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How to Train Yourself Not to Touch Your Face

All of us are washing our hands, staying at home and standing 6 feet apart when we are out.

Public health experts say not enough is being done to tackle face touching — something that could make a huge difference to the transmission of the coronavirus.

The challenge, says Susan Michie, the director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London, is frustratingly simple. It’s much, much harder not to do something than to do something.

“Do wash your hands, do stand 6 feet apart but don’t touch your face? It’s much more difficult,” Michie says.

We touch our face for many reasons: to groom, to gesture and to scratch. It can even be soothing in times of stress. According to one study, people touch their face about 23 times an hour.

To overcome these embedded habits, Michie recommends making a mindful effort to keep your hands below shoulder level at all times and train yourself to resist the urge to touch your face.

While it’s especially important not to touch your face when you’re out and about, the best way to break the habit would be to practice not doing it in general, even when you’re at home and you’ve washed your hands. Here are some options to help:

So, what exactly can we do to stop touching our faces?

Head Nets

Wear a head net when you go out, like the ones used to protect you from mosquito bites, or that you might see on a beekeeper.

“There is research on how to control microhabits — things that you do without really thinking about it,” said West. “You take away the opportunity to do it.”

Similarly, West said wearing a face mask could help people stop touching their mouth and nose, although there was a risk that the act of putting the mask on and taking it off could cause contamination.

Counter habits and mindfulness

Another strategy West recommended was coming up with a “counter-habit.” “The trigger is noticing your hand is moving to your face. One obvious thing is to divert it and scratch the back of your head — redirect it.

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