Do you break down in tears of joy over a reunion scene, or shed tears of sorrow over the death of a child in a movie? Do you skip watching movies like Titanic, Armageddon, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, and Love Actually because they are certified tearjerkers? Do you get emotionally wrapped up in movies? Do epic tragedies, mushy romantic dramas, real-life sports inspirations, or heartbreaking endings open the floodgates of tears and leave you with a painful, long-lasting hangover? In short, do movies make you cry?
If yes, you are not alone and so you don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Research suggests around 92% of movie goers have been reduced to tears during at least one movie. Additionally, people who cry during movies are the strongest, more empathetic, sociable and generous. Crying is considered a sign of weakness and insecurity; however, science shows those who allow themselves to be sad during movies are emotionally strong and mindful. The Earth Child writes:
“Caring about others’ situations takes strength — a lot of it. Life is brutal to some people and if you’re able to actually put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel that pain, it says something about you. You’re strong enough to actually withstand that pain, but to feel it nonetheless. You’re strong enough to be strong for others. You’re strong to the point that you understand where they’re coming from and are able to actually feel what they’re feeling.”
— The Minds Journal (@TheMindsJournal) September 28, 2016
When you watch emotional scenes in movies, you become emotionally connected. You are only human after all; you feel things, unlike robots. Cinematic tearjerkers move some people to such an extent that tears of painful memories start to roll down their cheeks. This allows them to release some of their bottled-up feelings in a healthier way. Only an emotionally strong person can confront things that have hurt him/her in the past, let go of past hurts, and move on.
Further, movies cause your brain to release oxytocin, a powerful hormone that plays a huge role in pair bonding, generosity and happiness. A link between movies that make you teary-eyed and the release of oxytocin in the brain was reported in 2009 by economist-turned-neurologist Paul J. Zak. He explains:
“Emotional simulation is the foundation for empathy and is particularly powerful for social creatures like humans because it allows us to rapidly forecast if people around us are angry or kind, dangerous or safe, friend or foe… My lab pioneered the behavioral study of oxytocin and has proven that when the brain synthesizes oxytocin, people are more trustworthy, generous, charitable, and compassionate.
“Oxytocin makes us more sensitive to social cues around us. In many situations, social cues motivate us to engage to help others, particularly if the other person seems to need our help. …So, go see a movie and laugh and cry. It’s good for your brain, and just might motivate you to make positive changes in your life and in others’ lives as well.”
Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, associate professor of communication at Ohio State University, was so affected after watching Message in a Bottle that she set out to study why people cry during movies. After conducting research involving 361 college students, she concluded that watching a tragedy movie caused people to think about their own close relationships, which in turn boosted their life happiness.
“Crying at movies brings us happiness in the short term because it makes us focus on positive aspects of our lives. These tragedies appeal to us because they help us appreciate our own relationships more.”
This is not all: Watching sad movies boosts endorphin levels in your brain. Researchers at Oxford University say that tear-jerking dramas increase pain tolerance by upping levels of feel-good, pain-killing chemicals produced in the brain. In a recent experiment, they found the pain tolerance of those who watched a traumatic movie increased by 13.1%, whereas those who watched the documentaries experienced a decrease in pain threshold of 4.6%.
Moreover, those who showed an increase in pain tolerance also had increased feelings of group bonding. Robin Dunbar, a co-author of the study and professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, notes:
“The argument here is that actually, maybe the emotional wringing you get from tragedy triggers the endorphin system. It has turned out that the same areas in the brain that deal with physical pain also handle psychological pain.”
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