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.

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