When is the last time you had a good cry? Did you hold back or let it all out?

These may have been tears of sadness that you couldn’t choke back after experiencing a loss, or tears of joy that rolled down your face when you heard that your best friend was expecting. Whatever the root cause, crying can be extremely therapeutic and help us release built up emotions and stress that we didn’t even know we were holding on to.

Crying is a perfectly natural and healthy process that society encourages us to hide. We don’t want to appear weak, we don’t want to scare people off, and we certainly don’t want to make people (especially men) think that we’re controlled by our hormones or are using our emotions to manipulate others. The pressure to seem “ok” keeps us from letting go in public, but is it fair?

Scientists have a few theories to explain why humans are the only animals that cry, one of which flies in the face of the old adage “never let ’em see you cry.” Evolutionary biologists think that tears serve as a signal to those close to us that we need help without letting our predators know that we’re vulnerable. In other words, the act of crying forges intimacy and helps humans support each other in our time of need. So it’s not unfair that crying makes you appear needy, but you shouldn’t feel flawed for being that person who always cries at weddings or has to fight back tears after experiencing frustration at work — you’re actually more evolved than the tight-lipped critic who thinks you should pull yourself together. You may be able to cope on your own, but your body and spirit know when it’s time to let go.

Instead of working overtime to reverse our natural instincts, why not take advantage of our built-in mechanism for release? The benefits of crying are what fuel our instinct to pop on The Notebook or play Adele’s “Someone Like You” and have a good cry even if no one is looking. Shaking off all of the stress that’s been weighing us down and starting with a clean emotional state keeps us from taking our frustration out in areas of our lives where it doesn’t belong. That can only be a good thing.

When is the last time you had a good-old-fashioned let-it-all-out cathartic cry?

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