Why crying is a good thing

December 18, 2009

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.”   –Washington Irving

Biochemist William Frey has spent 15 years studying tears and why we cry.  His team of scientists have found that, although tear production organs were once thought to be unimportant and no longer necessary for survival, tears actually have numerous critical functions.

Tears are an emotional response which only humans have, for only people are known to weep.  While all animals that live in air produce tears to lubricate their eyes, only human beings possess the extensive system that causes us to cry.

Tears are secreted by your lacrimals—tiny, sponge-like glands which rest above the eye against the eye socket. The average person blinks every two to ten seconds. With every blink, the eyelid carries this fluid over your eye’s surface.

One of the most obvious functions of tears is to lubricate your eyeball and eyelid, but they also prevent dehydration of your various mucous membranes, as anyone with ‘dry eye’ problems can attest to.  A severe lack of lubrication produces a condition requiring medication or therapy to save the victim’s eyesight.

Another important function of tears is that they bathe your eyes in lysozyme, one of the most effective antibacterial and antiviral agents known to man.  Amazingly, lysozyme inactivates 90 to 95 per cent of all bacteria in a mere five to 10 minutes. Without it,  eye infections would be much more common and serious.

One amazing discovery is that tear production may actually aid a person in dealing with emotional problems.  Scientific studies have found that after crying, most people do feel better,  and those that suppress their tears do feel worse.

Not unexpectedly, those who suffer from the inherited disease familial dysautonomia not only cannot cry tears, but also have a lesser ability to deal with stressful events in their lives.

In a recent study, tears caused by simple irritants were compared to those brought on by emotion.  Researchers found that stress-induced tears actually remove toxic substances from the body. Volunteers were led to cry first from watching sad movies, and then from freshly cut onions. The researchers found that the tears from the movies contained far more toxic biological byproducts. Weeping, they concluded, is an excretory process which removes toxic substances that normally build up during emotional stress.

The simple act of crying also reduces the body’s manganese level, a mineral which affects mood and is found in up to 30 times greater concentration in tears than in blood serum. They also found that emotional tears contain 24 per cent higher albumin protein concentration than tears caused by eye irritants.

The researchers concluded that chemicals built up by the body during stress were removed by tears, which actually lowered stress. These include the endorphin leucine-enkephalin, which helps to control pain, and prolactin, a hormone which regulates milk production in mammals.

They found that one of the most important of those compounds which removed tears was adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), one of the best indicators of stress.  Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems and peptic ulcers.

Ashley Montagu concluded that weeping contributes not only to the health of the individual, but also to the group’s sense of community because ‘it tends to deepen involvement in the welfare of others’. Tears are an extremely effective method of communication, and can elicit sympathy much faster than any other means. They effectively relate that you are sincere about a certain concern, and anxious to deal with the problem.

What can we learn from all this? That the seemingly simple and common response of producing tears is enormously complex and, indeed, is an integral and necessary part of being human.  Without tears, life would be drastically different for humans—in the short run enormously uncomfortable, and in the long run our eyesight could be jeopardized.


Stepping WAY outside of your box!

November 5, 2009

yoga stretch comfort zoneI wish the Oprah Show was always as inspirational as it was yesterday!

She brought on a few women who had been feeling midlife awful, with issues like divorce, single motherhood and job loss.

They were feeling helpless and hopeless, like victims in their own lives.  One women described herself as “paralyzed by fear.”

Oprah gave Ali Wentworth the means to help these women step beyond their own internal limitations.  She introduced them to their new selves.

The women first tried a few rounds of roller derby, then took a sky dive together, and finally disrobed on a beach and ran naked.

You may be thinking “So what!”  If so, go try a few of these challenges and then get back to me.  Stepping outside of your own box changes lives!

How do I know?  Believe me, I know a thing or two about stretching my comfort zone.  I left mine entirely back in 2004, and I’ve been living outside of it ever since!

First I started my own dating service after I lost my job.  I figured I needed a job and a date, so what the heck!  That led to an amazing new relationship.  Falling in love at 49 felt like a gigantic leap of faith!

Since then, I’ve tried out a few different but related careers: writing, public speaking and even writing my first books.

I want to spend my time here on earth doing what I’m best at, and there’s only one way to find out what that is, experiment!  One thing is for sure:  I LOVE living outside of my comfort zone and I’m never going back into my BOX!

Amy Ferris shares her confessions from a midlife crisis: Marrying George Clooney

October 12, 2009

One of the BEST benefits of being the Midlife Crisis Queen is being automatically mailed a few of the latest books published about midlife.

MarryingGeorgeClooneyBeing a librarian from way back, I ALWAYS appreciate a good read, and Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a midlife crisis is just that!

