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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

More by this author

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 January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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