Body & Fitness

Jo Seager: Crying is okay

Being quick to cry is an indication that we are in touch with our feelings, and it can even be good for us, says serial weeper Jo Seagar.

The end of a special relationship, frustrations at work, Aunty Edna’s passing or even just a poignant episode of Call the Midwife… any of these and I’m first to turn on the waterworks. Quite often I find myself having what I call a refreshing little weep.

Ross is a frequent flyer in the crying club as well, so you can imagine how many tissues we go through… they’re a fixed item on our shopping list.

Sad movies are particularly triggering in our household, and don’t even get me started on the emotional Olympic games or international rugby matches – the moment a national anthem, especially our own, surges out, down come the tears.

I cry at other people’s airport reunions, soppy ads on TV, baby animal documentaries, lovely thoughtful gestures by friends, and the wording on sympathy cards. Even when the going doesn’t get all that tough, I can be counted on to open the floodgates and produce a good bucketload of tears.

Actually, I don’t think it’s a bad call – possibly the complete opposite – as I always feel so much better after these refreshing little weeps. I find crying very beneficial as a stress buster. My tears purge all that negative energy, allowing the empty space to be filled with new, positive vibes. Well that’s the theory anyway, and I can almost physically feel this mental cleansing taking effect.

Somebody – and for the life of me I can’t remember who – said, “Like soap for the body, tears are for the soul,” and I agree. I’ve always inherently known this, but now I see there’s a serious study of this at university level – maybe I could help with their research!

Apparently, as well as letting out all the demons with the felling of tears, you also release quite a few chemicals that would raise your stress hormone, cortisol, and yes, this is a good thing. Crying it out helps us process particular situations, even if it is just spilt milk, and therefore to perhaps benefit from them.

Homo sapiens is the only species that actually cries emotionally. Of course, poke anything in the eye and protective tears come to flush out the irritant, but bursting into tears at, say, a wedding or graduation ceremony or even a sad movie – these emotive tears are very much a human thing to do.

I can hear you argue how many animals go to the movies or a wedding, but I’m sure you follow my drift.

All humans – all cultures and all races – cry, yet our close cuzzies apes and chimpanzees, who can laugh and giggle like us, don’t have the ability to cry. Maybe it’s our unique capacity to express intense emotion and compassion in tears that sets us apart and therefore higher up in the biological rankings.

A good session of sobby crying can even be enjoyable. Watching a Titanic rerun, Leonardo sinks out of sight into the deep blue depths once more and Kate goes on and on to be saved by a lifeboat, while I soak another 27 tissues… but wasn’t it great?

These tears are different from the physical-reaction waterworks you experience when chopping onions or from the accidental prod of a mascara wand. Emotional tears can show what words often cannot express – they underscore the importance of feelings.

I think having refreshing little weeps when things don’t go as expected is a very desirable attribute. It certainly relieves the pressure and helps you get back on an even keel more quickly. Confronting your emotions requires strength in the form of vulnerability. But being vulnerable is perhaps the best way to grow closer to a person. Although, having said that, sad movies are not so good on a first date – think sniffy hankies, red blotchy eyes and running make-up, which is not a great look when trying to make a good first impression – so save this for the important date two!

Restorative bouts of crying are also good for tissue sales and – red alert! – there’s going to be a peak in sales at our local supermarket. Sadly, the vet has just rung to say there is nothing more they can do for Tiddles… and there she flows.

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