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Can Crying Make You Feel Better?

Dorathy Gass

Have you ever been given the advice to, “just have a good cry” so that you can feel better? Well this old wives tail may not necessarily be the case after all. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, it seems that a good old fashioned cry may have little to no positive effect on a person’s mood.

The study gathered 97 Dutch women 18 to 48 years of age, asking them to document their crying episodes in a daily journal, over a three month time frame. Episodes could be logged with crying sessions done alone, or with someone supporting them while they teared up. Over 1,000 crying episodes were logged in journals, with 61% of the participants claiming they didn’t feel any better after the tears; 30% reporting that they did in fact feel better; and about 9% saying they actually felt worse after their cry-fest.

Jonathan Rottenberg, associate professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, and lead of the study notes crying may not offer the cathartic emotional release that most people think it does. People tend to feel better after a tearful break down, as it offers an them that feeling of emotional support they crave from family, friends, and neighbours, as a result of the crying.

While people cry for many reasons that are directly linked to emotion, including: to address an issue, because of an overwhelming feeling, as a result of depression or anxiety, sometimes due to happiness, for manipulative reasons, or simply due to pain; the study also offers valuable insight on the length of time, where crying sessions take place, and other reasons behind these tearful outbursts.

Participants logged the average length of time for these crying episodes were approximately eight minutes; with most of the sessions occurring in living room areas. Factors cited for crying? The typical reasons included loss, conflict, and sadness over another’s problems or situation.

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