A Kiss is Just a Kiss

The couple which kisses together stays togther - It's official. Not only can a good kiss make you weak at the knees, but it's also positively good for your health - and your relationships. Whether it's under the duvet, or somewhere more public, the evidence is clear - we should all be puckering up more!

Our sensual lips

The lips are one of the most sensitive areas of the body, containing a rich supply of nerve endings. And for most women, they appear be an important key to sexual arousal. In a recent survey, women named the lips as the most important contact point for a man to touch during the early stages of lovemaking. Not the breasts or the genitals, but the lips. Sharing them with a lover can be one of the most deeply meaningful and intimate acts you can do with each other, and will trigger the release of oxytocin, a bonding hormone which helps you to feel loved and cared for.

Kissing as a relationship barometer

A-Kiss-is-Just-A-KissResearch shows that the couple which kisses together, stays together," says Dr. Gary Wood, a social psychologist at the University of Birmingham. "Kissing is a very good indicator of relationship status, because it is inviting another into your intimate zone. And typically this zone is reserved for someone you feel very special about, whom you value. Sex therapists often suggest more kissing which specifically doesn't lead to sex, to help re-establish intimacy and feeling of closeness in a relationship. This is because kissing has more to do with love and affection than sex typically does," says Dr. Wood.

According to Desmond Morris, the well-known expert on mammalian behaviour, this deep level of intimacy may explain why traditionally prostitutes say 'no kissing' despite the fact that they permit all kinds of genital contact. "When asked for a reason for their kissing taboo, they are reported as replying that it is not because mouth-to-mouth kissing is unhygienic, but because it is 'too personal' - a comment which says a great deal about the significance of the female lips. It may also explain why, in some countries such as Japan, there is a taboo on kissing in public," he says in his recent book The Naked Woman (Vintage, £8.99)

To boost immunity

As children, many of us believed that a kiss had special healing powers, especially when you scraped your knee and mummy 'kissed it better'. It turns out there's more truth to this than you might think. Research shows that when you feel loved and nurtured, your immune system becomes stronger and better able to fight off disease. Studies suggest that people who kiss their partner every morning take fewer sick days off work, have lower blood pressure and live about five years longer.

At the height of the cold and flu season, good sense might suggest that you keep your lips to yourself. But think again. According to Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, it is very hard to catch a cold simply by exchanging saliva with another person. Researchers there have studied hundreds of students snogging. And kissing, they concluded, resulted in no transmission of the cold virus. "Kissing is very low risk because we exchange saliva and not nasal secretions - and it is through nasal secretions that the cold virus is spread. This is why you are more likely to catch a cold by shaking hands with someone, than by kissing them," he says. Over the long-term kissing can also help to make your immune system more robust, according to Professor Eccles, "The more you increase your exposure to the current viruses in circulation, the better your immune system will cope at fighting them off," he says. <br>

A passionate kiss which shares saliva also allows your to exchange germs with each other. And this exposure - unless either of you is harbouring an infection - is thought to boost your internal defences and make your immune system more robust, as the extra dose of friendly 'foreign' bacteria helps to prevent more harmful bacteria taking hold. In fact, because of all the friendly bacteria in your mouth - your more likely to catch a cold shaking hands with someone, than kissing them!

As a Stress Buster

Meditation, deep breathing and yoga may be brilliant at melting away stress, but they're not half as much fun as getting stuck in for a good kiss. Kissing is an excellent way to help you to simply 'let go'. This can significantly release tension and burn off harmful stress chemicals, not unlike the effect of meditation, says Dr. Gary Wood. "When you press your mouth against your lover's mouth, your breathing becomes deeper and slower, and you become focused on the present moment. This can stop the buzz in your mind and reduce anxiety and worrying. It also triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which add to the calming effect," he says.

As a Mood Elevator

Research shows that those who wake with a kiss, will start the day with a more positive attitude. Carry that kiss into a full snog, and you'll stimulate the limbic system, that part of the brain known as the pleasure centre. Studies reveal that passionate kissing triggers the release of a neurotransmitter called phenylethylamine or PEA. This brain chemical is known to 'rev up' the brain and can bring on feelings of exhilaration, elation and euphoria. PEA is said to be responsible for the butterflies you feel in the first flush of love, and in smaller doses, as when you kiss someone you feel attraction and affection towards, they will lift your mood and make you feel more full of life.

To keep you looking younger and slimmer

An energetic kissing session can exercise and help to tone all the underlying muscles of the face, which helps you to look younger and certainly happier! If kissing leads to regular sex with your partner, this will also help to keep you younger for longer. In his research on ageing, Dr. David Weeks, consultant clinical neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, found that one of the key ingredients for looking younger than your years is maintaining an active sex life. Kissing could also contribute to weight loss, as a full-on tongue tangling session has been found to burn between 6 and 12 calories a minute, depending on the level of enthusiasm!

