Crying: The Unexpected Key To Happiness

In: BlogDate: May 02, 2017By: Billy Burgess

Even in an age of hyper-individualism, there’s still a stigma about crying. We’re basically expected to suppress any outward display of vulnerability in the public arena lest our humanity be unceremoniously revealed.

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But hold up. Although crying is unlikely to help you navigate a confusing transport system or snare a refund from an uninspiring ride on the London Eye, there should be no shame attached to feeling a lump rise in your throat.

Of course, many of you already realise this – proud criers actually aren’t particularly rare, and this feeling of self-assurance probably has something to do with the benefits crying brings.

Don’t hide your tears

Crying tends to be framed as a sign of weakness, and is otherwise seen as a nuisance. But did you know humans are the only animals that cry as an emotional response? I’m sure you’ve felt immense pity after seeing a tear drip from an adorable dog’s eye. Only, that’d be a reflexive tear, a defence against some noxious irritant (akin to what happens when slicing onions for the stir-fry).

So considering human beings are the outcome of advanced evolution, why do we continue to cry? The modern, neoliberal imperative makes no allowances for weepy eyes. In fact, nowhere in the handbook of vocational diplomacy are we encouraged to display any genuine emotions other than happiness: look sharp, be interested but not too eager; smile, smile and smile goddamn it.

However, preserving happiness doesn’t necessitate holding an unblemished smile on your face at all times. Crying can be an act of catharsis, and it turns out it has physical benefits as well as emotional ones – tears are antibacterial, antiviral, and nourish the cells on the surface of the eye and inside the eyelids.

Crying it out with the aid of music and film

Now, we’re not promoting sitting alone and focusing on all the harsh negatives in your life or actively subjecting yourself to meanness in the workplace, but we do have some suggestions for stimulating emotions conducive to crying.

A recent Japanese study looked at the way music affects our emotions, inferring that crying, as well as experiencing chills and goosebumps ultimately leads to a feeling of pleasure. The songs that incited crying were perceived as sad, but also calming thanks to their cathartic effect. Subsequently, crying was deemed to have a more significant emotional status than chills.

Here are some songs we recommend for inciting tears:

  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Into My Arms
  • Queen – You’re My Best Friend
  • David Bowie – Heroes
  • Rihanna – FourFiveSeconds
  • Bryan Ferry – Jealous Guy

A few years ago, a Dutch study utilised films to gauge the emotional significance of crying. Compared to non-criers, people brought to tears by a film underwent an impressive mood lift not long after the act of weeping – again a vindication of the cathartic replenishment crying facilitates.

Here’s a brief selection of cinematic tearjerkers:

  • Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Moonlight (2016)
  • Up (2009)
  • A Most Wanted Man (2014)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010)

Living happily entails living with strong self-belief and an awareness of the spectrum of one’s emotional character. Being in tune with our emotions should lead to freer self-expression in social and civic interactions, which in turn should furnish greater empathy and receptiveness to the feelings and perspectives of those around us.

When you’re brought to tears it’s not the end of the world, nor does it escalate your problems to a level of globe-stopping importance. However, that doesn’t diminish their significance. Embrace crying as a natural element of your constitution. Celebrate its very existence – it’s part of what makes us unique.

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Billy Burgess

Billy has been writing blogs for Happy since 2017, covering mindfulness, stress management, confidence building and emotional intelligence as well as offering handy tips for Office 365 users. He's also an established arts, culture and lifestyle writer.

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