Why People Are Prone To Crying When Flying

When was the last time you had a good cry? If it's been a while, you may want to turn on the sappy music and pull out the tissue box. Crying is good for your physical and mental health, according to Healthline. Shedding some tears soothes the body, balances emotions, and can even numb pain.

Still, crying in front of others can be embarrassing and is sometimes frowned upon. Most of us have been told "don't cry" at one point or another, and PR maven Kelly Cutrone (of "The Hills" fame) summed up a workplace policy in the title of her 2010 book, "If You Have to Cry, Go Outside."

Though crying in public isn't the norm, there are times when it's hard to hold back tears, even in a crowded place. Planes are one spot where people tend to get watery-eyed. A survey by England's Gatwick Airport (via Insider) found that 15% of men and 6% of women are more likely to cry while watching a movie on a plane than they would if they saw the same movie at home. Another survey by Virgin Atlantic (via Popular Science) revealed that 55% of passengers experience heightened emotions during flights. Here's what's really behind in-flight weepiness.

Why you get teary on planes

It makes sense if you catch yourself crying in the air. For one, travel can be stressful. You may be nervous about visiting a destination for the first time, or maybe you had to rush to the airport to avoid missing your flight. Or perhaps you're leaving home and won't see loved ones for a long time. Couple all of that with a lack of familiar distractions (unless, maybe, you paid extra for in-flight wifi), and you might find yourself sitting with your thoughts more than you usually would.

There are physiological explanations for crying on flights too. Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist, explained to PopSugar, "[T]he high altitude and cabin pressure causes lower oxygen levels in the cabin. This leads to dehydration and can impact passengers' mood, induce fatigue, and make them more susceptible to intense emotional shifts." Jodi De Luca, a psychologist, also told Time that bodily changes that occur in the air, including a disruption of brain chemicals, affect our ability to manage emotional reactions.

Another possibility: jet lag. If your trip requires skipping multiple time zones, you may experience symptoms of jet lag disorder during your flight, including mood changes (per Cleveland Clinic). Then, even if you rarely cry in public, you might find yourself sobbing in seat 38B.

How to deal with in-flight waterworks

It's totally okay to cry on a plane, and you're likely not the only one feeling a tad emotional on your flight. But if you'd rather avoid getting teary the next time you're 35,000 feet up, choose in-flight entertainment wisely. Instead of a sad drama, watch a comedy instead. And when searching music playlists, go for upbeat genres when possible.

Alternatively, channel those big feelings into something productive. Use this opportunity to reflect on life while gazing out the window at the world below. The perspective change might help bring clarity to an important decision. You can also journal about your feelings, as well as about intentions you want to set for when you're back on land.

Finally, don't underestimate sleep. According to Get Sleep by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, getting plenty of shut-eye can keep sadness at bay and help you balance your emotions. Plus, sleep is crucial when facing jet lag and early-morning flights. Snack on natural sources of melatonin, recline your seat, and snooze away until landing.