It’s hard to imagine a world in which we didn’t kiss. No wonder that the earliest recorded kisses date back to the very beginning of recorded time. According to philematology (or the science of kissing), a variety of biological responses is unleashed the moment our lips meet someone else’s. Our brain translates these neural reactions and chemicals into meaningful emotional connection and feelings of euphoria and may even help us determine our long-term compatibility with our partner.
They say kissing is the building block of romantic intimacy, but many of us have never thought seriously about the basics of a good kiss. In part, this is because kissing – just like love – seems as if it should be more gut instinct and in-the-moment than something we practice with a checklist. But a better way to think about kissing is to compare it to a meaningful conversation. A kiss with your partner communicates in ways that words can’t. And we can always use more tips on how to communicate better!
Why Is a Good Kiss So Unforgettable?
It isn’t just in biological compatibility that the kiss is so deeply instructive. Sexual attraction translated through a kiss is rooted in our deepest neurological responses.
- The moment our lips meet, a cascade of neural messages and chemicals are released that transmit messages of intimate connection, sexual potential, and even euphoria.
- When we kiss, our hearts beat faster and our breathing becomes deep and irregular, mimicking the response of intense exercise.
- It is also exercise – while a little smooch only requires two facial muscles, when we truly engage in kissing it is a full-on acrobatic workout for your face that requires significant muscular coordination; a total of 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles are used while we kiss.
- Kissing is one of the most healing activities we can engage in because it unleashes a cocktail of chemicals that govern human stress, motivation, social bonding, and sexual stimulation. Kissing both boosts oxytocin levels, a primary hormone that is involved in social bonding, and reduces cortisol levels, which can help manage stress.
It would be easy to argue that the human body was designed to be a lover first – of the 12 primary cranial nerves that affect cerebral function, five are at work when we kiss, shuttling messages from our lips, tongue, cheeks, and nose to the brain that is adapting to the temperature, taste, smell and movements of the entire affair. And of all body parts, none are equipped to connect as our lips. Not only are our lips the slimmest layer of skin on the human body, but they are also among the most densely populated with sensory neurons.
A good kiss is unforgettable because the intimate neurological data that comes from our lips arrives in the somatosensory cortex, a swath of tissue on the surface of the brain that represents tactile information in the map of the body. In that map, the lips loom large because the size of each represented body region is proportional to the density of its nerve endings.
So, do as the birds and bees in summer: re-discover the joys of a kiss and notice how we are hardwired to the renewing power of loving.
When Did We First Start Kissing?
Many historians believe that the kiss originated from prehistoric behaviors of mothers transferring pre-chewed foods to their infants. In several languages, the word for kissing is synonymous with pre-mastication, and the word “sweet” is the epithet most commonly applied to kisses. Sigmund Freud believed that our desire to kiss is a subconscious drive to the suckling at a mother’s breast.
Certainly, the first and most loving kissing experience that most humans log in their memory banks is the kiss of the mother. Really who doesn’t want more of that pure and unconditional love flowing to us?
Why Is Kissing Good for Your Health?
Kissing boosts levels of oxytocin, which influences social recognition, male and female orgasm, and childbirth. They expected this effect to be particularly pronounced in the study’s females, who reported higher levels of intimacy in their relationships. When we kiss, these neurons, along with those in the tongue and mouth, rocket messages to the brain and body setting off delightful sensations, intense emotions, and physical reactions.
Yet many historians and philematologists believe that the beginnings of kissing were driven by our biological drive to reproduce and survive as a species. Even in cultures where mouth kissing did not come to dominate, the act of brushing noses and smelling potential mates exists. Try to imagine kissing someone who smells offensive to you. How our unique scent blends with a potential mate tells volumes about our genetic compatibility or lack of it. Our attraction through our nose may be our most primitive, but it is also the most primary in finding out who are worthy partners.
Since kissing evolved, the act seems to have become addictive. Visceral marching orders boost pulse and blood pressure. The pupils dilate, breathing deepens and rational thought retreats, as desire suppresses both prudence and self-consciousness.
5 Tips for the Perfect Kiss
1. Make Sure Your Mouth Is Fresh and Clean
Getting ready for a kiss starts with good oral hygiene. You don’t want garlic or onion breath to distract from the experience. Be sure to brush your teeth beforehand or bring breath mints or gum. A kiss is a conversation using three primary elements: breath, lips, and tongue. Getting each of them ready is a crucial component of pre-kissing etiquette.
2. Breathe Through Your Nose
You may think of racing hearts and gasping for air when you think about an intense make-out session, but the goal is to build up to this level of intensity – not begin that way. A quick tip to help you go slow: breathe through your nose. This will help you pace yourself, take deeper breaths, and connect more with your partner as you build up to more passion.
3. Soften Your Lips and Relax Your Mouth
The key to a good kiss comes from the power of your intention. There are thousands of nerve endings on our lips; depending on the way you hold your lips, they can either communicate a firm, quick peck or an invitation to a slower, longer kiss. Experiment with softening your lips even for a short kiss and see how that changes the dialogue.
- Hard kisses with tight lips can be overwhelming even in the midst of serious passion.
- Soft, open-mouth kisses invite your partner into a dialogue and allow you to feel for their response.
4. Use Your Tongue with Intention
Nothing can kill the mood faster than a sloppy tongue during a tentative open-mouth kissing conversation. While novice kissers may think of the “French kiss” as simply putting your tongue into the mouth of your partner, taking a more thoughtful approach can convey interest, curiosity, and intrigue. A light tongue tracing the lips or quick darting tongues are incredibly exciting and can elevate the conversation to new levels.
5. Be Patient
It takes time to master the art of kissing. Rushing in and trying to take control of the kiss screams “amateur” and pushes people away more often than pulling them in. On the other hand, a patient kisser will try to experiment and demonstrate their sensitivity.
Developing the artistic capacity to communicate without words will not only enhance the physical intimacy that you share, but you will be surprised at how much safer and more open your verbal conversations become.