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Study Finds Washing Dishes Can Significantly Relieve Stress and Boost Well-being

Study Finds Washing Dishes Can Significantly Relieve Stress and Boost Well-being

Many of us like to listen to soothing music or settle down in front of the TV after a long, stressful day to calm our weary minds. But what if you tried washing the dishes instead to calm your mind?

No, really. A new study published in the journal Mindfulness reports that dishwashing is a great way to relieve stress and it can actually boost mental well-being.

If you have already figured out that dishwashing can be a good activity for relaxation, there is now scientific proof that your least favorite chore might also be benefiting your mind.

“We hypothesized that, relative to a control condition, participants receiving mindful dishwashing instruction would evidence greater state mindfulness, attentional awareness, and positive affect, as well as reduce negative affect and lead to overestimations of time spent dishwashing,” wrote the study authors at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

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After conducting their study, the researchers at Florida State University found that engaging in mindful dishwashing, which entails focusing on the smell of the soap, the warmth of the water and the feel of the dishes, can indeed trigger a positive state of mind.

How it works

“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,” wrote the study authors. In other words, one should wash dishes mindfully.

Mindfulness is the practice of omitting negative or distracting thoughts to allow for complete awareness of one’s own feelings and senses in the present moment. It has been shown to relieve stress, reduce anxiety, lower risk for depression and contribute to improved sleep quality.

In this particular study, co-author Adam Hanley — a doctoral candidate in the College of Education’s Counseling and School Psychology Program at Florida State University — and colleagues set out to investigate whether a positive state of mind could be achieved through a simple day-to-day activity like dishwashing.

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Hanley and team recruited 51 students in their early 20s for the study. Slightly over half of the subjects were provided with a 230-word passage to read that emphasized the sensory experience of dishwashing. The other half of participants, who acted as controls, read a similar-length passage that stressed proper dishwashing techniques. Both subject groups gave their interpretations of the reading in writing and verbally. Then each washed 18 clean dishes.

“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.” notes Hanley. Elsewhere, he says he was pleasantly surprised by the study results.

The study results

Positive and negative personality traits, psychological well-being and mindful state were assessed before and after the dishwashing exercise.

The researchers observed that nervous rating decreased by 27% in mindful dishwashing, while mental inspiration increased by 25%. Both changes were statistically significant and reflected a substantial experiential shift, said the researchers.

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Moreover, mindful dishwashing heightened the sense of time pleasurably slowing down, wrote the researchers. On the other hand, the control group didn’t experience any benefits.

“Implications for these findings,” said the researchers, “are diverse and suggest that mindfulness as well as positive affect could be cultivated through intentionally engaging in a broad range of activities.”

What this means for you

Mindfulness coupled with household chores can make for a happier and less stressed you. “The sheer monotony and physical nature of washing-up, coupled with the sense of achievement gained from completing a simple act, makes us feel good,” says Dr. Aric Sigman, a researcher.

In fact, you don’t have to relinquish your automatic dishwasher if you don’t want to reap these benefits. You can get the same benefits of mindful dishwashing from nearly all neutral household activities when accomplished mindfully. That means mindfully raking the leaves in your backyard, vacuuming the floors in your house or even doing the laundry could be equally beneficial for your mind and body.

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Even enjoying your morning cup of coffee mindfully, taking in the heat of the mug, smell of the roast and taste of the drink could be helpful. As would taking advantage of time in the shower — focusing on the way the water feels on your skin, the sound of the water hitting the tab and the smell of your bathing soap.

Turns out your mundane day-to-day activities and dreary household chores could actually be a lot more worthwhile than you thought.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay.com

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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