Ever know to kiss as a social pleasantry, the appropriate ending to a date and a means of connecting with our main squeeze. The collision of lips and tongues that we often take for granted has a whole lot more bubbling under the surface than what meets the eye. Swine flu scares and mono aside, kissing actually does a body very, very good.
Fortunately, my kissing abilities and understanding of consent have both improved since then, and it turns out that even if cooties are real, they might actually be good for your health. Seriously—making out has some very real, science-backed benefits that you can read about below.
1. Kissing boosts immunity
A recent study reported in the journal Medical Hypotheses says kissing may increase a woman's immunity from Cytomegalovirus. Cytomegalovirus contracted through the mouth to mouth contact, can cause infant blindness and other birth defects if the mother is a carrier during pregnancy. Otherwise, the bug is relatively harmless in adults. Kissing has long been thought to be a way to pass along bugs and thus strengthen the body's defenses.
2. Kissing helps you pick the best mate
Anthropologist Helen Fisher describes kissing as a "mate assessment tool."
"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. It is built to pick up the most sensitive feelings—the most intricate tastes and smells and touch and temperature. And when you're kissing somebody, you can really hear them and see them and feel them. So kissing is not just kissing. It is a profound advertisement of who you are, what you want and what you can give."
Other researchers note that kissing is biology's way of determining who in nature you are most genetically compatible with.
"At the moment of the kiss, there are hard-wired mechanisms that assess health, reproductive status, and genetic compatibility," says Gordon G. Gallup Jr., a professor of evolutionary psychology at the State University of New York at Albany who studies reproductive competition and the biology of interpersonal attraction. "Therefore, what happens during that first kiss can be a make-or-break proposition."
3. Kissing burns calories!
Depending on different reports, anywhere from 2 to 6 calories a minute. Not quite a jog on the treadmill, but an hours worth of smooching may burn off half a handful of M&Ms or half a glass of wine. Hey, it's something.
4. Kissing keeps facial muscles strong
Sure tight abs or cellulite-free thighs may be first on the Tone Up list, but don't underestimate the workout your mouth gets during a makeout session. Researchers say you use 30 muscles while kissing and the smooching helps keep your cheeks tight. Nice. We'll take what we can get.
5. Kissing naturally relaxes you
Scientific reports say kissing increases the levels of oxytocin, the body's natural calming chemical and also increased endorphins, the body's feel-good chemicals. Swapping spit is also noted to increase dopamine, which aids in feelings of romantic attachment.
6. Kissing might improve your relationship satisfaction
The same study authors suggest that romantic kissing, as well as other forms of physical contact, can strengthen feelings of attachment to the person you're kissing, increasing the feeling of relationship satisfaction between romantic partners. And a 2013 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that more frequent kissing was linked to couples’ perceived feelings about the quality of a relationship—namely, the more kissing, the happier they were—which was not the case for more sex.
7. Those feel-good hormones have healing abilities
According to a 2005 study in Neuroendocrinology Letters, "[L]ove, pleasure, and lust have a stress-reducing and health-promoting potential since they carry the ability to heal or facilitate beneficial motivation and behavior." In other words, by reducing your stress hormones, your body can better focus on healing any physiological processes that are exacerbated by stress and help contribute to more positive mental health and behavior.
8. Kissing makes you more alert.
Kissing often stimulates the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Not only do these chemicals make you feel excited by increasing your heart rate, but they also make you more alert, as your body prepares for action … of any kind.