The health benefits of kissing

Relationship expert Dr. Karyn Gordon’s prescription for health: A minimum of three kisses and three hugs a day.

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Young couple kissing in the snow
Photo: Getty Images

Just because the mistletoe is tucked away for another year, doesn’t mean you should neglect the importance of kissing. A recent Polysporin study revealed that while 75 percent of Canadians believe kissing fosters deeper connections, half say they don’t kiss as often as they’d like. We asked relationships expert Dr. Karyn Gordon to address the importance of kissing and tips on how to do it more often.

Q: How is kissing important to physical health?
A: Physical contact is important, and that includes hugging and kissing. Kissing increases oxytocin levels, which helps people to feel better, more relaxed, more empathetic and better at reading body language. Physical connection is very important.

Q: Can kissing be prescribed, like five to seven fruits and vegetables a day?
A: It’s a very individual thing. But I would recommend that, whatever your starting point is, aim for more. I would suggest a minimum of three kisses and three hugs a day.

Q: What’s holding Canadians back from kissing more?
A: There are a few barriers. First, if your lips are chapped or you’re self-conscious, you won’t be as eager to kiss. We put so much focus on our hair colour and plucking our eyebrows, and we need to take care of our lips. Second, people report that a lack of confidence can prevent them from kissing — especially if they worry about how they’re doing it, or if it’s the right time. And third, if you don’t have anyone to kiss, then that limits your options.

Q: Can you get the physical benefits of kissing with a stranger, or is it better if you’re already in a relationship with the person you’re kissing?
A: There are still benefits for physical affection with strangers, but I think it’s less than when you’re in a relationship. Still, even if you just kiss an acquaintance or a friend on the cheek, it can give you a boost. Kissing can be an easy solution for the winter blues.

Here are Dr. Gordon’s tips for people who want to kiss more or just have better intimacy:

1. Create traditions
Creating traditions like cuddling up to a movie or going ice skating followed by hot cocoa by the fire with family and friends will have everyone looking forward to the winter weather.

2. Take care of yourself
Winter is the time of year when we tend to get run down and aren’t feeling our best. Be sure to take care of yourself with enough sleep, good nutrition, drinking a lot of water and ample rest to ensure you are kissable for your friends and family. Note: exfoliating can make cheeks extra soft!

3. Make it a priority
Look for opportunities to kiss your spouse, kids and significant others every day. Whether it’s when you say goodbye in the morning, before work or school or in the evening after you read your child a bedtime story, make it a routine to physically connect with your loved ones.

4. Plan ahead
There are a variety of different situations where you may kiss others, from family dinners to work parties. Before your gathering, think ahead about how you want to greet others and decide if a kiss, and what kind, is appropriate. Having a plan ahead of time will help you feel relaxed and confident if you decide to go in for a double or even a triple cheek kiss!

Are you someone who likes to greet friends/family with a kiss? If so, tell us about how it makes you feel below.