Kissing is a means of getting two people so close together that they can’t see anything wrong with each other.
Okay, that might be the Woody Allen-esque description of the reason to kiss, but your mental and emotional health is riding on kissing as part of a romantic relationship.
Actually, kissing may be one of the earliest evolutionary mechanisms for social bonding.
The role of kissing in improving the quality of long-term relationships was examined several years ago by the family communications scholar Kory Floyd and his colleagues at Arizona State University.
He recruited married and cohabiting couples to increase their frequency of kissing over a 6-week period. Compared to a control group of participants who did not kiss more, the kissers experienced a significant decrease in their stress, as well as a significant increase in their relationship satisfaction.
Similarly, researcher Wendy Hill of Lafayette College in Pennsylvania found that kissing sessions lasting for fifteen minutes led to a significant decline in the level of stress hormone cortisol in participants
So it’s not surprising that females put more importance on kissing.
Ask any woman whether she’s ready to have sex without kissing and she’d probably give you the side eye.
Men, on the other hand, are often rarin’ to go without kissing beforehand. They would also have sex with someone who wasn’t a good kisser. Women, not so much.
At an Association for the Advancement of Science meeting on the science of kissing, Helen Fischer, an evolutionary biologist, explained that kissing is involved in the three main types of attraction humans have:
- Sex drive, which is ruled by testosterone
- Romantic love, which is ruled by dopamine and other feel-good hormones
- Attachment, which involves bonding chemicals like oxytocin.
Saliva, swapped during romantic kisses, contains testosterone.
Men are also more likely to initiate French kissing and researchers hypothesize that this is because saliva contains testosterone, which can increase libido in women. Researchers also think that men might be able to pick up on a woman’s level of estrogen, which is a predictor of fertility.
Some health benefits of kissing
- Kissing releases potent neurotransmitters, brain chemical reward system, that reduce stress and promote social bonding. Here come the neurotransmitters ocytocin, “the love hormone and vasopressin which bond us with our romantic partners too. While oxytocin is released in both men and women, research indicates that women are more sensitive to this chemical. No surprise here that we like engaging in the behaviors that make us feel pleasure and connectedness.
- Kissing helps balance our mood by releasing other helpful neurohormones.
- Kissing makes us more alert, because these chemicals make us feel excited. They increase our heart rates as our bodies prepares for action — any kind.
- Kissing can act as a buffer against stress. Researchers found that kissing was directly related to lowering the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day.
- Kissing can reduce your allergy symptoms. Who knew? Since kissing reduces stress by sending those feel-good hormones mentioned earlier to the brain, as well as alleviating cortisol, a Japanese study explored the relationship between the stress-lowering activity of kissing on allergic reactions. In the study, the subjects, whom the authors noted “do not kiss habitually,” kissed for 30 minutes with their partner in a private room while listening to soft music. They found that at the end of the sessions, the participants experienced significant relief.
- Kissing might boost your immunity. When you kiss someone on the lips you exchange bacteria. This can either make you sick, or it can help boost your immunity by exposing you to new germs that strengthen your immune system’s ability to fight these bacteria.
The “Peck” vs. the Kiss
Do you peck or really, really kiss?
Chickens peck at the ground for food. Heads rapidly bobbing up and down, gobbling up every morsel they can find. They are responding to their drive for survival.
In humans, however, the “peck” is not a feature for our drive survival. When we peck instead of kiss, we communicate absent-mindedness, duty, and habit. Often hello and good-bye kisses fall into this category. Not very inspiring.
If you’re in the pecking zone, it’s time to up-level to the kissing zone to increase your intimacy and connection.
How long should the kiss last?
At least 10 seconds. But, as indicated above, make-out sessions produce the biggest pay-offs.
According to Fisher, both men and women agree that kissing brings them emotionally closer to their partner.
The more your kiss your partner, the happier you are also likely to be in your relationship.
Now there’s a prescription that’s easy to follow.