Taking time out to meditate is an incredible way to have some “me time” and cut away from the hustle and bustle of life. Whether you suffer from anxiety or are just eager to take a moment to let your mind wander and your soul rest, meditation has become extremely popular over the last few years. When you first start meditating, it’s common to feel various emotions. You might feel passionate, energetic, lighthearted, or even teary-eyed. It’s OK if you’re crying during meditation.
Crying during meditation can be a compelling and moving experience. Yet, when it happens, it can create an emotional roller coaster that threatens to distract you from the benefits of this practice. So what to know about crying during meditation? In today’s article, I’ll cover the most common reasons people cry during meditation.
Why Do You Cry During Meditation?
Meditation is a tool for reducing stress and developing inner peace. It can also be a practice of self-exploration. As you tune in to your body, mind, and emotions, you may not always like what you find there. You may feel sad, angry, or afraid. You might find yourself crying during meditation.
Crying during meditation can happen for a variety of reasons. For one thing, meditation allows you to get in touch with your genuine emotions in a way that isn’t filtered or rationalized by your brain. You’re sitting quietly and focusing on your breath or an object, so there’s not much else to do but feel what’s happening in your body. This can be difficult because we’ve spent our whole lives trying to avoid feeling certain emotions.
Here are three reasons why you may be crying during meditation:
- Meditation reminds us of things that have happened in our lives, some sad and some happy. For example, many people cry during loving-kindness meditations because they feel a sense of love and compassion for themselves and others.
- You’re sad or grieving over something in your life. If you have lost someone close to you, it may bring back those feelings during meditation if you didn’t deal with them at the time of loss. As you sit and breathe, your body relaxes. This can bring up stored emotions that you haven’t felt in years.
- You’re stressed out. Meditation is often practiced as a way to relax and relieve stress. When stressed, we naturally build up barriers as a coping mechanism, but these barriers usually stay with us long after they serve their purpose. During meditation, these barriers may break down, and the relief of being able to “let go” can trigger an emotional response in the form of tears.
As said earlier, if you are crying during meditation, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it isn’t something that happens to everyone, it’s certainly not something to feel ashamed about because it’s a natural way to release pent-up emotion from their bodies.
How to Cope With It?
Don’t be alarmed or feel ashamed if you cry during your session. Emotional releases are highly beneficial for the mind and body. They help us process our feelings and let go of the things that no longer serve us. If crying makes you uncomfortable, it is a good sign that your mind and body need to work on it.
Here are some tips on how to cope with crying during meditation:
- Stop judging it as a negative experience. This is how you are today, and nothing is wrong with this. It is not a negative or positive experience; it is simply what is happening now. It is your body’s way of releasing energy and emotions that have been stuck inside for long periods.
- If the tears start flowing, let them flow naturally without trying to stop them. Don’t stifle your feelings and tell yourself to “stop being silly” or “this shouldn’t be happening,” This can worsen the situation by causing you to feel more emotional during meditation. Instead, acknowledge what is happening and embrace it as a positive experience for your mind and body.
- Take a break from your practice if needed. If you find yourself in tears every time you sit down to meditate, it may mean that now is not a good time for your practice. You might be too emotionally overwhelmed to meditate effectively. Try taking a walk or going for a drive instead and see if that helps clear your head before you try again.
- Go gently into your emotions rather than resisting them. The first step in dealing with any emotion — anger, sadness, or happiness — is to acknowledge it and accept it as a part of yourself rather than trying to push it away or deny it exists inside of you. Resisting an emotion will only make you feel worse and prolong the feeling.
- Reframe your thoughts. If you can, try to identify which thoughts or memories are causing sadness and see if you can reframe them for yourself by acknowledging that it’s okay to feel this way and that you will get through this moment (and you’re likely not alone). Alternatively, if you find identifying negative thoughts difficult or triggering, try visualizing a time when you felt contented and happy.
If you find yourself in the grip of intense emotions while meditating, try to let them be. Don’t get caught up in self-criticism or judgment. It’s common to feel self-critical when you cry during meditation, but it helps to remember that it’s perfectly normal and can even be a sign of progress.
Go easy on yourself. Try practicing with less intensity or duration for a while. If you find your emotional reaction is making it difficult to function throughout the day, give yourself a break from meditating until you feel ready to practice again.
When Should You Seek Mental Health Support?
The benefits of meditation are well documented, though. Research has shown that it can reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, relieve anxiety, improve sleep quality and quantity, strengthen the immune system and lead to an overall sense of well-being.
It is generally considered a safe practice but does not come naturally to many people. There are some situations where talking to a mental health professional is suggested. For example, people with post-traumatic stress disorder may find meditation triggers flashbacks to a traumatic event.
So, seek a therapist or psychiatrist if you are experiencing a strong emotional reaction during meditation or are concerned that your meditation exacerbates a mental health problem.
Meditation can be challenging, both physically and mentally. It involves a lot of deep thought, self-awareness, and putting yourself into the present moment with your eyes closed. With all these factors combined, it’s not shocking that many people feel uncomfortable or even cry when they meditate.
If you do feel yourself begin to cry during meditation, accept it for what it is and try to steer away from judging yourself for crying, and gently draw your attention back to your breath. You’ll learn to cope with all these experiences as you continue meditating.
- Willoughby B. Britton, Jared R. Lindahl, David J. Cooper, Nicholas K. Canby, and Roman Palitsky. Defining and Measuring Meditation-Related Adverse Effects in Mindfulness-Based Programs. Clinical Psychological Science. First Published May 18, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702621996340.