The Surprising Health Benefit of Washing Dishes

October 6th 2015

Laura Donovan

A sink full of dirty dishes may seem overwhelming and trigger stress, but hand-washing them mindfully can also reduce one's nervousness, according to researchers form Florida State University.

A new study in the journal Mindfulness surveyed 51 people and found that those who washed dishes mindfully for six minutes experienced high levels of inspiration and lower levels of nervousness. Mindful dishwashing entails focusing on the senses involved with the task: smelling dish soap, touching the dishes, and feeling the water. These participants also read a mindfulness dishwashing passage beforehand while the other group of participants read a descriptive dishwashing passage instead. Those who didn't read the mindful dishwashing passage beforehand didn't experience the same benefits as the mindful group.

“It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.

The researchers recognize that their study pool is small, but various other activities could incorporate mindfulness and potentially have a similar effect on well-being as mindful dishwashing.

Study author Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program, said in a statement that he's been fascinated by the concept of mindfulness for a very long time.

“I’ve had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher," he said. "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.”

Hanley isn't alone in embracing the positives of mindfulness. Earlier this year, Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Sara Lazar talked to the Washington Post about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, which keep people in the moment.

"When you’re mindful, you’re paying attention to your breathing, to sounds, to the present moment experience, and shutting cognition down," she said. "It stands to reason your senses would be enhanced."