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New Research Says Washing Dishes Can Significantly Relieve Stress and Boost Well-being

What do you do to calm yourself down after a long stressful day? Listen to some music? Go for a hike? Roast a bone and watch Family Guy? It turns out, this one boring chore can actually improve your overall well-being and improve your stress levels.

A study published in Mindfulness found that doing the dishes had a remarkable impact on your emotional self:

“We hypothesized that, relative to a control condition, participants receiving mindful dishwashing instruction would evidence greater state mindfulness, attentional awareness, and positive affect, as well as reduce negative affect and lead to overestimations of time spent dishwashing,” wrote the study authors at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

“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,” wrote the study authors. In other words, wash the dishes, but omit negative and distracting thoughts. Focus on the present moment.

The team recruited 51 students in their early 20s for the study. Half the subjects were provided a 230-word passage to read that emphasized the sensory experience of dishwashing. The other half read similar passages but about proper dishwashing techniques. They then cleaned 18 dishes.

The rate of nervousness among the mindful dishwashers decreased by 27% and mental inspiration went up 25%. The other group saw no benefits.

“Implications for these findings,” said the researchers, “are diverse and suggest that mindfulness as well as positive affect could be cultivated through intentionally engaging in a broad range of activities.”

What does this mean for you? “The sheer monotony and physical nature of washing-up, coupled with the sense of achievement gained from completing a simple act, makes us feel good,” says Dr. Aric Sigman, a researcher.

So there you go. Get into your chores in a positive way and you'll feel better all around.

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