How Crying and Sighing Can Be Good For You

When I was a girl, I had a tendency to dissolve into tears if someone even looked at me cross-eyed. It was a troubling (to my parents) and humiliating (to me) response which occurred with awkward frequency and duration. Being a girl, I was given a bit more understanding than my younger brother would have received, but even with the extraordinary patience of my family and friends, I dreaded those moments when my waterworks got the best of me.

Since crying – and sighing (yes, I’ve also been told I sigh a lot, too) have played significant roles in my life, I’ve always noticed when other females of all ages cry and/or sigh. I watch with fascination, noting what might get them started, how hard they’d cry, if they’d cry openly or escape for private relief, whether they were nose-blowers and eye-wipers or let their tears run freely in rivulets down their cheeks, were they soft, gentle weepers or unabashed sobbers.

Long before I read any of the scientific research that’s available, I began to form my own theories about crying and sighing. Even without knowledge of hormones, neurotransmitters, emotional triggers or women’s cycles, I suspected that women are just more “pre-wired” to cry, than men.

Statistically speaking, women do cry more often than men.

While men average just 17 times per year, women average a whopping 64 times…nearly 4X as often as men! And while men tend to cry at “acceptable” times like deaths or other tragedies, women are notorious for bursting into tears when things just don’t go right – the soufflé falls, 4 bad hair days in a row, an argument with her boss, the baby has the sniffles…again.

When women are frustrated, stressed, worried, hurt, afraid, physically ill or in pain, having very good or very bad memories, or just plain old fed-up…we sigh or cry…and sometimes we do both. And sometimes, for absolutely no apparent or logical reason whatsoever, we find ourselves tearing up.

Some women, me included, cry after really great sex! The first time this happened to me, the poor guy was really freaked out and worried that he’d somehow hurt me, done something wrong, or just totally disappointed me, even though we’d both seemed to really enjoy ourselves! But as the waves of tears washed over me, it occurred to me that the intense flood of emotion was a good thing. It felt great – almost as good as the orgasm that had apparently flipped the tear switch.

One hormone which is being studied as having a possible connection to crying is prolactin. And not surprisingly, women average 60% more prolactin in our bodies than men. In addition, during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and times of great stress, our prolactin production increases. It follows then, that women are famous for being weepier around the time of their period or when pregnant or nursing.

I’ve always believed that crying and sighing can be good stress relievers for us.

In the movie Broadcast News, Holly Hunter plays the role of a feisty, young, female producer in a high-pressure news bureau. In order to manage her stress and not be caught off-guard by the high emotion of her job, she periodically schedules a good cry for herself. At her desk in the newsroom early in the morning before co-workers arrive, on a park bench on her lunch hour…she gives herself permission to simply meltdown.

I remember the first time I watched this movie and thought to myself, what a brilliant solution! Plan your breakdowns…get all that pent-up emotion out before it creeps up on you at the most inopportune time.

There are three basic types of tears: basal, irritant and emotional.

Our basal tears are hardly noticeable and always doing their job of keeping our corneas moist. Every time we blink, we spread a fine layer of basal lubricant over our eyes to keep them healthy. The second type of tears, irritant, is pretty self-explanatory. They’re similar to basal tears; however they contain additional enzymes and anti-bodies. When our eyes are disturbed by something – wind, dust, dirt, chopping onions, or bright sunshine – these tears help to flush out or protect our eyes.

Emotional tears, however, are much more free-flowing and contain a significantly higher amount of protein than do basal or irritant tears. It’s thought that these complex proteins are expelled from the body through emotional tears as a way to excrete these toxins. The more stressed you are, the more these toxins build up in your body. Therefore, having a good cry is a great way to rid your body of these built-up toxins.

I know for certain that after crying, I just feel better, not only emotionally, but physically, too. Perhaps I’m just imagining this…but emotionally and physically I feel less tense, more optimistic and yes, even happier!

And certainly, most therapists, counselors and doctors would agree that crying has a positive, rather than negative impact on their patients. Just as laughter is universally seen as something “healthy” to do, and has actually been supported by science, new studies are being done on the positive effects that crying and sighing has on our bodies.

Not that long ago, I became a member of Braveheart Women. Ellie Drake, who is the founder of this terrific site for women, teaches a breathing technique specifically to benefit women. She calls it “Oxytocin Breathing.” To begin, place your arms horizontally palms up, take a full, deep breath in, followed by a really concentrated exhale accompanied by an audible “sighing” sound. This will release the hormone oxytocin, which is also known as the “cuddle hormone” from your pituitary gland and will allow you to relax. I absolutely love this breathing technique. Be sure to try it; it really works!

Somehow, inherently, I think we women know that crying and sighing are important to our health and well-being. I think it’s time for us to stop apologizing for being “emotional creatures”, to stop doing everything we can to “maintain control” and to begin loving ourselves just as we are – crying and sighing included.

I know I’m not going to quit doing either of these stress releasers.

I do, however, encourage women to think of these as great tools to cultivate and become expert at handling. Knowing how to make the most of both of these will help you to live a life that’s much more enjoyable, less stressful and healthier, too.

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2 Responses to “How Crying and Sighing Can Be Good For You”

  1. Norma says:

    I went to the Braveheart Women “Meet and Greet” this past week and I experienced the “Oxytocin breathing.” It gave me such a feeling of calm. I am continuing to do the breathing as I go about my day. Yesterday, it helped me during a business conversation regarding the jewelry my daughter Brianna designs. I do see the impact that this can have on us. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Eileen says:

    Hi Norma:

    Thanks for your comment, and I’m so glad that you have found Ellie Drake’s Prosperity (Oxytocin) Breathing to be beneficial. I use it frequently to de-stress and or create a calm feeling. I’ve even taught my college-age daughters the technique, because I believe women of all ages will find it helpful. Please feel free to connect with me on Facebook at:
    https://www.facebook.com/eileen.boyle2. I look forward to getting to know you!
    BTW – I looked at the link to your daughter’s ebay page – amazing jewelry! Then I googled Brianna’s Jewelry Box but I didn’t see a website by that name – is your daughter Brianna Chamberlain?
    Be well. Be happy!
    Eileen

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