A Reason To Cry

This week professional baseball player Dee Gordan put to rest the age old myth that “there’s no crying in baseball.” In tribute to his teammate and best friend Florida Marlin’s pitcher, Jose Fernandez, who died suddenly and tragically last week in a boating accident, Dee hit the homerun of his life.  While rounding the bases, streams of tears that reflected the depth of his grief and love flowed down his face.  And in this beautiful moment of heartfelt bereavement all of our outmoded culturally conditioned messages about grown men crying got challenged–and hopefully–put to rest.

Crying is tricky for most adults in our culture.  “Don’t cry or I’ll give you a reason to cry” were the messages socially communicated to emoting children by well intended parents trying to raise strong sons (and sometimes daughters too, as in my family).  Before scientists in the fields of psychology and medicine began to challenge this unnatural and unhealthy practice, crying was always considered a sign of weakness in our culture.  “Cry baby,” “sissy,” “faggot” and “queer” were often the socially humiliating assaults hurled by  kids at kids who expressed their pain, hurt, or sad feelings with tears.

Like so many raised before 1990, I would have accepted this misguided culturally conditioned response for my whole life until the field of psychoneuroimmunology birthed in the 80’s began to change all of that.  Now we know there are so many good reasons to cry when we’re sad, hurt, or bereaved:

*When we cry tears of sadness we release a stress chemical known as an encephalin which when externalized results in that sweet sigh of relief after a good cry.

*Acknowledging our sadness helps the emotional brain  release the tension of this important feeling and then with the help of the hippocampus, files the lessons learned from our pain in the wisdom bank of our gray matter.

*Suppressed emotions are the gateway to depression which is why getting in touch with the sadness associated with buried emotional wounds (i.e. trauma, abuse, loss, negative life events, etc.) in therapy is so cathartic and healing.

*There are molecules of emotions called neuropeptides that communicate with the organs of our bodies that actually help heal the mind/body connection when we cry, grieve and express our authentic emotions.

*When we bottle our emotions, we remain in the high stress mode of the fight-or-flight response.  In addition to many negative cardiovascular changes, this also halts the immune system.  Its this lack of replicating white blood cells that puts us at greater risk of illness when stressed, sad, or bereaved.

So if crying makes us weak, science now confirms that it is in our weakness that we find strength.  Hopefully, like me, you’ll find this is a reason to cry for your whole life.


Sounds Good To Me

Back in my youth, before sunscreen was necessary and high bacteria levels could close a  beach, my friends would often start a summer weekend with the enjoyable idea of going to the beach.  Eager to engage in the mood enhancing high of a day spent tanning, swimming, throwing a Frisbee, blaring the latest pop music, and lathering up in tanning oils that smelled like Pina Coladas, I’d always answer them with an enthusiastic, “sounds good to me.”  My youthful, yet limited, concept of the beach as a place of fun, socializing,  and leisure would have stayed with me my whole life, until the neuroscience of wellness (and the preventive measures of skin cancer) changed all that.

Last weekend, after a summer of staycations due to my husbands brave and determined recovery from spinal cord surgery, he surprisingly asked me to join him in a much needed day at the beach before the official end of summer.  “Sounds good to me” was my delighted response as we packed up and headed to a noise-protected beach across the border in Canada.

Maybe its the renewed joy in the simple pleasures of life that often accompany an existential crisis like the one we experienced this summer–reminding us of what matters most in life. Or the surprise request from a man whose legs currently move slower and with strains never known before.  All I know is that after setting our chairs up in the white sandy beach, lathering up with the necessary 50 proof sunscreen, and leaving all our cares behind, I immediately noticed the power of this special place.  The sweet and steady sounds of the rhythmic waves rushing in and rolling out–mesmerizing us into a state of peaceful bliss–was suddenly met by the collective and synchronized release of two very big sighs.  Our heart rates dropped, adrenal glands shut down, minds wandered into beautiful states of consciousness, as all of a sudden the health struggles of the summer were carried away by the steady stream of the undulating waves. This is when it occurred to me that this was more than a beach, this was a powerful place for healing the mind, the body, and the spirit.

The power of nature to soothe the mind and spark wholistic healing has been termed Brainwave Entrainment by the field of  Auditory Neuroscience in Music and Medicine (audiomedicine.org). Emerging research on how brainwaves can adjust and synchronize to the acoustic frequency and rhythm of a regularly repeating pattern of intermittent sounds can be found in the benefits of listening to a silky smooth voice, soothing music, and pleasant environmental noises.  These are the types of sounds that have the power to psycho-biologically enhance our overall feeling of well-being.

All I know is that any beach–free of the disruptive sounds of motor boats, drunken parties, and blaring music–holds the healing power to elicit a natural high.  The simple pleasure of being in the rhythm of nature, in timing with the planet, and in oneness with the source of all that is beautiful and uplifting–especially when shared with the ones we love– gives new meaning to the saying, “life’s a beach.”  I now knowingly commit to seizing the entrainment moments that sound good to me for my whole life.  And with this in mind, I hope you seize the moments to experience the healing sounds of nature too–and that you do it for your whole life.

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