You likely remember the moment when, after spending all of your young adult life hand-scrubbing week-old, neglected pots, you vowed that henceforth your apartment or house — hell, even your grave — would have a dishwasher. But new research suggests that dirty old dish pile (and not just bachelorhood) helped give those olden days their rosy glow: Washing dishes, when done mindfully, can be therapeutic as well.
In recent paper on “mindfulness” published in the journal of the same name, researchers at Florida State University recruited 51 college students to wash dishes, which is 1. the only way to get college students to wash dishes, and 2. an ingenious way for scientists to get their dishes washed for free). Before the chore of washing 18 dishes, about half the students read a passage stressing the sensory experience of dishwashing, while the other group read a passage that only talked about dishwashing techniques. The group that was encouraged to approach the task mindfully by immersing themselves in the sensory experience self-reported a 27 percent decrease in nervousness and 25 percent increase in feelings of “mental inspiration.” Meanwhile, the control group saw no benefit at all from their washing experience.
An odd twist to the research, however: The dishes weren’t actually dirty, leaving researchers to admit that they aren’t positive if washing filthy dishes would elicit the same result. So the next time your toddler makes a mess at dinner, ask your wife to clean up and tell you if she’s feeling mindful. It’s for science, she’ll understand.