2024 Grateful 52: Crying

The average human heart beats 115,000 times a day. Our blood travels 12,000 miles every day (about twenty times the length of the UK from northern Scotland to southern England!). Adults take an average of 18,000 to 30,000 breaths a day, and for the most part, all these functions take place without our awareness.

I read this recently and saved it. Given that getting in my 10,000 steps a day is a challenge, knowing that my blood travels so much farther was nothing short of amazing.

Last June, a very dear friend gave me some advice. Cry, he said. Cry whenever you want to. Whenever you need to. How other people deal with it is their issue.

I’m paraphrasing.

But this was the essence of his message.

I’m crying a lot these days. To the point that it’s almost, but not quite, embarrassing. Petrol station. Supermarket. Church. Car. Chemist.

So when I saw the numbers, I was curious to know how much we cry.

On average.

I know I’m skewing the figures.

Harvard Health says:

Researchers note that, on average, American women cry 3.5 times each month, while American men cry about 1.9 times each month.

I’m not as surprised as I would have been a year ago about the men numbers. The article goes on to say:

Scientists divide the liquid product of crying into three distinct categories: reflex tears, continuous tears, and emotional tears. The first two categories perform the important function of removing debris such as smoke and dust from our eyes, and lubricating our eyes to help protect them from infection. Their content is 98% water.

It’s the third category, emotional tears (which flush stress hormones and other toxins out of our system), that potentially offers the most health benefits. Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.

I read some more in a piece by Mandy Oaklander for Time.

Charles Darwin once declared emotional tears “purposeless,” and nearly 150 years later, emotional crying remains one of the human body’s more confounding mysteries. Though some other species shed tears reflexively as a result of pain or irritation, humans are the only creatures whose tears can be triggered by their feelings.

Again, focusing on the numbers and indeed how much I’m crying, I was curious about whether someone could die from shedding too many tears. Someone already asked this question on Reddit. [I wonder what’s going on in their life?] The answer:

To cry out 6.5 liters at 2.2 micro liters per minute, you’ll need 5.64 years, [given that] water weight loss above 15% is usually fatal.

Is there nothing the internet doesn’t know?

I looked again because I wanted a number to fit in with my other numbers. [It’s the little things that are keeping me focused and sane.]

I found what I was after  on Healthline:

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), you make 15 to 30 gallons of tears every year.

That’s about 56 to 112 litres, for those of you on this side of the Atlantic.

And, it’s not all water. Tears contain magnesium and calcium, too.

I’m grateful for that last piece of information. But I’m even more grateful for my friend’s advice.

Cry when you need to.

Be warned.

PS The photo of the robin was taken by the very talented Karen Wade – thanks, Karen.


4 Responses

  1. Thankyou for this. I will self-quote from a book I am nearly finished writing:
    ‘I have become a connoisseur of tears, a tear sommelier who can recognise and classify many different types. There are tears of desperation and rage, tears of bewilderment, tears of relief and tears of love. Some flow like a river, while others are a flash flood that bursts out and then is gone…’

  2. Great post!
    Have you heard of “tear jars”? I did a Bible study this past fall that talked about them. However, when I just Googled them, apparently there are sceptics about the true existence of “tear jars”. Small glass bottles were often found in Greek and Roman tombs, and “early scholars romantically dubbed [them] lachrymatories or tear bottles,” and there are some references in scripture that indicate they were a thing back in the day…

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