The Truth About Crying During Meditation
The Truth About Crying During Meditation
You sit down to meditate. At first, all is peaceful and quiet as you feel your breath moving slowly in and out. Suddenly, though, you begin to feel tears well up in your eyes, and before you know it, you are full-on sobbing.
This is not at all what you expected to happen during meditation, and you are wondering if this is normal, and whether there is something wrong with you. After all, isn’t meditation supposed to make you feel better, not worse?
It turns out that crying during meditation is quite common. Although meditation usually serves as a stress reliever for many people, it can also elicit difficult emotions at times,1 including crying. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. “Letting it all out” can ultimately be therapeutic.
Let’s explore what to know about crying during meditation, why it happens, and how to cope.
Why Am I Crying During Meditation?
Many of us associate mediation with a time of calm—a chance to find emotional balance. Research has found that adopting a meditation practice can reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation has several other positive usages as well, including:2
Helping to manage pain conditions
Assisting with addiction disorders
Helping to manage health conditions like IBS, HIV, psoriasis, and diabetes3
Giving the immune system a boost4
But meditation is also a chance to tone down the “hustle and bustle” that happens in the mind, to quiet your racing thoughts and ruminations.5 And sometimes when everything goes quiet—when your to-do lists and work responsibilities and life distractions fall away—some of your more potent emotions come to the surface.
These emotions may be ones that you’ve kept inside in order to cope with the busyness of life, or because they were too difficult to face. Either way, meditation is a time when these difficult emotions might show up,6 sometimes without you even realizing it. This is why you might find yourself crying during meditation.
Meditation might just make you feel a little choked up and tear-eyed, but sometimes meditation can make you cry heavily. Whatever crying during medication looks like for you, you should know that you aren’t alone. Many people experience this, and crying during meditation isn’t generally something that continues every time you meditate.
How to Cope
In the end, crying during meditation can be positive, because it can help you get in touch with your emotions, move through them, and learn something about yourself. Still, when you experience crying during mediation, especially if it seems to come out of nowhere, you might feel uncertain about what to do, and how to cope.
Here are some tips below.
Understand That Crying Isn’t a Bad Thing
Most of us are taught that crying is a kind of weakness—that it’s only something children do, and that when we get older, we need to keep our emotions under lock and key. The truth is, though, that crying is not a sign of weakness at all. Feeling sadness and vulnerability is part of being human, and learning how to express that is important and can be very therapeutic.
Reframing your crying as a positive thing can help you get through the moment. Here are a few more things to know about crying, and why you can feel good about releasing as many tears whenever needed:
Crying is an important form of stress release7
Crying can lower your levels of cortisol7
Repressing your emotions has been linked to increased rates of cardiovascular disease8
Repressing your emotions can lead to an increased propensity toward depression and anxiety9
Learn to Sit With Your Emotions
Many people think that meditation means having a clear mind and being free of thoughts and feelings. But that’s not really how it works. The goal of meditation is not to eliminate thoughts or feelings completely, but to be able to accept them as they come.5 Eventually, the goal is to learn to let them go.
If you sit down to meditate and find that you are crying, you can use this as a chance to practice self-love and self-acceptance. Here are some ideas about how to do that:
While you are crying, notice the thoughts you are having about the crying
Are you finding that you are telling yourself to stop crying? Are you judging yourself for being too emotional? What other thoughts are you having?
Whatever thoughts you are having, just watch and observe them; try not to judge them
As you are crying, notice what’s happening in your body
Is your breathing tighter, heavier than it usually is? Are you able to slow down your breath at all? What other parts of your body are affected by your crying?
Again, just observe what happens as you notice your body, your breathing, and your thoughts
Take Some Time to Process Your Experience
When meditation has elicited intense emotions from you, it can be helpful to take some time to reflect and process what happened. This can include talking to a friend or connecting with a mental health counselor or therapist to clear your mind and think.
After a big cry, many people end up feeling exhausted, depleted, and vulnerable. That’s common and OK. Make sure you are gentle with yourself during this time, and try to get some extra rest and self-care during the next few days. You may also want to integrate movement like practicing yoga or taking a walk in nature, which can both be powerful for healing.
You might also consider doing some journaling to help process the experience. Get a notebook, set a timer for 10 minutes, and just write whatever comes into your mind. You don’t need to show this to anyone. Writing out your thoughts and feelings after crying can help you to understand yourself better, and get more in touch with the meaning behind your emotions.
Is Journaling an Effective Stress Management Tool?
When to Seek Mental Health Help
Usually, the crying that happens during meditation is an opportunity to simply let out some pent up emotions, which can be cleansing. But sometimes more difficult emotions come out while meditating.
For example, one study looked at the effects of meditation experienced by participants in an 8-week meditation program. Of those, 58% reported short-term adverse effects from meditation. These included traumatic re-experiencing, hypersensitivity, and nightmares. Another 6-14% reported adverse effects lasting longer than one month, including hyperarousal and dissociation.1
If you are finding that meditation is triggering intense emotional reactions that are making it difficult to function, or are making your current mental health challenges worse, consider meeting with a therapist or psychiatrist.
Even if you are not having a particularly adverse experience, meditation might be making you more in touch with certain repressed feelings, and having someone to talk with about your feelings is always a good thing.
A Word From Verywell
You might be taken aback if you end up crying during mediation. After all, this was not what you signed up for! You can rest assured that many people end up getting very emotional and even end up crying during meditation. This is especially common during the first few times you meditate or if you are going through a tough emotional time in your life.
Many of us have negative associations with crying, and grew up believing that it was best to suppress crying and other difficult emotions. Crying during meditation may feel inconvenient, and the crying itself might upset you more.
Consider thinking of crying during mediation as an opportunity to get more in touch with your feelings, and to learn to accept them. If you end up crying frequently during meditation, or if meditation seems to have triggered difficult memories, traumas, or seems to have exacerbated a mental health condition, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor or therapist.