Too often, crying is only associated with emotion. People imagine interrupted breathing, quivering lips and weepy eyes, but it goes far beyond that; emotion only scratches the surface of why humans cry.

Crying is a jack-of-all-trades. Not only is it a physical way to express emotion, but it also serves to improve our mental and physical health as well. However, the difference in people’s tendencies to cry is a strange fact to consider. One person may cry at a sweet commercial, while another may only be moved to tears at the death of a loved one.

According to the American Psychological Association, several factors play a role in a person’s propensity to cry. Gender differences in crying, for example, have been explored for decades, and all of the studies have determined that women do indeed cry more than men. However, no matter who you are, crying is actually good for you!

Crying serves as a mood booster and stress reliever

According to The New York Times, the release of tears from our body is beneficial because it is a way to improve mood and relieve stress. You’ll notice that when you feel like the world is crashing down and there isn’t enough time to do everything on your daily list, you either want to hit the gym like a maniac or lie in bed and cry. These are one in the same because both activities involve a chemical release.

William H. Frey II, Ph.D., co-director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital and author of “Crying: The Mystery of Tears,” said that tears contain chemicals that contribute to stress. When we cry, these stress-inducing chemicals are removed from the body and thus our mood is boosted. Think of tears as natural antidepressants, safe and effective, releasing negative energy and bringing in the positive.

It cleanses the body (not just the mind)

While a mental cleanse is always beneficial, tears have the ability to physically refresh as well. Even non-emotional crying has its benefits, such as when eyes tear up from eating something spicy or cutting something acidic. For instance, when you chop an onion a chemical is released that reacts with the water in your eyes to create sulfuric acid, so tear glands produce tears to get rid of the substance, according to PBS Newshour.

However, emotional crying is still cleansing as tears contain lysozyme, which is both antibacterial and antiviral. Lysozyme nourishes the inside and outside of the eyes and washes away any debris or dust. For someone like me with intense allergies, tearing eyes help in getting rid of pollen or particles, and I even utilize artificial tear eye drops because they soothe and moisten the eyes.

Crying improves vision and communication

Anyone who is a victim of dry eyes knows what a luxury it is to have eye moisture. According to Medical Daily, crying is actually effective in bathing the surfaces of the eye and improving the ability to see. It hydrates mucous membranes and protects the eye from any potential damaging bacteria particles.

While tears will improve your mental and physical state, crying even goes so far as to help others understand how you are feeling. Whether you are stubborn in communicating your emotions, or you simply find difficulty in using words to describe what you feel, crying shows what words cannot express. In any relationship, tears can serve to enlighten a conversation or even redirect the focus of a relational issue.

Although Dr. Frey discovered that women cry an average of four times more per month when compared with men, it is important that all genders are aware of the benefits that tears have both physically and mentally. Hormones and anatomical differences may cause a discrepancy in numbers, but both men and women alike can benefit from a good cry.

BY SHELBY DAVIDSON