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The Healing Power of Tears and Hugs

The Healing Power of Tears and Hugs

“The act of crying is more effective than laughing or sleeping in reducing stress. If you cry once a week, you can live a stress-free life.”1

That’s the advice from a “namida sensei” (tears teacher) in Japan. As it turns out, a growing number of scientific studies are starting to bear this out. More than 70 percent of clinical practitioners encourage clients to cry as a means of dealing with depression and anxiety.

Tears produce a variety of benefits, from clearing away irritants and keeping our eyes moist to flushing out stress hormones. Furthermore, scientists recognize that crying slows down breathing – which aids in relaxation – and stimulates the production of endorphins that enhance mood.2

Another way to mitigate stress is to give and receive hugs from loved ones. A researcher at Carnegie Mellon University recently conducted a study to see if people who received hugs regularly were better at handling stress and conflict. The answer appears to be yes. His study found that people encountering a conflict who got a hug that day felt better and didn’t experience a continuing negative sensation the next day, as opposed to people in similar circumstances who did not receive a hug.3

Hugging and crying: who knew human affection and emotions could have such curative powers?

1 Kate Whiting. World Economic Forum. Oct. 22, 2018. “Crying once a week is the secret to a stress-free life.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/how-crying-once-a-week-is-the-key-to-a-stress-free-life-according-to-japan-s-tears-teacher. Accessed Dec. 16, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Lucy Huang. Scientific American. Nov. 7, 2018. “Consensual Hugs Seem to Reduce Stress.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/consensual-hugs-seem-to-reduce-stress/. Accessed Dec. 16, 2018.