Why We Cry When We Are Happy.

Crying helps ease the pain and stress we experience on a daily basis. It truly does.

My dad passed away last year, and breaking down at odd times has become a thing.

However, since the past few months, whenever I have experienced a feeling of tremendous joy or relief, I start crying immediately.

My research :

I thought I’d research about it, and I came across an article from Psychology Today.

Not being from the medical field, it went over my head. So I researched about the medical terms in order to understand the article properly.

(Tip : If you are not from the medical field, read them very slowly, else it gets too confusing.)

1) Endocrine System : Our body consists of a system of ductless glands, which make up the human endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates the body processes by secreting chemical substances called hormones. These hormones are carried by circulation to various tissues of the body, upon which they act.

2) Pituitary Gland : It is a ductless gland of the endocrine system, which secretes hormones into the blood stream. It is called the ‘master gland’ because it’s hormones regulate other important endocrine glands – like adrenal and thyroid, and even major tissues.

3) Hypothalamus : It is a small region of the brain. It is located at the base of the brain, near the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus contains a control centre for many functions of the autonomic nervous system. It also has effects on the endocrine system, due to it’s proximity to the pituitary gland.

4) Nervous System : It is the complex part of the human body that coordinates it’s actions and sensory information by transmitting signals to and from different parts of the body. It detects environmental changes, and works in tandem with the endocrine system to respond to such events.

5) Autonomic Nervous System : It is the part of the nervous system that controls and regulates the internal organs without any conscious effort by the organism. It consists of two set of nerves – the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

6) Sympathetic Nervous System : It connects the internal organs to the brain through spinal nerves. When stimulated they prepare the organism for stress by increasing the heart rate, increasing blood flow to the muscles and decreasing blood flow to the skin. In short, they are the fight-or-flight hormones.

7) Parasympathetic Nervous System : They consist of the cranial nerves and the lumbar spinal nerves. When stimulated, these nerves increase digestive secretions and reduce the heartbeat. In short, they are the rest-and-digest hormones.

8) Temporal Lobe : The part of the brain which is involved in processing sensory input into derived meanings for the appropriate retention of visual memory, language comprehension and emotion association.

9) Amygdala : It is a small cluster of nuclei located deep within the temporal lobes. They play a primary role in the processing memory, decision-making and emotional responses.

Connecting the dots (or rather, the terms) :

1) The hypothalamus is close to the pituitary gland, due to which it affects the endocrine system.

2) The endocrine system works in tandem with the nervous system to respond to changes in the environment.

3) The amygdala is located within the temporal lobes, which is responsible for emotional reactions. It sends signals to the hypothalamus.

4) The hypothalamus controls many functions of the autonomic nervous system.

5) The nervous system includes the autonomic nervous system, which in turn includes the parasympathetic nervous system.

Back to the article :

Now that you’ve understood the medical terms, let’s get back to the Psychology Today article, which mentions the following important points :

1) The hypothalamus can’t tell the difference between us being happy, sad, overwhelmed or stressed. All it knows is that it is getting a strong neural signal from the amygdala, and it must in turn activate the autonomic nervous system.

2) The parasympathetic nervous system is connected to our lacrimal glands (i.e. tear ducts), and when it is activated (as per point 1) it results in tear production.

The important conclusion :

I have now realised that when I was listening to that beautiful classical music piece, or got that sudden feeling of happiness or relief, my parasympathetic nervous system was at work, and that resulted in the production of tears.

Imagine, this entire process takes a split second, and yet it took me over 3 hours to understand and write about it. The human body is amazing!

Whenever you feel dejected and want to complain about having nothing, remember the wonderful body you possess, and strive to take care of it by eating healthy and exercising daily.

P.S. Hats off to all the doctors out there, who learn a million medical terms and still remember them. Respect!

Thank you for reading! Stay blessed!


Photos by Kat J and Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash.