I receive a daily email from the publishers of Time magazine, and this article caught my eye. It reports on a new study that claims dishwashing can improve mental health by lowering stress levels… if done “mindfully”. According to the report —
In the study, researchers at Florida State University had 51 students wash dishes. Before they started, half of the students read a short mindfulness dishwashing passage and the other half read a short descriptive dishwashing passage. The descriptive passage was straightforward, but the mindful passage focused on being present mentally for the task. Here’s an excerpt:
“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 study author Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program, in a statement.
The researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%. The group that didn’t wash the dishes mindfully did not gain any benefits from the task. “It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.
The study size was very small with only 51 students, so it would need to be replicated, but the researchers suggest that mindfulness could be achieved in a variety of common activities, and possibly reduce stress and improve psychological well-being.
I suppose whatever works to reduce stress in our daily lives is a real advantage. But I’ll admit I never saw this one coming.