Did you know humans are the only animals capable of crying? Why we do so is still something of a mystery from a scientific point of view, but one theory is that it makes us feel better. A team of researchers from Holland set out to explore this mystery and showed the heart-wrenching films Life is Beautiful and the 2009 Richard Gere film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale to a group of participants.
You may wonder: who wouldn’t shed a tear during those lovely films? But, as it turns out, a little over half of the audience remained dry-eyed.
For those weeping into their popcorn, however, it’s good news. The ability to let loose and cry (benchmarked by actual tears, FYI), meant those participants experienced a tangible boost to their mood. Not immediately – as previous studies have shown, the immediate effects of a soppy movie are feelings of depression.
However, this malaise passed quickly and equilibrium was restored. Then, about 90 minutes after the film’s end, the weepers felt a delayed emotional boost, perhaps from realising their own life looked pretty good compared to an abandoned dog’s or people living though Nazi occupation.
“After the initial deterioration of mood following crying, it takes some time for the mood not only to recover but also to be lifted above the levels at which it had been before the emotional event,” said study leader Asmir Gračanin from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands.
The emotional boost was not related to the number of times participants lost control, but the shedding of actual tears. So it seems there might be some truth in the old wives’ tale that everyone feels better “after a good cry”.
Do you feel better after watching a sad movie? Share your favourite tearjerkers in the comments!