Why Do We Cry When We Are Happy?

Crying is a natural response to an intensely emotional experience.

It can be a way to release the emotions we are feeling and to communicate them to others. It can be a response to sadness, stress, helplessness, and depression, but it can also happen when we become overwhelmed with happiness, love, and joy.

Why Crying Happens

The mechanisms of how and why crying happens are being studied, but its assumed various factors are involved.

The mystery of why crying would happen for both pleasant and unpleasant emotions is even more complex, but some possible explanations have been put forth.

One model suggests that the parts of the limbic system (the brain’s emotional processing center) that trigger the lacrimal glands to produce tears respond to the intensity of the emotional arousal without distinguishing whether or not it is a positive or negative feeling.

In other words, the tears might be a reflex response to any strong emotional experience – an attempt at calming the emotions back to a neutral balance.

Achievement Tears

These tears are closely associated with the feeling of pride. They might be shed when we achieve something we have been working hard towards or when we receive recognition for our accomplishments. They may happen when we overcome a challenging obstacle or observe someone we care about doing something great.

The researchers found that this type accounted for about 29% of positive tears in their study.

Beauty Tears

Beauty Tears might be shed in response to experiencing something overwhelmingly beautiful – often, a natural wonder or an extraordinary work of art. The feeling of awe brings it about.

According to the study, these tears make up about 8% of positive tears.

Affection Tears

Affection tears are associated with love, warmth, and compassion; these tears flow when we are presented with unexpected kindness and passionate displays of love. These tears are shared with family, friends, romantic partners, and newborn infants.

Tears of affection appear to be the most common type, accounting for approximately 55% of the cases of positive tears that were examined.

Amusement Tears

These tears happen when we laugh so hard that we cry. They accompany fits of giggling and situations that are outrageously funny. They tend to feel lighter and more carefree than the other types of positive tears.

Only 3% of positive tears were categorized as amusement tears.

The last 5% was harder to categorize and didn’t easily fit into any of the four types.

Sometimes tears emerge when a range of emotions wash over us simultaneously – feeling terribly sad and wonderfully joyful at the same time, for example.

Crying is a natural way to release and communicate intense emotions, both good and bad, and it provides us with a special way to create and share memories.