Crying was common in childhood, along with falls and hurt feelings. Boys were taught not to cry or they would be considered a "sissy." Girls sometimes tried to be tough and hold back the tears, as did sensitive boys.

I remember crying during movies, having laughter tears and trying to figure out how not to have so many tears when cutting up an onion by kneeling on the floor, with my arm raised up on the counter to slice the onion that was not supposed to tear the eyes if the eyes were lower than the onion — the only problem was that it was too easy to cut one's hand which could, in turn, cause stress tears.

Once my brother shot me with his BB gun stuffed with gravel pellets at close range to my legs after he tied me up as his captured "Injun." It was the '50s and he was playing the cowboy role. That day my tears were from a combination of being hurt and being red-in-the-face angry. One thing was for sure. My inner self felt better from crying even if my legs still hurt.

More research is now being done on tears. I was just informed about some research where human tears were given to rats. The rats died. Those were stress-caused tears that were filled with toxins from the liver, not onion peeling or joyful tears. Crying is nature's release for toxins.

Crying is being researched to show it has many benefits. Onion tears and joyful tears are non-toxic. Because emotions are temporary, they create a wave of biochemical changes that can flow through the body in conjunction with their partner-in-crime-or-good-times, the mind's thoughts. When an emotion needs to be released in the form of crying, holding it back is like holding a disease inside the body. This creates "unpeace" (making up a word here) for the mind, body and emotions. Allowing crying to naturally occur creates mood upliftment and a feeling of relief that is peaceful. The reason this happens is that, after crying, the heart rate decreases as breathing slows down. We enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.

Emotional stress tears, according to Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, create endorphins while releasing stress hormones and other toxins. Even in the midst of a problem or crisis, crying can help us feel better. We become more peaceful after a crying release. While society has created a pressure to refrain from crying, suggesting it signifies weakness, anyone who has cried knows that strength is gained from crying. Often during stress and trauma, crying cleanses the mind for clearer thinking.

So why not cry more easily? And why are people uncomfortable with others' crying? When someone is crying, there is a fork in the road. If a bystander is uncomfortable with the act of crying and does not know what to say or do, the situation is most likely ignored. Or crying can create a sense of community through compassion, approaching and being with the person who is crying in some gentle way. If we are uncomfortable with our own ability to cry, then chances are we will not be comfortable with someone else's tears.

When Mama, my Croatian grandmother, was crying, I wanted to help her but didn't know what to do as a young child. I just sat by her. I felt love for her and she felt my love. It was all that was necessary.

In the New Year I want to be more receptive with crying to decrease stuck emotions, and increase health by releasing toxins. What a great gift from nature to feel more peaceful in my everyday life. Joyful tears are not filled with toxins. And they contain antibacterial properties. Crying is a great doorway to inner peace and being healthier. Wishing you freedom to cry and improving your health!

Janai Mestrovich, aka Grandma Boom, lives in Ashland, is an international speaker.  Her books, "The Grandma Boom Chronicles" and "More Alive at 65" are available at Bloomsbury, Renaissance Rose and Amazon.com and  www.grandmaboom.com.