For over 20 years as
physician, I've witnessed time and again the healing power of tears.
Tears are your body's release valve for stress, sadness, grief,
anxiety and frustration. Also, you can have tears of joy, say when a
child is born or tears of relief when a difficult time has passed.
In my own life, I am
grateful when I can cry. It feels cleansing, a way to purge pent up
emotions so they don't lodge in my body as stress symptoms such as
fatigue or pain. To stay healthy and release stress, I encourage my
patients to cry. For both men and women, tears are a sign of
courage, strength and authenticity.
Emotional Freedom, I discuss the numerous health benefits of
tears. Like the ocean, tears are salt water. They lubricate your
eyes, remove irritants, reduce stress hormones and contain
antibodies that fight pathogenic microbes.
Our bodies produce three
kinds of tears: reflex, continuous and emotional. Each kind
has different healing roles. For instance, reflex tears allow your
eyes to clear out noxious particles when they're irritated by smoke
The second kind, continuous tears, are produced
regularly to keep our eyes lubricated. These contain a chemical
called "lysozyme" which functions as an anti-bacterial and protects
our eyes from infection. Tears also travel to the nose through the
tear duct to keep the nose moist and bacteria free. Typically, after
crying, our breathing and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a
calmer biological and emotional state.
Emotional tears have special health benefits. Biochemist and "tear
expert" Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis
discovered that reflex tears are 98 percent water, whereas emotional
tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body
After studying the
composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these
hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional
studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of
endorphins, our body's natural pain killer and "feel-good"
humans are the only creatures known to shed emotional tears, though
it's possible that that elephants and gorillas do too. Other mammals
and also salt-water crocodiles produce reflex tears which are
protective and lubricating.
Crying makes us feel better,
even when a problem persists. In addition to physical
detoxification, emotional tears heal the heart. You don't want to
hold tears back. Patients sometimes say, "Please excuse me for
crying. I was trying hard not to. It makes me feel weak."
My heart goes out to them when I hear this. I know where that
sentiment comes from: parents who were uncomfortable around tears, a
society that tells us we're weak for crying -- in particular, that
"powerful men don't cry."
I reject these
notions. The new enlightened paradigm of what constitutes a
powerful man and woman is someone who has the strength and self
awareness to cry. These are the people who impress me, not those who
put up some macho front of faux-bravado.
Try to let go of outmoded, untrue conceptions about crying.
It is good to cry. It is
healthy to cry. This helps to emotionally clear sadness and
stress. Crying is also essential to resolve grief, when waves of
tears periodically come over us after we experience a
Tears help us
process the loss so we can keep living with open hearts. Otherwise,
we are a set up for depression if we suppress these potent feelings.
When a friend apologized for curling up in the fetal position on my
floor, weeping, depressed over a failing romance, I told her, "Your
tears blessed my floor. There is no-thing to apologize for."
I've been this enthusiastic about crying for years. In fact, during
my psychiatric residency at UCLA when supervisors and I watched
videos of me with patients, they'd point out that I'd smile when a
patient cried. "That's inappropriate," they'd say. I disagreed then;
I still do.
I wasn't smiling
because my patients were depressed or grieving. I was smiling
because they were courageously healing depression or other difficult
emotions with tears. I was happy for their breakthrough. In my life,
too, I love to cry. I cry whenever I can. Wish I could more. Thank
God our bodies have this capacity. I hope you too can appreciate the
experience. Let your tears flow to purify stress and negativity.