Washing dishes shown to reduce stress

Washing dishes

Looking to dial down the stress? Try starting with the kitchen sink.

While household chores are often viewed as a source of stress, researchers from Florida State University say they could be transformed into stress-reducing activities.

In a recent study, 51 participants were asked to wash 18 dishes for about six minutes. But some were asked to wash dishes mindfully. This meant paying special attention to sensory experiences like the feel of the water temperature and the scent of the soap.

Researchers say that the mindful dishwashers reported a 27-percent decrease in nervousness. They also experienced a 25-percent bump in mental inspiration.

“My thinking is that approaching any activity intentionally disrupts the mental chatter that we often get caught up in,” says Adam Hanley, first author and doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology. “So instead of using the time at the sink ruminating over things that have gone wrong or planning for the future—which are both stressful activities—taking that time to be present with your sensory experiences and bringing your attention to the moment is kind of like a little vacation from all that mental chatter.”

Hanley guesses that the break in all that mental noise is where the stress relief benefits emerge.

Another noteworthy finding was that mindful dishwashers overestimated how much time they spent on the task.

“Mindful washers added two minutes to their estimations, suggesting that they washed for about eight minutes,” says Hanley. “I don’t really know what to make of that yet, other than the fact that they’re reporting something they found more enjoyable as occurring for a longer length of time. The relationship between mindfulness and time experience is a curious future direction for studies.”

He adds that approaching chores in a mindful way just might transform them into meditative practices that reduce stress levels.

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