Why Do I Cry When I'm Happy? (2024)

Crying is often associated with emotions like anger, frustration, or sadness. When you think of happiness, you almost certainly don't think of tears. But have you ever heard of the term 'happy tears'? You might have even experienced it!

Many people cry when happy, joyous, or excited—all positive emotions. So, if you typically cry happy tears when you get good news, you should know that you are not alone.

In a 2018 study, 68% of participants reported that a happy or positive event caused them to tear up. Happy crying is a common occurrence, and it's perfectly normal. If you are curious about why exactly it occurs, read on.

The Science Behind Happy Tears

Scientists and researchers have long sought to understand why people cry when experiencing joy or happiness. Crying, which is typically associated with feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness, can be confusing to witness on a joyous occasion, but it happens often.

Over the decades, scientists and researchers have devised theories to explain why happy crying occurs.

You have repressed feelings

An early theory suggested that this happened as a result of repressed feelings. This meant that people who cried when experiencing something joyous had underlying feelings of sadness they hadn't addressed.

Many researchers have countered these theories over the years, but it appears to be one of the earliest attempt to understand why we cry when we are happy.

Crying may regulate your body

Tears contain enzymes, lipids, electrolytes, and metabolites. But emotional tears might also include other proteins and hormones. It is hypothesized that release of stress hormones like prolactin and leu-enkephalin nay help regular the body's physical and emotional homeostasis.

Stress hormones may help calm you and regulate your mood.

It fosters vulnerability and social connection

Crying in any scenario could also be our way of showing vulnerability as human beings. When we cry, we signal to others to empathize with us. This happens when we cry because of a happy or sad event. Scientists believe that crying is a way of establishing a social connection with other people.

You feel powerless over your emotions

Yet another theory proposed by the scientists Miceli and Castelfranchi suggests that all types of crying stem from perceived feelings of frustration, helplessness, and surrender.

It helps you manage intense emotions

Crying almost feels inevitable when experiencing a strong emotion, whether it's joy, frustration, or anger. While you might not always allow your tears free fall, you often feel them coming on.

Some research suggests that this is because crying can help you manage strong emotions. When you cry, it feels like you are expelling some of these emotions. As such, while you might be experiencing a happy or joyous occasion, you might find the emotion overwhelming. Crying helps you release some of this emotion.

Benefits of Crying

Crying for any reason has a slew of benefits to both your mental and physical well-being. Some of the most common benefits of crying include:

  • It's a stress reliever: Research shows that crying could potentially relieve stress.
  • Keeps your eyes clean: Crying is like giving your eyes a good wash from the inside from time to time. Some research shows that tears contain lysozyme, a chemical that has antimicrobial properties.
  • It boosts your mood: Whether you are crying because of joy or pain, crying has been proven to be a mood booster.
  • Can help you sleep better: Some research suggests that crying could potentially aid your sleep. In a 2016-study, researchers found that babies who cried before they slept, slept better.

Why Can't I Cry Even Though I'm Sad?

A Word From Verywell

It's established that happy crying is a perfectly normal thing to do. Not only is it common, but it also has a slew of benefits for our physical and emotional well-being. So the next time you feel the tears coming on after receiving some good news, don't hold back, let the tears flow.

9 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Gračanin A, Bylsma LM, Vingerhoets AJ. Is crying a self-soothing behavior?.Front Psychol. 2014;5:502. Published 2014 May 28. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00502

  2. Zickfeld JH, Schubert TW, Seibt B, et al. Kama muta: Conceptualizing and measuring the experience often labelled being moved across 19 nations and 15 languages. Emotion. 2019;19(3):402-424.

  3. Feldman SS. Crying at the happy ending. J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 1956;4(3):477-485.

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. All About Emotional Tears.

  5. Miceli, M., & Castelfranchi, C. (2003). Crying: discussing its basic reasons and uses.New Ideas in Psychology,21(3), 247-273. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2003.09.001

  6. Vingerhoets AJJM, Bylsma LM. The riddle of human emotional crying: a challenge for emotion researchers. Emotion Review. 2016;8(3):207-217.

  7. Harvard Health. Is crying good for you?.

  8. McDermott AM. Antimicrobial compounds in tears. Experimental Eye Research. 2013;117:53-61.

  9. Gradisar M, Jackson K, Spurrier NJ, et al. Behavioral interventions for infant sleep problems: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2016;137(6):e20151486.

Why Do I Cry When I'm Happy? (1)

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.

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