Why kissing makes you feel so good

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By Erina Lee, Ph.D

A great date will hopefully be followed by a great first kiss. The tension mounts as you come to saying goodbye, both knowing that you’ve had a really great time, and that you want to say goodnight with more than just a friendly hug. Admittedly, dating can be fraught, but when your lips finally meet, something exciting happens.

That first kiss can make you feel like you’re walking on air, and that’s not just your emotions getting the better of you –  a lot of that is to do with chemical and biological changes that happen in your body. Kissing makes the nerve endings in the lips more sensitive, and causes them to send signals to the brain’s cortex. In turn this releases neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dopamine and phenylethylamine, each with different affects:

•    Endorphins are peptides and relieve pain in the body. They can also create feelings of euphoria
•    Dopamine is mainly responsible for our motivation to engage in pleasurable activities
•    Phenylethylamine is an alkaloid found in chocolate which can influence our attention spans and moods

As well as producing these chemicals your body also reacts in various other ways:

•     Your adrenal glands kick in and produce norepinephrine and epinephrine. These chemicals activate the sympathetic nervous system as a response to external stimuli. In turn this increases you heart rate, raises your blood sugar, dilates your pupils and breaks down lipids in anticipation of you needing more energy.
•    Blood moves from the stomach to other muscles, including the sexual organs as you become more aroused.
•    The hypothalamus (a section of the brain) may produce gondatropin-releasing hormones which lead to the production of testosterone in both men and women, enhancing sexual desire.
•    Oxytocin (released from the pituitary gland near the base of the brain) levels increase – this is thought to reduce stress, and increase feelings of being connected

Pheromones are also thought to play a part, as the vomeronasal organ detects other’s pheromones, and they are thought to signal arousal and intensify attraction between partners.

We’d like to say the next time you have a great kiss you should think about everything that’s going on in your body, but we know that’s pointless – we suspect your mind will be elsewhere…


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