5-Minute Health Tip: Mindful Dishwashing

Last week we covered the importance of developing mental awareness and staying focused on what you are doing in the present moment. This week’s post expands on the benefits of focusing on the task at hand—more specifically on dishwashing! Recent research out of Florida State University shows that mindful dishwashing can not only uplift your spirits, but also reduce your stress and anxiety.

washing dishesPay Attention to the Details

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress accounts for 60% of all human illness and disease, so while it may at first glance seem silly to engage in something as mundane as mindful dishwashing, when we consider the positive ramifications such a practice can have on our health, well, it seems anything but.

The trick is to make it mindful by honing in your awareness to the present moment and focusing on sensory details such as the scent of the soap, the feel of the dishes, and the temperature of the water on your skin. The latest research reveals that doing so helps put you in a more positive state of mind.

Researchers separated 51 college students into two groups. One group was asked to read a descriptive passage on dishwashing and the other was asked to read a passage about mindful dishwashing and how to focus on the task at hand. Part of the passage reads, “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.”

After reading the passages, all the students washed dishes, and then researchers analyzed their state of mind. Results showed that those who practiced mindful dishwashing displayed a more positive state of mind, with a 27% reduction in nervousness and a 25% increase in mental inspiration.

Study co-author Adam Hanley—a doctoral candidate in the College of Education’s Counseling and School Psychology Program at Florida State University—explains:

“By attending, intentionally to the dishes in front of them, the mindful dishwashers were likely to be less swept up in the stream of mental chatter that can preoccupy daily life. Stress, worries and concerns are often fueled by this chatter. Grounding themselves in the present moment may have allowed the mindful dishwashers to take a break from reminiscing over the past or planning for the future, pausing to just simply be in the present moment at the sink.”

Of course, if you’re not one for washing dishes or you have a dishwasher, then mindfulness can be applied to any household chore—sweeping, gardening, folding the laundry, you name it!