For some of us, the idea of washing dishes after creating a whole sink full CAUSES stress, but according to science, can do quite the opposite. It appears that the actual act of washing dishes can help diminish feelings of anxiety and stress.
The study was conducted by Florida researchers who had 51 Florida State University students wash dishes. The group was divided, with half the students reading a short “mindfulness” passage about washing dishes in the moment and another less philosophical and more descriptive dishwashing passage.
According to TIME, the following is an excerpt from the mindfulness passage:
“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. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”
After observing both groups (those with the mindfulness passage and those with the straightforward descriptive one) the students who washed dishes in the moment and focused on things like the smell of the soap, the soothing temperature of the water and the feel of the dishes increased their level of inspiration by 25% while lowering their nervousness/anxiety by 27%. The students who only read the descriptive, dry passage about washing dishes had no reported benefit.
While this was a very small study, it shows that those who focus on the here and now even when doing the most mundane daily activities can actually significantly reduce their stress levels.