Kissing as communication

Many of us find it hard to talk about sex with our partners. Non-verbal communication is often easier in this department, and kissing can be a powerful tool, suggests body language expert Judi James, author of Sex Signals. "There are so many senses in the mouth and tongue area, that you can almost read someone's mind when you are kissing them. Through a kiss, it is possible to ask your lover many of the sexual questions that you may not feel comfortable verbalising. It's all done through very subtle pressure and touch, and is one of the most effective and enjoyable ways of keeping in touch with your partner, especially outside the bedroom!"

The First Kiss

Most of us remember our very first kiss, and it can be fun to dust off those memories and share them with a friend or lover. However, whatever your age or stage of life, if you find yourself unattached and in the market for Mr. Right, the same age-old questions arise. Should I or shouldn't I? The idea of a first kiss can make a grown up feel like an adolescent all over again, filled with doubt, uncertainty and a sudden dent in confidence. Ariana Gee, a former Relate couples counsellor and author of Be Your Own Love Coach (New Holland, £7.99) suggests delaying that first sensual kiss for at least three dates, to give you both the chance to get to know each other before hormones start to cloud your judgement. "If we are attracted to someone physically, and start to kiss them, it is almost akin to going to bed with them, because the hormones start raging once you've made lip and tongue contact. These adrenaline type chemicals can keep you from sleeping, cut your concentration and give you an energy surge, and they can also mask reality. You may be swooning from those kisses, but before making any relationship decisions it's best to do a reality check between your head and your heart. Ask yourself, does this person meet me in values and want the same things out of life that I do?"

Starting a campaign for more kisses

There's often lots and lots of kissing at the beginning of a relationship, but as you get more comfortable with each other over time, those kisses can get forgotten, says to NLP master practitioner and 'bliss expert' Amanda Lowe, author of Thinking Sexy. "We often stop punctuating our exchanges with kisses, all those lovely 'full-stops' which can be so intimate and uplifting. We substitute a shorthand instead, and so long-term relationship can lose the magic along the way, because of the loss of punctuation!" Amanda is keen to start a campaign for bringing back the kisses so many of us have lost from our lives. "If you feel your relationship is getting a bit stale, make an effort to go back to romance - to handholding and kissing. And don't forget that unexpected kisses can be the sweetest - like in the middle of the supermarket queue. When you are doing something boring or mundane, it's the perfect way to brighten it!" she suggests.

If you're not at liberty or at ease with a full-blown snog in the middle of Tesco's, Amanda suggests developing a 'code of kisses' to signal your intentions. "To anyone else this might look innocent, but even if you're surrounded by kids, a quick nibble on the ear or the back of the neck, or a kiss on his finger, could be your own secret love code, something that tells him he's in with a chance tonight when you get him alone!"

Lick your lips & Watch the Slap!

Painting your lips a glossy red is one of the oldest tricks in the book to attract a man's attention to your lips. What's happening at a sub-conscious level, apparently, is that bright lips mimic the look and state of a woman's aroused labia, which become reddened and engorged when excited. However, says Judi James, while that works as an initial attractor, along with licking your lips, if you want to invite a really good kiss, it's usually a good idea to blot off the gloss and gunk first, as many men find the taste and the feel of lipstick off-putting, even revolting!

Kissing at the heart of our pleasure centre

According to the classic Kinsey study of female sexuality, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female, published in 1953, the lips are so highly sensitive and arousing that some women find they can climax during prolonged bouts of mouth-to-mouth deep kissing, even in the absence of genital contact. Extend these kisses to beyond your lovers lips and onto other sensitive or erotic parts of his body, and the act can be as much a turn-on for the kisser, as the receiver of those kisses, says Desmond Morris. "The female may appear to be involved purely in servicing the male and arousing him, but so refined are the nerve-endings in the mucous membranes of the everted female lips, that every touch they make on a loved one's body also sends back powerful stimuli to their owner. In this respect, as in so many others, the human female is the most highly developed of all the primates."

Types of Kisses

Here's body language expert Judi James's take on the benefits of the different types of kisses:

  • The Air kiss: Social kissing like the air kiss or cheek kiss creates a fast-track feeling of empathy and family, even with relative strangers. It is a shared ritual that is bonding.
  • The forehead kiss: This is very tender and almost parent-child, even when performed between lovers. It is warm and nurturing and in a close relationship says "I am here to look after you."
  • The Eskimo kiss: Rubbing noses signals affection rather than lust, even between sexual partners. It is a favourite of the Beckhams, possibly because it doesn't disrupt Victoria's make-up when in public!
  • The puckered kiss: This is where just the tips of the lips touch and signals a shared sense of humour and fun between a couple.
  • The mouth kiss: Touching lips can relay thousands of very subtle signals via intensity, pressure, gentleness, and the sexual signals it sends.
  • The French kiss: Probably the most sexual act you can do in public! It mimics aspects of the act of sex itself and is one of the most intimate turn-ons during foreplay.