant internal environment, including heart rate and blood pressure.
Crying may help people ‘self-soothe via purposeful breathing’, while also ‘regulating their heart rate’.
There was no difference in cortisol levels or the ability to withstand the ice water between the groups.
The researchers stress, however, crying may cause different bodily responses in ‘real-world settings’, such as if someone is mourning a death or the break up of a relationship.
The response may also vary if someone is crying alone or with a loved one on hand to offer support, they add.
And for those who find crying embarrassing or feel judged for it, blubbering may do more harm than good.
‘If you believe [crying] makes you feel worse, these physiological changes are probably not going to make you feel better overall,’ Ms Sharman said.