Okay–it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that hugging and kissing feel good. There are few things in this world that I crave more than physical affection. Whether it is a hot & steamy make out session with my hubby or big bear hug from one of my sons, I thrive on the exchange of love and affection between two people. It wasn’t until recently however, that I discovered research that shows that not only do these exchanges feel good-they actually are good. I was excited to read that there are numerous documented physical and emotional health benefits to hugging and kissing.
Obviously, we don’t need an excuse for showing affection, but if you’re sweetie wonders why you’re extra lovey-dovey all of a sudden; just tell him that you’re doing it for the sake of his health and then rattle off a few of these FabYOUlous health benefits…
Hug & Kiss Your Way to Fab-YOU-lous Health
1.) Hugging is a great immunity booster. Friendly hugging lowers the levels of cortisol in the body. This is good news because cortisol is a stress hormone that attacks the cells that ward off diseases like cancer. Also–the gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge from hugging activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.
2.) Hugging and kissing eases tension in the body. It does this by promoting blood flow in the body’s soft tissue, thereby aiding in the relaxation of tensed muscles. This helps to combat pain and improves your blood circulation.
3.) Hugging protects your heart. According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hugging helps to lower blood pressure and slow your heart rate. This helps to protect your heart since elevated heart rates have been linked to cardiovascular disease.
4.) Hugging and kissing burn calories. Okay, so maybe hugging isn’t a huge calorie burner, but hugging your loved ones does burn approximately 12 calories (which is about 1/4 of an Oreo cookie). This means that every time you hug and kiss someone, you are helping to manage your weight…as long as you don’t keep offsetting the hugs with Oreo cookies, that is.
5.) Hugging balances out the nervous system. A study of the electrical properties of the skin of someone giving and receiving a hug shows a change in the skin conductance. The hugging seems to have an effect on the moisture and electricity in the skin and thereby suggests a more balanced state in the nervous (parasympathetic) system.
6.) Hugging and kissing help boost the memory. Hugging releases oxytocin (a hormone that produces feelings of relaxation, trust and psychological stability) into the bloodstream. This has been shown to improve memory function while also reducing tension.
7.) Hugging eases the aging process. According to researchers at Ohio State, hugging and physical touch become increasingly important as we age. “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health”, University Psychologist, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser told USA Today. Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can increase stress levels and have negative health consequences. By hugging someone, we instantly feel closer to that individual and decrease those detrimental feelings of loneliness.
8.) Hug and kiss yourself happy. Holding a hug for an extended time stimulates serotonin levels within the body. This results in heightened pleasure and mood levels.
In addition to these eight health benefits, hugging and kissing have definite relationship benefits as well. In fact, according to a recent study, a warm embrace might just be the key to a monogamous relationship. According to the study, men in relationships who were given a dose of the bonding hormone oxytocin, were more likely to avoid standing close to a beautiful woman that they had just met compared with men who weren’t given oxytocin. Clearly, there is no guarantee of fidelity, but this research shows that a good cuddle might just keep your guy from having eyes for anyone but you.
Kissing can also help to kick your romantic relationship up a notch. A recent Oxford University study found that kissing is more effective than sex at keeping long-term passion alive within a monogamous relationship. “Kissing is more intimate and more indicative of relationship quality than sex” says Oxford researcher, Rafael Wlodarski. Kissing has been shown to release dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin in the body and these powerful hormones and neurotransmitters are key ingredients when it comes to helping people to feel aroused, connected and content in a relationship. Sheril Kirshenbaum, research scientist and author of the book The Science of Kissing (Grand Central Publishing, 2011) warns that couples in long-term relationships should work hard to make sure that kissing doesn’t fall by the wayside over time because of the strengthening of emotional bonds that it induces. Kirshenbaum says that you should “kiss your partner every day. Even if it’s not passionate, the feel-good chemicals will still be there.”
So…as you do your push-ups and take your vitamins every day, you might also want to think about adding a little more love and affection into your fitness routine. Not only will it make you (and the object of your affection) happier–it just might make you a little healthier too…and that is FabYOUlous news.