Featured Image by Mohamed Chermiti from Pixabay
Fall and winter are ahead, with shorter and colder days that can affect our mental and physical well-being. My questions as a belief change and relationship coach are: what individual beliefs do we need to have in place to thrive over the next months, and what can couples do to support and keep each other mentally and physically healthy during this time? Let’s explore the latter question today:
Kissing: A Pathway to Finding and Keeping the Right Partner
In relationships, even the smallest gestures or rituals can carry significance and strengthen our bond, strengthening our overall well-being. One such ritual is kissing. It’s not merely a sign of affection but a powerful tool in finding and maintaining the right partner.
A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Oxford suggested that the first kiss tells us much more subconsciously than we realize. Kissing is a crucial tool that helps us evaluate potential partners, offering insight into our biological and chemical compatibility with a potential mate through taste or smell picking up on biological cues for compatibility. We gauge factors like pheromones, genetics, and overall compatibility, all of which influence our attraction and bond with another person.
The Six-Second Kiss: A Recipe for Connection
In the whirlwind of daily life, finding moments of genuine connection with our partners is paramount. One practice that stands out is the Six-Second Kiss that I have written about previously. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that a kiss lasting at least six seconds can significantly enhance intimacy between partners. Six seconds isn’t just a random number; it’s a threshold that allows us to move beyond a peck and delve into a more profound and meaningful connection.
Just like Stan Tatkin’s Welcome Home Exercise, in which a couple engages in a long, sustained full-body hug, the six-second kiss, when executed mindfully and intentionally, provides an opportunity to slow down and be present with each other. It’s a chance to let go of the stresses of the day the worries about tomorrow, and simply focus on the person in front of us. Within those six seconds, we can convey love, passion, and a desire to be close.
During this duration, our bodies release oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone.” Oxytocin plays a significant role in forming emotional connections and fosters trust and intimacy. By engaging in a six-second kiss, you not only physically connect and can co-regulate your autonomic nervous system, but you also tap into a surge of oxytocin, amplifying the emotional bond between you and your partner. Kissing is an ongoing expression of belonging that contributes to the lasting quality of a relationship.
Women experience a flood of oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding, which strengthens the mother-child bond. According to a 2013 study, oxytocin is just as important in helping men bond with a partner. Kissing strengthens your marriage or relationship and allows you to be the rock for your children, aging parents or other family members.
What About Cuddling and Sharing the Same Bed?
A similar thing applies to sleeping next to each other. Research suggests that sharing a bed with a loved one can promote feelings of safety, lowering the stress hormone cortisol and increasing oxytocin. Oxytocin eases anxiety, relaxes you, and even makes you “sleepy.” Studies in Germany have also shown that couples spending the night together experience longer periods of REM sleep, which is crucial for brain rejuvenation and dreaming.
Sleeping in the same bed can contribute to better sleep quality—provided the relationship is good overall, and the couple sleeps well together. Sometimes, partners have different sleep preferences due to different work schedules or biological differences. Our natural sleep patterns, whether we are “night owls” or “early risers,” are primarily genetic, and some couples might not be compatible in those preferences. Forcing one partner to stay up—or go to bed earlier—is not a good idea. Trying to change somebody’s natural sleep cycle can cause insomnia, frustration, and, ultimately, relationship issues. The most valuable benefit of sharing a bed with a partner is the time in bed before sleep when partners can cuddle, connect, and be intimate. A good recommendation is to get ready for bed together, and the later-sleeping partner can quietly get up again and go to sleep when they are ready.
Loud snoring or sleep apnea can be a recipe for stress and growing resentment. In such cases, a so-called “sleep divorce” is a practical solution. The couple decides to sleep in separate rooms. However, if you choose the “sleep divorce,” it’s essential to maintain physical intimacy and connection through cuddling, touch, hugging and kissing at other times. Another creative compromise for such a couple could be to sleep together in the same room during the weekend but not during the week, when partners have to get up early and function at work. Even though sleeping together can be wonderful, a well-rested couple is happier and healthier.
If you are interested in the topic sleep check out this video I recorded with two colleagues, Naturopathic Doctor Felicia Assenza and Physiotherapist Dan Bosy:
Kissing, Hugging and Our Well-Being: A New Perspective in the Age of COVID-19
Let’s not forget to consider the impact of kissing and hugging on our immune system and mental health, especially in light of the recent pandemic.
Research indicates that physical closeness and kissing can strengthen our immune system. Exposing ourselves to various bacteria through kissing may boost our immune response, providing resilience against illnesses.
What is even more significant are the benefits for our mental health. Since COVID, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges are rising. As mentioned above, kissing triggers the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin, which is also known to alleviate stress and anxiety, promoting feelings of relaxation and well-being. A nice, long hug and kiss can offer comfort and relief in a world of uncertainty.
In conclusion, a kiss or a hug are more than gestures of affection. They test our compatibility in dating, are means to foster intimacy at every stage of a relationship, and represent a path towards better well-being. As we navigate the changing seasons and their challenges, let’s not underestimate the profound impact of hugging, cuddling and kissing on our relationships and overall health.
So, let’s embrace the beauty of every kiss, hug and cuddle, recognizing its significance in nurturing love, deepening connections and lowering anxiety and depression.
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