Washing dishes may help people lower their stress levels, provided that the household chore is done with mindfulness, research shows.
The study was conducted by researchers at Florida State University, and required 51 students to wash 18 clean dishes each.
Experts aimed to determine if a repetitive chore could be influential in improving mindfulness, a state of living in the moment and awakening to one’s conscious experience.
Normally, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is applied on people who suffer from clinical depression, in order to aid them in observing incoming stimuli, without reacting negatively to them.
In this research however, scientists wanted to discover if occupying one’s mind in a more trivial way would also result in positive feelings of calm and peacefulness.
“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”, explained study author Adam Hanley, doctoral candidate in Florida State University’s Education Counseling/School Psychology program.
Before doing the actual chore, half of the volunteers read a short text passage explaining how they could approach the task as “an informal contemplative practice”.
They were advised to gain complete awareness of their activity and to focus on it wholly, without being distracted by other thoughts. They were also instructed to follow their breath, feel completely connected to the present moment, and actively engage themselves in their dishwashing chore.
The other half of participants read a descriptive, technical presentation of the activity and were not given any pointers regarding their psychological involvement.
Experts discovered that washing dishes mindfully had a beneficial impact on psychological comfort, by causing a 27% reduction in nervousness. In addition, respondents were 25% more likely to feel inspired, when they were engrossed in this activity.
Gaining heightened awareness of the smell of soap, of the water’s temperature, of the texture of the dishes actually boosted creativity, aside from providing stress relief.
On the other hand, those who had just carried out the task without greater involvement didn’t experience positive feelings of enlightenment or relaxation.
The results were published on October 1, in the Mindfulness journal, and have caused researchers to suggest that even mundane activities can stimulate creative and intellectual processes.
Household chores can be deeply inspiring, provided that they are approached “with intentionality and awareness”. They can also combat stress and help people shift their perspective, in order to feel more at peace and more comfortable.
Mindfulness therefore can be achieved even through informal practice, as long as individuals intentionally immerse themselves into their activities.
However, the study does have certain limitations, such as the fact that just a very small number of volunteers served as participants. As a result, before the benefits on mindfulness can be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt more research should be conducted, on a larger scale.
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