(This article is a bit long, so I recommend you read it while listening to the song above)
A couple of weeks ago I was listening to some music with a friend and I got inspired to write this article. I will use the song "Nachuraru ni koi shite", which translates to "Love naturally", by Perfume in order to make your Valentine's Day a little bit more interesting. This song suggests that we should kiss and touch each other naturally, freely. I will try to give you some scientific information about these two "phenomena" that take place between two people.
Before I start let me just write the chorus of the song in English. (That's just my interpretation, it might not be 100% accurate!)
Love naturally, kiss naturally
Love naturally, I want to keep holding hands
Love naturally, let's come closer
Let's begin with the first phenomenon.
There is nothing like a romantic kiss. It is the climax of every great love story. It has inspired poets and musicians for thousands of years. Humans by nature long to connect through kissing, but the style and expression is shaped by our cultural background and personal experiences.
The kiss can tell us if we can get along well with a partner. It can make us want to get to know the other person more or it can alert us that there is no compatibility with someone. Science is finally beginning to unravel the mysteries that surround kiss.
When we kiss, five of our twelve cranial nerves get activated while our senses try to understand more about our partner. In addition 29 facial muscled start working therefore, kissing can be used as an effective exercise to prevent the development of wrinkles. Electric impulses bounce between the brain, lips tongue and skin. As a result we have this feeling of being on a natural "high" because of the strong chemical cocktail that makes its appearance. A passionate kiss acts like a drug, making us to long for someone thanks to a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the reason why a new romance may feel so addictive.
Not only chemical but also physical changes take place in our bodies while we kiss. A kiss can cause our blood vessels to dilate, out cheeks to flush and our pulse to quicken. Our pupils grow wide, which is likely one reason that many people close their eyes while they kiss. To summarize, our body's reaction is the more or less the same as when we fall in love.
But why did we start kissing in the first place? There are some theories about that. Scientists believe that it has to do with evolution. Saliva contains many ingredients and scientists believe that kissing may have evolved to help us quickly tell if someone is a good mate or not. Among the ingredients of saliva there are bacteria as well and every time we kiss we pass some millions to our partner. A part of the transferred bacteria can be quite beneficial for the other person. So exchanging bacteria was good for us, that's why kissing survived the evolutionary process. There is also one more theory. When the first primates appeared, the mothers would pass along chewed food to their toothless babies. This lip-to-lip contact may have been passed on through evolution, not only as a necessary means of survival but also as a general way to promote social bonding and as an expression of love.
Kissing is not only about survival and mating. Kissing feels good! That's because kissing, through the chemicals that get released, helps us reduce stress and increase social bonding. Scientists have shown that oxytocin, a substance that is involved in bonding and attachment, and cortisol, a stress hormone, changed after people kissed. The people that participated in the experiments saw their cortisol levels decrease after kissing.
Conclusion: Kissing is good for your body and soul.
Let's move on to the next phenomenon.
Every time I go back to Greece to see my family and friends, my parents and brothers wait for me at the airport. When we meet the first thing we do is to hug each other. "I missed you", "I wanted to see you". Touching can communicate so many things, possibly a wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions.
Recently, a lot of studies have documented some incredible and physical health benefits that come from touch. They suggest that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding and health.
The benefits of touching start from the moment we're born. Tifanny Field one of the leaders in this field has found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight that premature infants who had received standard medical treatment.
Similarly, Darlene Francis and Michael Meaney found that rats whose mothers licked and groomed them a lot when they were infants grow up to be calmer and more resilient to stress, with a stronger immune system. This research sheds light on why historically, an overwhelming percentage of human babies in orphanages where caretakers would touch the babies showed decreased growth in height and weight and have shown behavioral problems.
Conclusion: Touching like kissing is good for your body and soul.
In the epilogue of this article I would like to write some of my thoughts. In Japanese, words like kiss and touch are written with the alphabet that is called katakana which is used to primarily express words with a foreign origin. There are words in traditional Japanese for kiss and touch but no one is actually using them now. I started thinking that kissing and touching is something foreign to Japan. This becomes really evident if you live in Japan. When I asked my Japanese friends, they told me that "We understand each and we express our feelings through some kind of telepathy, no touching is really necessary". To me this sounds a bit cold... I moved to Japan 3 years ago and I still haven't got used to the Japanese way of expressing feelings. Sigh.
Anyway, cultural differences aside, the benefits of kissing and touching can now be explained with scientific data. So let's start using those two methods of bonding a little bit more!
Happy Valentine Day everyone!
p.s. To everyone who is on a diet: Every time we kiss we burn around 5Kcal. The longer you kiss the better.
p.s.2 I took the photos that I used in this article in Paris where I went last week to meet my friends. I made them pose especially for this article. Stavroula, Vagelis, Dimitris, thank you so much!!! "pas les autres"