The Surprising Health Benefit of Washing the Dishes

Think twice before passing off this task. 

Photo by Johner Images/Getty Images

Mindfulness is often associated with meditation, reflection, and a peaceful state of mind. Household chores? Not exactly what comes to mind.

But a new study conducted by researchers at Florida State University suggests the simple act of washing the dishes could actually encourage a state of mindfulness, which has been linked to improved well being, reduced levels of stress, and even immune system boosts.

Fifty-one college students participated in the study, which was published in the journal Mindfulness. Just over half of the participants were taught to focus on the mindful experience of dishwashing, such as the scent of the soap, the feeling of the suds, the temperature of the water, and the shape and design of the dishes.

The remaining participants, who acted as the control group, focused on simply getting the job done.

The findings were significant. The students who learned about the mindful approach reported a 27 percent decrease in nervousness and a 25 percent increase in mental stimulation after washing the dishes. The control group noticed no such benefits—suggesting that for strained and overworked minds, washing dishes mindfully may be a convenient form of therapy.

“I’ve had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher,” Adam Hanley, one of the study's authors, said in a statement. “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.”

The findings were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Want to work mindfulness into other daily activities? You're in luck. Even eating and breathing can be done mindfully, as well as sitting, following your thoughts, and walking in nature.