MWAH!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and for better or worse, it’s possible you’re thinking about kissing.  There are tons of health benefits to this interesting human activity!  But, it’s also associated with love and companionship, so before we go on, if you don’t have a person you want to or can kiss today, then consider kissing a pet, or a beloved photo or object, or even the ground, if you feel moved to.  As Rumi said, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again.”

Now back to our regular program… What’s so great about kissing?  Let me count the ways!  It can help reduce your blood pressure, can boost your immunity, can strengthen your facial muscles, can lessen cramps and headaches, and can even improve your teeth!  (the more saliva washing around, the more action against plaque). Those are some pretty powerful effects for something so seemingly mundane!

I also like the more heady suggestion of anthropologist Helen Fisher, who describes kissing as a way of assessing potential mates.  “Much of the cortex is devoted to picking up sensations from around the lips, cheeks, tongue and nose. Out of 12 cranial nerves, five of them are picking up the data from around the mouth.” This means that your brain is actually processing data about the other person, gained from kissing them!  Evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. agrees, saying “At the moment of the kiss, there are hard-wired mechanisms that assess health, reproductive status and genetic compatibility.”

But the reason we all like it the most, I suspect, is that kissing so often makes us happy.  Not always (see, “Kiss of Death”, below), but a lot of the time.  It can release hormones that create excitement (for newer connections), or calm (for longer-term connections; which, by the way, hugging can also do).  It’s even been found to boost self-esteem.

So, even if a kiss is just a kiss, check out its possibilities for improving your health, one smooch at a time.  If a kiss-partner is available to you, try it now! And, Happy Valentine’s Day!

More reading about the ineluctable kiss:

–The study of kissing is called philematology, which includes fascinating questions such as which way does your head turn when you kiss?

–Weird kissing facts (many with sources!)

–There’s always the Kiss of Death (in this case with Victor Mature)

–There are cultures (see here and here) in which kissing is considered, well, gross!

–An Eskimo kiss, called a kunik, is actually more like a mutual sniff, done as a greeting

–And what’s with the two cheek kiss?  How to navigate it?

–Don’t forget the edible kiss and the musical kiss!

(Photo Credit: Vir Argentina on Flickr.com)

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