The Weird Reason Handwashing Your Dishes Can Make You A Happier Person

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couple washing dishes

I don't want you to get jealous, but I'm really good at washing dishes. I mean, when I wash the dishes, it's epic. There's never any old food residue clinging to my pristine dishes, nor are there any remnants of soap on my glasses. I rinse like a beast.

Sometimes when I'm feeling especially hardcore, I put scalding hot water in my glasses, because that's how it's done when they're washed in a dishwasher. Oh, and I put the dishes on the rack in descending order by size.

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I'm not a neat freak and I don't have OCD; I'm just really good at doing dishes ... and OK, a tiny bit annoying about it. 

So I felt completely validated when I learned from an article that washing dishes can actually be good for you when performed in a mindful way.

Mindfulness is defined as "paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." 

In order to wash dishes in a mindful way, you need to be thoroughly present in the experience, noticing the warmth of the water on your skin, the smell of the dishwashing detergent, and the feel of the dishes in your hand.

Mindful meditation is usually an exercise in itself, but routine daily activities can also be a chance to practice.

You can practice mindfulness anywhere you go.

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A study conducted by researchers at Florida State University in Tallahassee, published in the journal Mindfulness, found that washing dishes mindfully can be therapeutic and that the activity had the ability to increase feelings of well-being and lessen feelings of nervousness and anxiety. 

51 students participated in the "Washing Dishes to Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction in an Informal Mindful Practice" study, in which half were given a 230-word passage that focused on the sensory experience of dishwashing.

The others (who acted as controls) read a similar-length passage about proper dishwashing techniques. The participants gave their interpretations of the readings vocally and in writing, and then each washed 19 already-clean dishes.

The findings were that "mindful" dishwashers showed a greater state of mindfulness, increases in inspiration and creativity, decreases in nervousness, and the control group showed no change.

Dishwashing isn't the only activity in which you can practice mindfulness — any routine chore like doing laundry, vacuuming, raking leaves, or picking lemons can be an opportunity to slow down and be present.

Mindfulness isn't about where you are or what you're doing, it's about how you do it and how you think about it.

There are many different activities that could help you practice mindfulness. 

Just leave the dishes for me.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer whose work has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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