What happens before, during, and after crying?
Touching movies, stressful events at home or work, and even good news like a wedding or a baby might bring on the waterworks. Sometimes, you just need to let the tears flow. But you might not know that crying can have a big effect on your body and mind—here’s how.
Crying relieves stress
Humans are the only species to weep from emotions, but scientists still don’t know exactly how the physical act of crying is connected to our feelings. Why do we cry when we’re sad (and sometimes happy)? One of the benefits of blubbering may be that it helps relieve the physical tension of feeling upset. “It seems that crying begins just after the peak of physiological arousal as sympathetic activity starts to decrease and parasympathetic activity increases, helping to bring the body back to homeostasis,” says Lauren Bylsma, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In other words, crying occurs as our body returns from an aroused, “fight or flight” state to a calm, “rest and digest” state. (Check out these stress management tips from experts.)