The Surprising Benefits of Kissing

How smooching can make you feel happier, calmer and more connected.

things you didn't now about kissing
What you know about kissing may not be a lot.

We all know that kissing the right person feels exquisite. Your lips contain thousands of nerve endings (100 times more than your fingertips and many more than any—we mean any—other body part), so why wouldn’t it feel good? But scientists are discovering that kissing also has amazing effects on the brain.

According to Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, this delicious activity stimulates all your senses, allowing you to smell, taste, hear, feel and even see your partner (although we hope you’ll eventually close your eyes). It also sends subtle communications to your brain via neurons that travel from your lips and tongue through cranial nerves. Once these messages reach your noggin, they’re processed into some delicious side effects.

Here are 5 ways kissing makes you happier, calmer and more connected to your partner.

1. Kissing induces pleasure and relaxation. It’s pretty clear that smooching boosts your pulse and blood pressure, dilates your pupils and deepens breathing. The whole thing is exciting, right? But what you may not know is that kissing also raises levels of oxytocin, the chemical associated with trust and attachment, and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. So you’re turned on and chill—a great combination.

2. Kissing reveals a lot about your lover. And we’re not just talking about how good of a kisser he is. As you lock lips with your partner, you unconsciously pick up signals about what he’s been eating, drinking or smoking. But did you know that you also collect important data about his genetic makeup? As it turns out, we’re naturally drawn to people with a slightly different immune system—Mother Nature’s way of producing genetic variety in our young. Most interesting: A woman’s breath and saliva change over her menstrual cycle, which means a kiss can broadcast the status of her fertility.

3. Kissing puts you in the mood. If you’re kissing a man, that is. A guy’s saliva is loaded with testosterone, so a guy may subconsciously initiate open-mouth kissing to transfer that libido-boosting hormone to their partner. The sloppier the kiss, the more of this sexy hormone he transmits. And, needless to say, the more skilled he is with his lips, the more you’re likely to fall into bed with him.

4. It’s the (almost) universally accepted love currency. About 90 percent of people around the world kiss as a sign of affection. And in those cultures where kisses are considered yucky, lovers still focus on the areas around or near the lips, blowing, licking, sucking or nipping on each other’s faces prior to copulation.

5. Kissing can bring you closer to your partner. If it’s a good kiss, that is. Fisher has interviewed thousands of people in love to learn that a passionate, tender, emotionally charged smooch is one of life’s most powerful bonding agents that can take a relationship to the next level. As you kiss, your body experiences a surge of the hormone oxytocin, which reduces stress and increases feelings of connectedness.

So what are you waiting for? Start smooching.