Washing dishes can completely lower your stress levels, if you choose to do it in a mindful way, according to a new study from the University of Florida. If it sounds a bit counterintuitive, then read on and find out why.
When I think about doing the dishes, I oftentimes get anxiety because, no matter how many times I wash them, they still seem to form their own towers in the sink and on the counters, getting taller and taller any second and seeming more like an impossible task by the hour. Have you ever felt defeated by dirty dishes? I know I have, plenty of times. They have seemed in the past, too much to handle and also made me give up on maybe cooking dinner for the night because I didn’t feel like doing them. From my talks with friends, we all seem to go through that from time to time. But a mindful experience? Washing dishes?
I begrudgingly have to say that yes, it is possible to do that, in my experience, and it does help alleviate stress. But it’s a complicated thing to achieve when you’re too tired from work. As much as a stressful day makes us unaware of how we’re eating, when we should be doing that mindfully, too!
Washing dishes in two approaches
The study had 51 students wash dishes. But before they could start, some of them read a text that described washing dishes as a mindfulness activity, while the others read a text about it being just an activity. The mindful passage had them be as present as possible for the task. This is part of the mindfulness text.
While washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
“I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being,” said the study author, Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program.
The mindful washers focused on the temperature of the water on their hands, the smell of the soap, and the feel of the dishes. According to the results, they felt 27 percent less stressed and 25 percent more inspired.
And there you have it, a very efficient and stress-minimizing activity that you can do basically for free!