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This Is Why We Cry More On Planes

By Shontel Horne


The stress of getting through the airport can reduce anyone to tears on a hectic travel day, but if you find that you cry easily while you’re in the air, especially more than you do on a normal day, you aren’t imagining it. The next time you’re on a long-haul flight, you might want to skip the sad movies to avoid breaking down in tears while the stranger seated next to you looks on in concern because there’s data that shows people cry more often than normal while flying.


In 2011, Virgin Atlantic began running a series of “Emotional Health Warning” videos before certain tear-jerking in-flight films (think The Blind Side and The Notebook), and though the videos were light-hearted, the high altitude mixed with the consumption of alcohol while watching a sad film is just one recipe for waterworks, even if you’re not a major crier while on land.


“Crying seems to occur in situations where action makes no sense,” writer and clinical psychology professor Ad Vingerhoets told The Atlantic in 2013 about the phenomenon, noting how adults are generally more likely to refrain from crying in public, only to release their emotions in the comforts and protection of their own how. “Where [action] is not needed or where you can’t act because you feel hopeless or are helpless. When there’s no reason to fight or fly, you just have to deal with your emotions,” Vingerhoets explained.


RELATED: Would You Grab Your Luggage In An Emergency Plane Evacuation?


The change in air pressure that occurs while traveling can drastically change your mood and Virgin found during a study of why passengers cry during flights, that for many, the nature of the trip, whether it was going to or from loved ones, a romantic getaway or a somber journey, all contribute to whether a passenger cries while flying. Other factors to take into account include that many simply feel more vulnerable while flying with strangers and that tears could be a way to seek refuge with people you may not know.


Dr. Nick Knight went even further, telling Telegraph Travel that the overall complexity of crying can be triggered by everything from small factors to obvious circumstances. “Sticking yourself in an unfamiliar environment 30,000 feet off the ground and therefore away from your comforts of everyday life, surrounded by strangers and even stranger sounds, sits nicely on that spectrum. Sprinkle in your likely altered human physiology with lower air pressures and oxygen levels and your body and mind is promoted to go into emotional lability,” he says.


There’s no harm to crying while flying, but if you want to lower your chances of becoming an emotional wreck while on a flight, you’ll have to start preparing before your flight. First, be sure to give yourself enough time to get to the airport to lower your stress level. Though alcohol is an added bonus of flying international, avoid boozy beverages while on an empty stomach, and be sure to stay hydrated. Practice deep, steady breathing when you begin to feel uneasy at any point, and instead of catching that drama you missed while it was in the theaters, opt for a comedy instead.

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Shontel Horne

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