Have you ever been so caught up in a movie’s emotional power that you started crying? If you’re embarrassed when this happens, you don’t have to be. Research shows that crying at the movies is a sign of emotional health.
Does Everyone Cry During Movies?
According to one survey, 92% of all people admitted to crying during at least one movie.
The responses included men and women. Men were more likely to cry during movies about war and sports, like Saving Private Ryan and Field of Dreams, while women were more likely to turn the waterworks on for movies like Fried Green Tomatoes, My Girl and Beaches.
Movies can move us deeply. The natural response to being emotionally overwhelmed is to start bawling.
A Good Cry is Good for Us
Now, it turns out that all that bawling is good for us and good for the world.
Neuroscientist and psychologist Paul Zak has done fascinating research on what happens to us physically when we experience strong emotions. After breaking into tears while watching Million Dollar Baby, Zak conducted a study to figure out what happens when we’re emotionally moved by scenes and stories.
His research found that when we cry over a moving story, our bodies release high levels of the bonding hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin makes us kinder, more generous and more compassionate.
“Oxytocin infusion increases prosocial behaviors,” Zak writes. “It’s like turning on a garden hose and watching the water spray out.”
If you weep your way through your next movie, you’re probably an empathetic, caring person. You’re not a weakling or a fool. Go ahead and indulge in your favorite melodrama. We’ll all feel a lot better.