Why happy crying is good for mind and body

Tears aren’t just for sad times. We often happy cry in moments of joy – and here are the reasons why that is good for us.

If you’ve ever watched a couple shed a tear during their wedding vows or found yourself wiping your eyes in fits of laughter, you’ll know crying is often a sign of great happiness.

But why do we sometimes happy cry in such joyful moments?

And what benefits does it have for our mind and body?

Here’s why we happy cry

Seaway Counselling and Psychotherapy clinical psychotherapist Julie Sweet says happy tears spring forth when we are outside our window of tolerance.

“That is when we are overwhelmed, emotionally dysregulated or feeling such intense emotions we can become flooded,” she says.

“Even if these feelings are joyful, or we feel elation or even gratitude, the need to release such emotions and process our feelings can be very strong.”

Happy situations that may make you cry

Wellbeing consultant and mindfulness coach Catherine Robertson says there are four main reasons we cry when we’re happy.

They are:

  • Tears of beauty: when we’re touched by beauty, such as nature, art or music
  • Tears of affection: as an expression of gratitude when we experience love or kindness
  • Tears of amusement: when something is especially funny or amusing
  • Tears of achievement: when we or someone we love achieves something big.

Why happy crying is good for us

When we cry with happiness, our central nervous system kicks in to restore calm, stability and balance, Julie says.

And our bodies release the happy hormones oxytocin and endorphins, which can improve our general wellbeing, lift our mood and relieve pain, she adds.

The happy hormone boost can have wide-ranging benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels, notes Catherine, from Wellbeing with Catherine Robertson.

Happy crying also makes us mindful of the present.

“It’s an indication that you’re present, experiencing the ‘here and now’,” Julie says.

And that is a good thing, with research showing mindfulness can improve mental health.

Happy crying also gives us the chance to externalise our emotions – also good for our mental health.

“Externalising grief, depression and stress, for instance, is a protective factor whereby our mental health is concerned,” Julie says.

With the same benefits applying to happy tears, try to give in to the moment rather than holding back, she suggests.

“You’ll be surprised how cathartic it is.”

How happy crying helps us feel connected

Catherine says happy tears can also help us strengthen our bonds with others.

“Happy tears have so many benefits, including helping us to bond with others, to receive support, comfort and empathy and to increase our overall sense of belonging,” she says.

“And anything we can do to improve the connection we experience with others, especially in the post-pandemic world, is something we should encourage.”

More on how to boost your health and wellbeing:

Written by Larissa Ham.