A few weeks ago, my dog Hallie was put down. My family had had her since I was about eight years old, so she’d been around for a long while. She had been getting old, losing her mind a bit, barking at all hours and her joints didn't work like they used to. So, my mum took her to the vets and they put her to sleep.
I didn’t cry at first. I was sad, of course, but I just carried that sadness around with me for a week, feeling it heavily in my chest.
Eventually, after I'd added to the emotional pile with the usual stresses of life, I had myself a good cry; big huge sobs that left my face blotchy and my eyes puffy. I instantly felt better, like I’d released all the sadness through the medium of salty tears.
Scientific research now proves what most people could have already told you anecdotally - that having a solid weep can make you feel better. Scientists at the University of Tilburg made a bunch of people watch some sad movies and then studied who cried and who didn’t. Those that cried felt sad, yes, but afterwards they felt better than before they’d watched the films. Those that didn’t cry reported no mood changes at all.
It’s one of the stereotypes of Britishness that we must all keep a stiff upper lip, that showing emotions is intrinsically embarrassing. Personally, I think it’s a dangerous opinion. According the mental health charity Mind, one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year, with the most prevalent being depression or anxiety. Yet, we have this enforced expectation of ourselves to keep this very destructive facade of having our lives and emotions together at all times.
More on this:
Crying during a film could make you feel happier
Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland?
Men, I believe, are particularly prone to suffering through this outdated notion that to show emotional vulnerability and let yourself have a good cry every so often shows weakness. Frankly, I think we could all do with crying a lot more. Nobody wins living in a society that forces you to stuff your real emotions down so deep that eventually they manifest themselves in dark and ugly ways.
I used to cry more. A lot, lot more. Crying in the common room at school was the norm. It’s kind of like being hungry. When you’re hungry, you feel hungry, so you eat, and then you don’t feel hungry anymore. If you’re sad, you feel sad, so you cry and the feeling lifts. But that was in my school days. Now I’m living in a grownup land of work and taxes. where to cry in the office would most likely lead to some sort of intervention from human resources.
I console myself with other things these days - ranting on the internet, comfort food, going on angry runs. I do my crying in secret, shut in my room, when my housemates are not home. But maybe it’s time to practice what I preach. To step out of the cry bunker, adjust my eyes to the light, and then immediately cry because it’s too bright.
Maybe I’ll start a club for crying. Hopefully you’ll join. Gold members get free kleenex.