Washing the Dishes: A Great Stress Reliever?

While most people think that hitting the gym or doing outdoor activities is a great way to beat down stress, a new study shows that washing the dishes is a great way to calm the mind and overcome stress.

Mindfulness and the Body

Dish WashingIt may seem a rather weird way to cope with stress, but the smell of soap, the feel of the dishes, as well as the warmth of water can trigger a more positive state of mind. The secret is mindfulness or the ability to omit negative and distracting thoughts to enable complete awareness of one’s feelings and senses while in the present. The practice, which sounds something like a new age yoga practice, has the potential to reduce anxiety, stress, and improve the quality of sleep and even reduce depression.

Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in the College of Education’s Counseling and School of Psychology Program at Florida State University said that “I’ve had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and researchers. 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.”

Mindful Dish Washing

The researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully; that is to say, focused solely on washing the dishes and ignoring everything else around them, improved their feelings of inspiration by a staggering 25% and lowered their nervousness levels at an equally impressive 27%. The group that didn’t wash the dishes mindfully, in contrast, gained little to nothing at all from the seemingly menial task.

PlatesAn excerpt from the research describes the process as follows: “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.”

Apart from the stress busting benefits, the mundane task is also a good way to improve a person’s ability of mindfulness.

While the research does explain how a seemingly menial task may help beat stress, it is not yet known if other activities result in the same benefits. Gardening, for example, has long been a tried and true stress buster, but it is currently unknown if it matches the benefits of mindful dishwashing. In the same light, the research has not made it clear if mindful activities such as these may be a good substitute for common stress therapies or physical activities in terms of beating stress.