From Mundane to Mindful: Using Chores To Boost Your Mood

The next time you face a task full of potential drudgery, adopt a mindful approach and you might just find yourself in a better headspace.

The next time a sink full of dirty dishes, a pile of laundry, or a table full of clutter looms up at you at the end of a long day, consider it a gift to help you focus, calm down and become more mindful. With a little practice, even the most mundane of tasks can help change how you feel in any moment.

Mindfulness is one of those terms you may have heard tossed around by people in yoga pants, but not really understood. “Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on what’s going on inside, our thoughts feelings and physical sensations, and outside—our environment—with open curiosity, and without judging or evaluating,” says Jamie Price, co-founder of the app Stop, Breathe and Think.

In the most basic sense, practicing mindfulness meditation helps you become more aware of what you’re feeling and provides practical strategies such as consciously breathing, letting go of judgments, and paying close attention to what is at hand, to help deal with feelings in a productive way. It can be fully integrated into your existing day by simply bringing focus, attention and sensory perception to any task at hand – walking, driving, vacuuming, or even standing in line at the DMV.

“One of the most effective ways to find a little bit of calm is to practice mindfulness while doing routine activities like brushing your teeth or washing dishes,” says Price. “Fifty percent of the time our thoughts aren’t related to what we’re doing. This kind of mind wandering has been proven to contribute to our unhappiness.”

The next time you’re washing dishes, Price suggests you begin “by simply being present with whatever you’re doing, and noticing all of the attendant physical sensations, sounds, and what you are thinking and feeling.”

Take deep breaths and inhale the scent of your dish soap. Pay attention to the feeling of warm water on your hands, which might feel good. Even listen to the sounds your dishes make clinking against one another. Don’t forget to breathe. Instead of thinking about how many more dishes you have to wash, pay attention to where your inhale becomes your exhale and vice versa.

Research appears to back up Price’s points.

Inspired by programs like mindfulness-based stress reduction training, Adam Hanley, a graduate student in psychology at Florida State University, conducted a study to see whether people could be setup to mindfully wash dishes and if doing so might improve their mood or decrease stress.

Participants were given a passage from famed Buddhist author Thich Nhat Hanh to read before sudsing up some plates. Encouraged to pay close attention to their senses, breathing and bodies, the task was effective at inducing a state of inner calm.

Further research has found mindfulness meditation can lead to changes such as increased brain connectivity, calmer respiration and reduced feelings of stress. It’s also an effective way to improve sleep and job satisfaction.

“Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce the intensity of anxiety, depression and stress in adults,” adds Price. “The positive health benefits increase with consistent practice.”

Writer Jordan Rosenfeld Jordan Rosenfeld is author of seven books. Her articles and essays have appeared widely in such publications as The Atlantic, DAME, GOOD magazine, Ozy, The New York Times, mental_floss, Pacific Standard, Scientific American, The Washington Post and more. Follow her on Twitter @jordanrosenfeld.

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