A natural response from our bodies
Have you ever noticed that when someone stops paying complete attention to you while you are talking they have a tendency to cover their faces with their hands, making themselves look bored? Many people do this most of the time without even noticing. That’s because we’re wired to express our emotions through reactions, gestures, and body language.
Body language: a way of expressing our culture
Using our hands to express emotions is not just an instinctive thing to do. Since so many people do this and we see it everywhere, we are kind of used to it. Body language is such an effective way of telling others how we feel, that our culture and habits have incorporated it very easily.
If you add to that the fact that we are constantly using our brain to learn from each other in what is known as learning by imitation, then everything becomes clearer. Think about someone yawning. You’ve probably experienced that person’s yawn is contagious and you catch yourself yawning as well. That’s because we’re very good at imitating. Now imagine how many people we see touching their faces! There’s a lot to imitate right there.
A reflex to stress
Besides imitation, there are other reasons why we touch our faces. Stress, for instance, can trigger your body’s need for comfort. This is expressed through the parasympathetic nervous system. Despite its wild name (you don’t have to memorize it unless you’re a doctor!) one of its functions remains very straightforward: to help you cope with difficult times. Since touching certain parts of your face can activate it, touching them is a reflex.
Body language when flirting
There is another common situation that causes us to touch our face: flirting. During normal activities we touch our faces up to 23 times per hour, according to this study. Another study, carried out in 1967 at UCLA, found that non-verbal communication is dominant when it comes to expressing emotions. Now imagine you’re in front of that special person that makes your heart sing... You’ll probably find it difficult to not touch your face or lips. This is actually something that people do when they like someone.
As we showed before, our behavior often follows our way of seeing and facing the world — so changing habits is a matter of rethinking how we can communicate the same things, but in a different way. It’s worth doing, especially if it is a question of hygiene and public health.
As a closing tip, it is important to always try to keep your hands clean, since germs cling to our skin without us even noticing them. And, while many of them are necessary for our body to work well, others are not!