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Here’s some news not worth shedding any tears over: Crying is not likely to make you feel any better. That’s according to new research, which found that weeping is not nearly as cathartic as we believe it to be -- and that most tears shed are, well, wasted.
For the study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, researchers asked 97 women between the ages of 18 and 48 to keep a daily diary over the course of two to three months, corresponding with -- what else? -- women’s menstrual cycles. In it, they recorded their mood, urge to cry, and whether any tears had been shed. If a sob session did occur, they also had to include the details, such as how long the tears lasted, why they were shed, their intensity, how the women felt after the fact, and if anyone bore witness to the whole sorry scene. In total, the women logged 1,004 crying jags. For those keeping count, that’s about 10.3 snivels per woman, except for the one woman who cried 52 times. Yikes.
What the researchers found was for 61 percent of the women, the bawling did nothing for their moods (or, we’re guessing, their makeup). All that blubbering had absolutely no impact on how they felt -- for better or for worse. As for the rest of the tear-stained women, 30 percent experienced a mood improvement after their tears, while the other nine percent felt worse. The journals revealed more negative moods on the days the women cried -- no surprise there. But in addition, for most of the women, their moods dipped even lower after their tears, sometimes for up to two days -- even if they experienced a brief blip of relief post-sob. However, the more hysterical the crying jag was, the better the women felt afterwards.
Among some of the other findings: the participants tended to cry for an average of eight minutes at a time, most often alone in their living rooms. The company they kept during their waterworks influenced how they felt afterwards. Crying with one person present appeared to offer the most benefits. Shedding tears in front of a group of people was, as you might expect, not so great for feeling good about yourself.
All this leaves researchers scratching their heads wondering, why the heck do we cry then? We do know that crying elicits compassion and comforting from others -- and social support is proven to make us feel better. So what the researchers recommend instead of crying alone in your darkened living room is to get out with your pals and commiserate -- sans the waterworks.