Any book about midlife crisis that can make you laugh and cry at the same time, is well worth reading.

From her love affair with Ambien to her midnight musings as she cruises the internet, Amy Ferris captures the deeper turmoil and confusion that only menopause can bring.

At first I thought her book would only be a light and sometimes hilarious romp through Amy’s own version of a midlife crisis with great lines like, “I no longer have a waistline!” and her compulsive need to Google old boyfriends and lovers.  She definitely kept me on my toes and laughing through her discussions about being a control freak even AFTER her own death.

But at the end of the book, Amy graciously shares her last days with her mother before she died.  No more touching words have been written about the passing of a beloved parent.

Where is divorce most common?

October 5, 2009

Here’s a fascinating article about the latest Census data on divorce. Do you live in the divorce capital of the US?

The relationship between obesity and low self-esteem

September 12, 2009

This British study found that over 20 years, low self-esteem leads to obesity and not the other way around.

I believe low self-esteem leads to poor eating habits, especially the need to stuff yourself with sweets, which makes us feel the need to eat ever more carbohydrates to feel full.

It’s called stuffing your feelings instead of letting them out and dealing with them, and it can turn into a never-ending vicious cycle.  We stuff our feeling and try unsuccessfully to hide them.  Pretty soon they are showing all over our body!

Turning 30 and feel like you’re having a crisis? Just wait!

September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day!  Hope you aren’t laboring too much today.

I happened to see CBS Sunday Morning yesterday.  They had an interesting profile of a few young men who dealt with their anxiety over turning 30, by researching and writing the book Book of Ages: 30.   These fortunate young men happened to get on my favorite TV show to talk about how traumatic turning 30 can be.

One of them said:  “After 21, it’s the age at which you really have to look at yourself and decide, am I on the right track?  Have I succeeded in the ways I’ve wanted to succeed? Have I failed as spectacularly as I thought I might?”

I remember well how anxious I was around age 30.  I still had no clue as to what I was doing with my life.  Instead, I was still on the “I’ll just be a librarian until I figure out what I REALLY want to be” track.  I wasn’t married or even very interested in that, no kids, still searching around for “meaning.”

In retrospect, it was a tough time, but nothing compared to my 40s!  There’s something about aging that ups the ante with each passing year.  It also depends on when you begin to feel all your life plans slowly falling apart.

In my thirties I made a few major commitments, perhaps because of my increased anxiety level.  I got married and found a “professional” position in libraries.  In other words, I tried to begin to act like an adult in all the well-established ways.  Only by doing this did I learn that I am not like everybody else.   In my 40s I got divorced and lost my job, leading to even more major changes.

For me, acting like a “mature adult” in my 30s was necessary, so I could rebel against the traditional approach in my 40s.

That was my midlife crisis.

Can old dogs learn new tricks?

August 7, 2009

TeachingYourDogNewTricksThe short answer is yes, but it takes us longer to accept the fact that we need to, and even longer to decide what’s next!

And then there’s all those irritating new tricks we are forced to learn because of unwelcome changes in our health, our employment status or our marital status.

I don’t know about you, but ever since I hit midlife it’s been change, change, change. I feel like I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into a whole new life, resisting it at every turn in the road.

I was scared to death to get a divorce, but I did it anyway.  Even more afraid of losing my job, but I also survived that somehow.  And you cannot imagine the terror I felt when faced with trying out a whole new career at 50! That turned out to be the most rewarding change of all!

Now I find myself unbelievably HAPPY, even though I didn’t even want to go down this road in the first place.  Explain that one to me!  I guess it’s just another one of those MYSTERIES OF MIDLIFE…

I’m now busy preparing to do a presentation with Katy Piotrowski for our Larimer County September Symposium on September 25th.  Our topic:  How to teach old dogs fabulous new tricks. Our goal is to motivate others to take a chance on changing their lives.

At the last talk I presented, the first question at the end was, do you have to hit bottom before you can really start changing your life?  My only response was, “I did.”  If those fortuitous misfortunes had not happened, I don’t know where I’d be now.  I apparently needed to get desperate enough before I could admit to myself that my life was not working, thus inspiring me to change everything.

At the risk of sounding pathologically optimistic, I now see just about every obstacle that I bump into in my life as an opportunity to learn more about myself and get better at something.

For example, divorce is simply nature’s way of telling you that you don’t quite have this whole marriage thing figured out yet.  But that’s OK!  Do-overs ARE ALLOWED!

Job loss is nature’s way of telling you that it’s time to change something major, and try to get it right this time.  Lucky us, our old job didn’t want us, now we get to go do something we might actually enjoy!

Thank goodness (and my toxic boss) I lost my last library job!  After twenty-five years, I REALLY needed a change!  And just imagine all the great things it did for my brain elasticity.