Washing Dishes Can Reduce Stress If Done the Right Way

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washingdishThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Every day in homes around the world, people engage in a chore that has the potential to siphon off stress and make them feel happier — if they do it in the right way.

When we wash dishes, we usually do it quickly so we can move on to something more interesting. Next time it’s our turn to clean the kitchen after a meal, we may want to slow down a bit and become aware of the process. Scientists have found this mundane chore can significantly reduce nervousness if it is done mindfully. This would involve focusing on smelling the soap, sensing the warmth of the water and feeling the dishes.

In the study published in the journal Mindfulness, 51 students were recruited and divided into two groups. One group was asked to read material about how to wash dishes mindfully, while the other group was asked to read a short description of dish washing. In the next step, the participants in both groups washed 18 dishes. Personality and psychological characteristics were evaluated before and after the chore.

The results showed nervousness ratings among the mindful dishwashers declined by 27 percent, and mental inspiration rose by 25 percent. Conversely, mental scores of the control group showed no difference. “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 researcher Adam Hanley.

Health Benefits of Mindfulness

Live in the Now consulted Christine Weber, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist in Seaford, New York, for information on advantages of the therapy. “Mindfulness is a term used to describe a cognitive state of being in the moment or being aware of what is taking place at a particular time in an introspective way. Mindfulness-based therapies have been examined for both physical and psychological illnesses with positive results,” she says.

“When examining results for patients living with cancer, it reduced levels of depression and anxiety, helping them cope and manage symptoms better. Self-reports also show boosted quality of life, and evidence suggests the alleviation of poor sleep and fatigue. Researchers are still examining the extent to which these improvements reported by patients are resulting in a significant physiological health benefit.

“For patients with cardiovascular disease, studies demonstrate lowered blood pressure, resulting in improved physical health. In addition, those who suffer from conditions that cause chronic pain report better coping skills with their illnesses as well as decreased pain.

“Individuals suffering from anxiety and depression report improved psychological symptoms. They also testify to enhanced daily functioning and quality of life, along with better interpersonal relationships.”

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