Why We Touch Our Face – And How to Avoid It
Updated: Apr 24
This article by Carole Railton is crucial when there is a pandemic upon us and we are being told constantly to stop touching our faces. Everyone is trying to avoid getting COVID-19 which is affecting older people more than younger because their immune systems is often weaker.
by Carole Railton
Humans are complicated creatures because of all our life experiences. We have beliefs, culture, actions, and body language that we do not normally challenge as they have got us this far. We have made decisions to keep going in the style to which we are accustomed to achieve our goals and make life easy for ourselves.
Science however has a different view. It makes predictions about what is going to happen, why we do the things we do and looks at how and why we might change, depending on what is happening to us at different times in our lives.
As a body language expert, I am often asked about why people do the things they do and usually I have the answers and skills to be able to direct people to a more positive and progressive stance.
Recently, I was asked why people touch their faces and how this can be changed given the impact of the now global coronavirus.
Because of the virus, we have been asked to wash our hands, self-isolate, and not touch our faces with our own or others hands in an attempt to stop the virus spreading. Yet, touching our faces, is done in general 20 times a hour. Fingers sometimes even go inside the mouth which indicates a person is under pressure, and when this happens we are generally needing reassurance just like a baby when it is relieved with a teat or a dummy. So we need to reduce pressure, perhaps even look at how hard we challenge ourselves.
Then there is the neck scratch. We may scratch below the earlobe, or the side of the neck about five times. This touching signal suggests doubt or uncertainty. If you do this in response to others it’s when what they are saying is not what their body language is suggesting. If you do this on your own, it can be that you do not think you are on the right path, that you are unsure.
You might have slapped your head in recent days because of the frustration of the virus. This is known as the forgetfulness gesture.
The slapping of the head communicates how you feel about a situation. The slap has a different meaning, depending on the area you slap. If you slap on your forehead, which is the most common action, this generally means you have forgotten something that would have made your life easier.
All the 20 times you may touch your face in an hour, for whatever reason, are to be avoided now. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you:
Watch yourself in the mirror to see when you do this and where on your face you touch. As mentioned different places on your face suggest different needs and most are stress related. In The Biology of Belief, Dr Bruce Lipton states that stress is responsible for up to 90% of illnesses. When an individual is stressed, the release of stress hormones shuts down the immune system to conserve the body’s energy. Reducing stress will reduce the number of times you touch your face and will also improve your immune system.
Wear thin gloves when you are at home to remind you that you are touching your face and to help you to stop doing this.
Smile as much as you can during your day. Smiling generally stops you holding your hands to your face as when you are happy your arms move in a different direction; they move away from you. You have only to look at successful athletes and pop stars to see they hold their arms above their head when they are happy, their movements are outward rather than inward. Smiling reduces stress and stops you from frowning or being unhappy which will, in turn, help your immune system to recover and be stronger.
Photo: by Carole Railton (copyright). "Touching our faces, is done in general 20 times a hour."