Hypocrisy aside, I happen to think the cry closet is a great idea. It should be celebrated and replicated across the country. There’s an unfortunately popular misconception that being a mature adult means taking all of life’s gut punches with stoic silence and a stiff upper lip. For those of us who aren’t emotionally repressed, that’s neither realistic or healthy. Life is hard and crying is both a completely natural reaction to stress and a way to reduce it. According to prominent tear researcher William H. Frey II, when humans cry in response to emotion, rather than say, onion fumes or pollen, their tears contain more of certain chemicals that are released when the body is under stress. Frey theorizes that shedding these hormone-infused tears reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body, which could then reduce stress. There’s also research that suggests that in addition to acting as a way to self-soothe, crying releases oxytocin and endorphins—both chemicals that help ease physical and emotional pain. And then there’s the fact that in a 2008 study, almost nine out of ten people reported “some degree of post-crying mood improvement.”
Anecdotally and scientifically, crying helps us feel better, and we would all be better off if we stopped equating maturity with a lack of emotionality. Rather than increasing your tolerance for life’s highs and lows, bottling up your feelings tends to shorten your emotional fuse. Instead of being able to take annoyances in stride, you’re now one delayed train away from yelling at the Starbucks cashier who accidentally gave you whole milk instead of soy. Not to mention the fact that research suggests emotional suppression could increase the risk of dying from heart disease and certain forms of cancer. So while my full-throated support for the cry closet is certainly in the interest of public health, I’m also just tired of dealing with emotionally constipated adults.