Last week I stacked the dishwasher as I usually do of an evening, but to my horror the blessed machine failed to work. I grew up without one, so during my adult years I have come to rely on it like a best friend. When it broke, my immediate response of course was to get a new one.
However, something unexpected happened. As I took a deep and sulky sigh and began to wash the dishes by hand, my ‘whiney’ thoughts began to subside. In fact, I started to enjoy the process of washing and rinsing, and even noticed that I was feeling less stressed. I decided that this wasn’t so much of a chore after all and began to like the sense of satisfaction that washing dishes brought me.
What I experienced isn’t something new or unique to me. In fact, science has shown that washing dishes can be an effective stress reliever and also help to improve mood. In a study conducted by researchers at Florida State University and published in the Journal of Mindfulness, half the participants were asked to mindfully wash the dishes (i.e., to be mentally present – notice the warmth of the water, feel of the dishes, smell of the soap etc.) whilst the other half were instructed to wash as normal. The study found that mindful dishwashers noticed a 27 percent reduction in nervousness and a 25 percent increase in mental inspiration.
Isn’t it interesting how a simple daily task can shift from being a nuisance to an opportunity to relax? Makes me wonder how many other ‘mindful’ opportunities we might be overlooking as we go about our day.
I am now grateful that my dishwasher broke. I have delayed getting a new one (for now at least). I have learnt to approach mundane tasks, like dishwashing, much more positively.