We have all heard of the benefits of having a good cry and how letting our tears go is supposed to make us feel better, but that may not necessarily be true in all cases. A recent psychological study about crying has found that the benefits of crying depend entirely upon the circumstances of the crying episode.
Whether crying makes you feel good, bad or somewhere in-between depends upon where you are, who you are with and what the circumstances are. Individual psychology also varies, with some personality types not reporting the pleasant feeling of catharsis that most of people report. Most people do feel better after crying, but some may actually feel worse.
Crying Study University of South Florida
University of South Florida psychologists Jonathan Rottenberg and Lauren M. Bylsma, along with colleague Ad J.J.M. Vingerhoets of Tilburg University have released some of the recent findings about the psychology of crying in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
According to a press release from the Association for Psychological Science, the psychologists analyzed detailed accounts of more than 3,000 crying experiences. The recent crying experiences occurred outside of the laboratory.
The researchers found that most people reported improvements in mood after a bout a crying. One third of the participants reported that they felt no improvement in mood after crying. A tenth of the participants’ reported that they felt worse after crying.
Social support also appeared to play a role in how a good cry made people feel. The survey revealed that people who received social support during a crying episode were more likely to feel better than people who did not receive emotional support.
It was significant that the participants cried outside of the laboratory setting, which may be an uncomfortable environment that prevents a clear picture of the event.
This study was unuual because the participants cried in a more natural setting, instead of in a laboratory setting,
Drawbacks to Crying in a Laboratory Setting
There are several challenges to a study conducted in the laboratory. Volunteers who cry in a laboratory setting often report that the experience is not cathartic and did not make them feel better. Crying in a laboratory setting often resulted in participants feeling worse, possibly due to the stress of the setting. The conditions of a laboratory may be embarrassing, caused tension that prevents people from really letting go.
The negative feelings of crying in a laboratory may neutralize any positive benefits associated with a good cry.
Even though crying in a laboratory did not produce the good cathartic feeled associated with a good cry, there were some interesting finding about the physical effects of crying.
People who cried did show calming effects, such as slower breathing. However, these criers also experienced unpleasant stress and arousal, such as increased heart rate and seating.
The calming effect of crying may come later after a bout of crying and may overcome the stress reaction.The later calming effect may mean that the participants did not associate their improved mood to the weeping episode.
Personality Types and Crying
Circumstances are not the only variable studied. Research has also shown that the effects of crying also depend upon the person shedding tears. People with mood or anxiety disorders are least likely to experience positive effects from crying. Researchers also reported that people who lack insight into their emotional lives may feel worse after crying.
It seems that how a good cry affects us is an individual matter. While most people do enjoy the feeling of catharsis after a good cry, not everybody feels better after a bout of crying.
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