WHAT HAPPENS WHEN...
...you turn on the waterworks
1 CRY FOR HELP
Humans. What a bunch of softies. ‘When you look at the evolution of crying, what we share with other mammals is a distress call to convey a need for comfort,’ explains Ad Vingerhoets, psychology professor affiliated with Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and an authority on weeping.
‘But we differ from other mammals in that we produce tears, and in that this behaviour isn’t limited to infancy – we humans continue to cry throughout our lives.’
2 WAIL OF A TIME
While some theorists doubt the existence of tears of joy, they’ve obviously never watched their BFF say ‘I do’. One theory posited by Yale researchers is that happy tears are the body’s way of restoring emotional equilibrium – responding to an overwhelmingly positive emotion with a negative one. See also: nervous laughter.
3 SOB STORY
So how does the sight of a threelegged puppy lead to panda eyes? Enter: acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter that sends a message from your brain to the lacrimal glands – located above your eyelids – to warn that things are getting totes emosh. The lacrimal gland produces tears, which flow into canals that connect to the lacrimal sac before falling down your cheek. Kleenex, anyone?
4 HAVING A BAWL
They don’t call it a good old cry for nothing. But if a weep leaves you feeling wonderful, it may not be for the reason you think. Back in the day, we thought tears contained stress hormones – suggesting you could
literally cry away the pain. ‘Now, we have reason to doubt this,’ says Professor Vingerhoets. ‘While 50% of criers will feel better afterwards, we think this is down to the emotional support they receive from loved ones as a result, rather than being a physiological response.’ Snot goals, indeed.
5 BLINK 101
Blink and you’ll miss ’em. No, really. Your eyes produce tears every time you blink.
Basal tears form a protective film on your corneas, without which your eyes would dry up. And if Long Lost Family doesn’t get them flowing, chopping onions will do it. Reflex tears contain an antibacterial agent called lysozyme, which helps kill potentially dangerous microbes and wash out foreign invaders like bugs or dust. Go on, cry your eyes out.