The “namida sensei” lectures across the country to encourage crying for stress relief and better mental health.
Me, I am a crier. I cry at happy parades and sad movies, I cry at church bells and hilarious stories and pretty songs, and especially anywhere that the human spirit is on display. I quip that it’s how my body deals with water retention … but here’s an idea, maybe I am just a secret “namida” master. Maybe all that crying is why I’m such a happy person.
In Japan, there is a former high school teacher, Hidefumi Yoshida, who calls himself a “namida sensei” – a tears teacher. A tears teacher! Yoshida travels to schools and businesses around Japan, coaching people on the fine art, of, yes, shedding tears.Why? “The act of crying is more effective than laughing or sleeping in reducing stress,” he says.
Japan Times explains that Yoshida came upon his realization after one of his former students stopped showing up for consultations after the pupil had opened up and cried a river.
And experts agree, according to The Times. Tears inspired by both sadness and happiness are thought to reduce stress, as the act of crying relaxes autonomic nerves by stimulating parasympathetic nerve activity.
“Crying is an act of self-defense against accumulating stresses,” says professor Junko Umihara from Nippon Medical School.
And in research published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, “tear expert” Dr William Frey, a biochemist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, concluded that emotional tears contain stress hormones and other chemicals that are released when we weep.
Japan seems ahead of the curve in terms of novel ways of dealing with stress. Among so many other things, it is the birthplace of “shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing, and “hanami,” the tradition of flower viewing, after all. And in 2015, the country introduced a mandatory stress-check program for large companies and other entities.
Since then, with the help of Hideho Arita, professor emeritus at the Faculty of Medicine at Toho University, Yoshida has been busy visiting hundreds of venues to raise awareness about the benefits of crying.
Yoshida recommends coaxing the crying by watching tear-jerking movies, listening to emotive music or reading inspiring books. “If you cry once a week, you can live a stress-free life.”
So how might this pan out over here in The States, the home of the brave … and stiff upper lips? Could lessons in weeping lessen some of our collective stress? Or are we too tough for tears? I don’t know about you, but I’m all in for the waterworks. Call me a snowflake if you want, but I’ll be having the last laugh as my sobs soothe away my ills.
Need a nudge? Here you go.