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What's So Great About Kissing?

A serious, tongue-tangling kiss triggers a whole spectrum of physiological processes that can boost your immunity and generally spruce up that body you work so hard to keep attractive.

Kissing as Meditation

Tension relief -- that's what good lovin' brings, says Stamford. "Sex and love are probably the Rodney Dangerfield of stress management. Because of all the negative energy we take in during the day, it's a very positive benefit."

All in all, kissing and everything it engenders keeps us going strong, living long, says Stamford. "The process of being active -- and that can include kissing, sex, and any other whole-body activities -- that's what keeps you healthy."

Sex, sensuality, and sensual touch have profound effects on well-being, says Joy Davidson, PhD, psychologist and clinical sexologist in Seattle, and former columnist for an online column called "Underwire."

"Kissing is an exciting excursion into the sensual," Davidson tells WebMD. "If we happen to be connecting with someone we care about, it produces a sense of well-being and a kind of full-bodied pleasure."

Kissing is also "a sensual meditation," she says. "It stops the buzz in your mind, it quells anxiety, and it heightens the experience of being present in the moment. It actually produces a lot of the physiological changes that meditation produces."

And while kissing may be nature's way of "opening the door to the sexual experience," she says, "it also has all that lusciousness that we need to pull us out of the mundane and the ordinary and take us into moments of the extraordinary."

Birds, Bees, and More

Birds do it -- tap their bills together, that is.

"We don't know if bees do it," says Helen Fisher, PhD, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and author of several books, including The Sex Contract and Anatomy of Love. Romantic love is her research specialty.

"All kinds of animals kiss," says Fisher. "Insects will stroke each other with a leg, or stroke another's abdomen. Even turtles, moles, and cats rub noses. Dogs lick each other's faces. Elephants put their trunks in another elephant's mouth."

When chimpanzees kiss, "it's with a deep French kiss," she says. "They do it for all kinds of reasons -- there's social kissing, kissing to relieve tension, to express friendship, to make up after an argument. Two males will kiss, two females will kiss, a mother and child will kiss on the lips. They don't choose mates; it's whomever they're interacting with."

Kissing is a very investigatory process, Fisher explains.

"By the time you're kissing someone, you're right up next to them, you are in their personal space," she says. "That in itself means you have trusted them. You're also learning quite a bit about them -- you touch them, smell them, taste them, see the expressions on their face, learn something about their health status, learn a great deal about their intentions."

The brain contains "a huge amount of receptors devoted to picking sensations from the lips," Fisher says. "When people have been stabbed in the back, they often don't know it. They think someone has pounded them with their fist, because there aren't many receptor sites for nerve endings."

Why? All these sensors aid our survival. They direct a baby toward milk; they helped our ancestors -- for millions of years -- to discern whether their food was poisonous or not. "The mouth is absolutely essential to survival -- everything passes through there, and if it's the wrong thing, you're cooked," she says.

"The receptors on the lips are incredible," she tells WebMD. "I've heard hookers say they would rather copulate with somebody than kiss them because the intensity of kissing somebody is so meaningful. There's tremendous intimacy. ... Even the genitals do not have the sensitivity that the lips have."

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