Crying is one of your body’s natural responses to intense emotion. Some people cry easily, while others don’t fight tears too often. Whenever you cry as the result of overwhelming feelings, you are producing what are known as “psychic tears.” Psychic tears turn your psychological response into a physical one.

Your brain signals, your hormones, and even your metabolic processes are all impacted by your release of psychic tears. Recently, researchers have gotten curious to see if those impacts have wider, long-term effects on your body after you cry.

Since crying burns some calories, releases toxins, and balances your hormones, some have started to guess that bouts of frequent crying can even help you lose weight. Read on to find out what scientists know about whether crying can trigger weight loss.

Grieving a loved one, enduring a breakup, and experiencing symptoms of depression are some common causes for frequent crying. When you’re experiencing intense emotion, you might notice weight loss that seems to be associated. Chances are, weight loss caused by grief and depression is more closely linked to a loss of appetite than crying.

While crying does burn some calories, you’d have to cry for hours, days on end, to burn the same number of calories as a single brisk walk. Crying is thought to burn roughly the same amount of calories as laughing – 1.3 calories per minute, according to one study. That means that for every 20-minute sob session, you’re burning 26 more calories than you would have burned without the tears. It’s not much.

Crying may not be a big calorie-burning exercise, but there are other health benefits from the release of psychic tears. Some of these health benefits of crying may even help balance hormones and trigger your metabolism to help with weight loss.

Crying relieves stress

You may be familiar with the feeling of relaxation and peace that comes from “a good cry.” Researchers have found that the act of crying does stabilize your mood and serves to release stress from your body. Crying is typically signaled by feelings of loss, separation, or helplessness, which would tend to put your body on high alert.

Crying may be a mechanism that humans developed to restore calm to your body and brain. Stressed animals experience crying, too (though typically, not with tears), which would support this theory.

Crying detoxifies the body

Your body is always producing tears that protect your eyes from irritation and keep your eyes lubricated. When you cry because of emotion, your tears contain an additional component: cortisol, a stress hormone. When you cry for a lengthy duration of time, you may be flushing out stressors. Regulating cortisol can help you get rid of stubborn fat around your midsection, and can also help you feel less stressed.

Crying helps you recover from grief and pain

When you cry for an extended period of time, your body produces hormones like oxytocin and endorphins. These natural chemicals give your brain that “soothing” and “empty” feeling that takes over after you’ve been crying. These hormones are associated with relief, love, and happiness, and can help you manage powerful emotions associated with grief and loss.

These hormones don’t just dull psychological pain, but can dull physical pain, too. This might be the reason why your body activates its crying reflex when you’ve been physically hurt.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with crying occasionally. If you have recently experienced a traumatic event, it’s normal to cry every day for weeks or even months. Some people tend to cry more easily than others and will experience regular bouts of crying over their lifetime.

That said, you may feel concerned about how much you’ve been crying. Crying more often than usual can be a symptom of depression or other mental health conditions. Crying uncontrollably or crying over small things throughout your day may also be impacting your life and your choices in a negative way.

Even if you don’t think you have depression or don’t want to take medication, you should still be proactive about your mental health. Reach out to a doctor or a mental health provider to discuss your symptoms and make a plan to address your frequent crying.

Medical emergency

If you’re having intrusive thoughts, violent thoughts, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can call any time of day, and your call can be anonymous.

You should also become familiar with the symptoms of depression. Depression looks different for everyone, but common symptoms include:

  • loss of appetite and/or sudden weight loss
  • loss of interest in daily activities
  • insomnia or changes in your sleep routine
  • desire to self-harm or a new tendency for impulsive behavior
  • lack of interest in planning for the future and maintaining relationships
  • fatigue/exhaustion
  • difficulty concentrating

Crying burns calories, but not enough to trigger significant weight loss. Putting on a sad movie or working to trigger a fit of crying isn’t going to replace your workout, according to research.

Crying does serve an important purpose, though, and “a good cry” every so often can have health benefits like stress relief. If you’re crying often as the result of grief, loss, or depression, speak to a mental health provider to find out about treatments that might help.