I have always considered myself a sensitive person. I cry easily. I tear up while watching the news or reading a human interest story. I weep at both happy and sad movies, at weddings, concerts, reunions and listening to music. I even cry when I read those Facebook posts with titles that end with “you won’t believe what happens next.”

Most of us feel better after a good cry, but, the question remains – why is crying good for you? And, are there different kinds of tears, each with its own purpose?

Our Tears are as Unique as Snowflakes

Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher wondered if her tears of grief would actually “look” different from her tears of joy. So, as a part of her project, “The Topography of Tears,” she began to explore her tears close up, under a microscope. She then studied the tears of different people as they experienced different kinds of emotions.

It turns out that, like snowflakes, every tear is a little different based on its ingredients. Because tears are made of crystallized salt, when you look under a microscope they take on unique shapes. Her stunning pictures show this.

As she says, “Wordless and spontaneous, tears release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis: shedding tears, shedding old skin.” I love that quote!

But, they Fall into Three Categories, Each with its Own Purpose

There are three types of tears. Basal tears keep our eyes moist and wash away dust. Reflex tears are produced when chopping onions. We cry emotional tears during joyful or stressful times. These emotional tears contain endorphins with natural pain killers that reduce stress and balance our mood. They also create a social connection with other people and are only experienced by human beings.

Joseph Stromberg of the Smithsonian’s Collage of Arts and Sciences supports this classification. He points out that all tears contain oils, antibodies, and enzymes, which float in salt water. Different types of tears contain distinct molecules. Emotional tears for example, contain “leucine encephalin,” a natural painkiller, which is released when we are stressed.

It’s OK for Women (and Men for that Matter) to Cry – In Fact, Crying is Good for You

Women in the Sixty and Me Community will understand this. Women apparently cry more than men, but, that’s probably a good thing for the sake of our sanity and health. Who knows, maybe this is even one reason that women live longer than men. So, go ahead and grab the tissues, watch a sad or happy movie and feel better! Discover the many health reasons why crying is good for you!

Do you cry easily? Does it make you feel more relaxed? If you found this post interesting, please share it with others or join the conversation.

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