What Chores Can Teach You About Mindfulness
Were you the type of kid who had to do chores?
My parents always told me it was a way to earn my keep. As a kid, I didn’t necessarily agree with them. I just know I hated them. Even hated hearing that word.
These days I hate them less. But they still aren’t on my list of fun things to do.
For some people, though, it’s almost a way to relax. Who knows, maybe it’s the routine. Or just the orderliness of it.
Sounds a little crazy right?
Well they might actually be on to something. A recent study from Florida State University found that washing dishes can actually be relaxing. If you do it in the right way, of course.
Mind the Dishes
The study was published in the journal Mindfulness. That term probably sounds familiar. And for good reason, it’s been in the media a lot in recent years. Mindfulness is a term heavily linked with meditative practices.
So what’s the deal here?
Chores and mindfulness seem like completely separate things. But the researchers wanted to see if boorish tasks could be used for a kind of informal, contemplative practice. Adam Hanley – one of the authors from the study – comments:
“I’ve had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher. 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.”
So that explains the interesting research angle. I must say, after reading that I was pretty intrigued.
The Guinea Pigs
To run the experiment, they went to an old favorite for test subjects. The college student.
It consisted of 51 undergrads. 18 guys and 33 girls ranging from freshman to seniors. Participants were surveyed on factors of mindfulness and psychological well-being. To make sure the data wasn’t skewed, they also asked if they enjoyed washing dishes. Which may have affected the outcome.
They were then split into two groups for testing. The first group read a descriptive passage which described instructions on how to properly wash dishes.
The other group read a mindful passage about dish washing. How to pay attention to thoughts and emotions, the touch of the water, and smell of the soap.
After relating what they had read back to a research assistant, they were tasked to wash several dishes. There was nothing fancy about it. They simply just washed dishes. After they completed the task, they once again had to answer questionnaires about their experience and state of mind.
Researchers found that those that had read the mindfulness passage were 27% less nervous, and 25% more mentally inspired after performing the task. The descriptive passage group saw no benefits.
The research takes a different spin on mindfulness in every day life. Mainly, that it doesn’t have to be done in formal settings. In this respect, it’s unique. The authors emphasize this point in the research:
“That mindfulness practices elevate mindfulness, encourage positive affect, and decrease negative affect is well established; however, that these changes were associated with the coupling of a mindful practice with an everyday task is a novel finding.”
This is good news if you’re not the type that likes to sit and meditate. In fact it can be incorporated into just about any routine task that seems mundane. Vacuuming, walking, cooking, and even eating. It might sound a little nuts, but maybe some people simply approach the task with a different perspective.
However, it’s a good reminder of what we need to do when our lives become too automatic. To enjoy life, we need to take time to stop and smell the roses.
Sometimes it’s not what you do, but how you do it.