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How to Stop Touching Your Face

We are getting the following advice all the time – “Don’t touch your face.” Easier said than done, right? By giving us the negative advice we almost invariably do its opposite – we touch our faces. It’s an involuntary habit. We touch our faces over 20 times an hour (rough estimate based on some small studies). Well how do we stop touching our faces? It is difficult.
But automatic unhealthy habits can be stopped. So how do we do this? I recommend the following “Small Steps Approach” that is the heart of the Habit Busters program for behavior change. Currently I have a website under construction ( that will contain a plethora of information about habits – including how they are formed, how to develop new healthy habits, and how to break unhealthy habits. But for now, let me give you a brief overview of the approach for breaking a bad habit using stop touching your face as an example.
First, is it a bad habit to begin with? We all touch our faces, many times outside of our conscious awareness. My eyelid itches and I rub it. I am thinking and I stroke my chin. I yawn or sneeze and I cover my mouth with my hand. So, what is wrong with that? Nothing under most normal circumstances, nothing at all. But with the coronavirus worries, touching your face makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to enter your body. It is easier then to get infected. And the two best ways to prevent that are to wash your hands and not touch your face. Now hand washing is a good habit that we will cover briefly at the end of this blog. Our focus right now is on eliminating a habit that can have bad consequences for us now in our lives – touching our faces.

Your bad habit of touching your face is a function of – a trigger, a desire, your behavior (routine), and a consequence. For example, when my nose itches (trigger or prompt), I have the urge to scratch it (desire or motivation), I then raise my hand to my nose and scratch (behavior or routine if repeated); and the itch stops and my nose feels better (the consequence or the reinforcement). To become a habit, this sequence must be repeated over and over and over and over again.

New Habit = TDR+C New Habit = Trigger + Desire + Routine followed by an Emotional Reward

The basic habit development procedure is:
• After I _____ (the trigger)
• I want to____(the desire)
• So I will _____(the routine)
• And I will then immediately Celebrate* (the consequence)

There are many ways to positively reinforce a behavior that will wire it into the brain. One of the best ways to wire a habit into your brain circuits is to Celebrate. *To Celebrate means to emit a strong positive feeling coupled with an energetic behavior that is either verbal or physical)

Let’s first show this with a healthy new habit
• After I brush my teeth (the trigger)
• I want to exercise to get fit (the desire or motivation)
• I will do two pushups (the behavior which repeated will become a routine)
• And I reinforce this by doing a fist pump and saying “Right on! I did it” (The positive consequence or reward)

A bad habit can be developed the same way
• When my nose itches (the trigger)
• I want it to stop the itching (the desire)
• So, I scratch the itch (the behavior which repeated will become the routine)
• And it feels better (the consequence)

Eliminating bad habits are like developing new habits except we reverse engineer the process.

How do we do this? Well, go to my habitbusters website to learn how to break an unhealthy habit and develop new healthy habits.
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