As the coronavirus pandemic continues to drag on, you may find yourself grappling with depression or anxiety for the first time in your life. You may even find yourself crying more often. And that’s okay—as studies show that crying can help you deal with stress.
Of course, for some folks, crying doesn’t bring a sense of relief. And that’s okay too.
Fortunately, as I’ll explain in a moment, there are five natural, science-backed ways to raise your spirits…without shedding a tear.
So, let’s jump right in…
Crying helps you physically and mentally
For centuries, scientists have been trying to understand the importance of crying—a uniquely human trait. And we now know that it can serve many beneficial purposes…
For one, crying (or tearing up) does the very basic job of helping to keep your eyes (and nose) hydrated and clean. In fact, tears contain lysozyme, an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal chemical that helps fight off infection. (Saliva, mucus, and breast milk also contain this handy chemical.)
Plus, even before the coronavirus outbreak, your eyes came in regular, daily contact with dust, dirt, and harmful microbes. That’s why I always suggest you submerge and wash your face in water after spending time in crowded, indoor areas.
But crying also helps you get rid of excess stress hormones, such as cortisol. And by lowering your stress levels, you also lower your blood pressure and even your heart disease risk.
Relief from strong feelings
Some scientists have also begun to explore crying as a mood-enhancing or self-soothing behavior. Indeed, people often report that crying leads to catharsis (like a great weight has been lifted).
The famous biologist Charles Darwin even noted that for some people, there seems to be a “dose-response” effect to crying. In other words, the harder they cry, the better they feel afterward.
And if you do find yourself crying more frequently these days, don’t try to hide it. Shedding tears around other people (or seeing someone shed tears) facilitates social bonding—which is more important now than ever. In fact, studies show that when you cry, it promotes empathy and caregiving from others.
Furthermore, people are more likely to feel better after crying if they received social support during their tears. Whereas people who tried to hold back their tears—or cried in a non-supportive social setting (at work, for example)—are less likely to feel better after crying.
Interestingly, we also cry at times of great happiness or joy. Such as after the birth of a child or at weddings. This kind of joyful crying probably also relates to the experience of catharsis in some way.
Granted, as I mentioned earlier, some people simply aren’t criers. And some report they don’t feel better after crying.
So, if this sounds like you, don’t fret. There are plenty of other ways to relieve stress and boost your mood at any time—and especially during the pandemic...
Five simple, effective ways to raise your spirits year-round
Adopting the following simple, daily habits can help improve your mood during hard times—even without having a good cry about it…
1.) Take a vitamin D supplement. Make sure you supplement daily with 10,000 IU of vitamin D3, especially during winter, as studies link low D with low mood. And have your doctor check your blood levels at least once every six months to maintain optimal levels (between 50 and 75 nmol/L). I also recommend eating plenty of foods rich in vitamin D—including full-fat dairy, eggs, and fatty fish, such as tuna and wild-caught Pacific salmon.
2.) Engage in mind-body approaches. Add activities like meditation and yoga to your daily routine, as they’ve been shown in many studies to improve depression and mood. (To find out which mind-body approaches will work best for you, take this short quiz and check out my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type.)
3.) Get moderate exercise. Countless studies show that getting physically active helps boost your mood. In fact, in one study, researchers gathered 126 people who had been taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) for at least two months—but still felt depressed. After four months of mild exercise, nearly one-third of the people reported that their depression had disappeared. So, I suggest adding about 140 to 150 minutes of light-to-moderate physical activity, like walking, swimming, gardening, or even housework, to your weekly routine.
4.) Spend time in Nature. Simply spending time outside in Nature can significantly boost your mood almost immediately. In fact, in one study, men and women who took walks at least once a week experienced more positive emotions and lower stress. They also experienced significantly less depression. Plus, they better handled the negative effects of stressful life events, such as the death of a family member. So, I highly recommend bundling up this winter and taking regular walks in Nature to help lift your mood.
5.) Enjoy holiday spirits. It may surprise you to learn that enjoying some holiday spirits—in moderation—can also help lift your spirits. In fact, studies show moderate alcohol consumption improves mood and works better than a fast-acting antidepressant. You can learn more about this important research in the December 2019 issue of my Insiders’ Cures monthly newsletter (“Your step-by-step guide to a happier, healthier holiday season”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, I can’t think of a better time to become one!
Just remember—having a good cry can help some folks. But if you find yourself crying every day or struggling with suicidal thoughts, please don’t wait to seek help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.
“Is crying a self-soothing behavior?” Front Psychol. 2014;5:502. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00502