Why Crying Feels Good

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: Why do I feel better when I cry?

Answer: My initial thought was, “I don’t know.” However, in a recent study published in the journal Emotion, researchers found that crying may aid in regulating breathing during stressful situations, which in turn makes you feel better.

In the study, 197 female undergraduate students watched sad videos. Those who cried maintained more regular breathing and a more regular heart rate than those who did not cry during the same sad videos and videos without the sad content.

There are other ideas about the benefit of crying, but not all have been researched. The most universally held idea is that crying probably provides relief or catharsis. But the research on this is mixed, with crying sometimes showing an improvement in mood and sometimes a worsening.

Some have proposed that crying has a soothing effect. Again, the soothing effect may be related to the regulation of breathing and heart rate. Another thought is that crying often leads to support from others. Beyond that, I was unable to find much information.

So, if there are any graduate students in psychology reading this, maybe this would be a good research question for a dissertation.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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