Want to feel happier? Watch a film that makes you bawl
Watching a tearjerker will spark a burst of happiness 90 minutes after the film has ended scientists have found.
It is said that laughter is the best medicine, but when it comes to feeling blue, crying might be the best cure.
Researchers in the Netherlands videoed a group of 60 volunteers watching two emotional films, La vita e bella and Hachi: a dogs tale.
After viewing the tearjerkers, participants were asked to reflect on how they felt. 28 had cried during the films but 32 didn’t shed a tear.
As expected, the mood of the non-criers was unchanged after seeing the films but despite feeling down initially after the movie, those that had wept suddenly experienced an upsurge of happiness around 90 minutes later.
“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 lead author Dr Asmir Gracanin of the University of Tilburg.
Although humans are the only species able to shed emotional tears, little is known about the function of crying.
While some researchers see it as a plea for support, comfort or help, others believe the main role of crying is to relieve emotions or even get rid of toxins in the body.
Previous studies have given conflicting results. When people are questioned about crying most will say it provides emotional relief and boosts mood. In contrast, laboratory studies using emotional films often show a consistent decrease in mood immediately after an emotional event.
Dr Gracanin’s team examined both the immediate and the delayed effect of crying on mood within a controlled laboratory setting.
According to Dr Gracanin, it’s this dip and subsequent return of emotions to previous levels that might make criers feel as if they are in a much better mood after they have shed some tears.
However, it seems that criers even experience a general mood increase, but only after a longer period of time.
“The present findings suggest a simple explanation for the paradoxical findings of different studies investigating the effects of crying on mood,” added Dr Gracanin.
“After the initial deterioration of mood following crying that is usually observed in laboratory studies, it takes some time for the mood, not just to recover, but also to increase above the levels that it had before the emotional event, a pattern of findings which corresponds to the results of retrospective studies.
“Perhaps it is in particular the strong mood improvement experienced by those participants who cried that fuels the popular notion that crying brings relief,” added Dr Gračanin
The research was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.