Have you ever wanted to be a happier person? Todays post on Success on the Far Side of Fifty once again delves into the subject of happiness. I see happiness as the one emotion that eclipses all other emotions. Therefore I see the desire to continually increase your state of happiness as the goal that eclipses all other goals.
Fundamentally happiness is a state of mind that requires absolutely no additional resources to be reached. In fact the notion that some external “thing” will make you a happier person over the long run is totally incorrect. The secret of success is learning to be happier with the small things in the present moment and is the subject of todays post.
What do you do to unwind at the end of a stressful day? Many people like to plop down on the couch, grab a drink and watch the tube. Others prefer to enjoy a glass of wine while listening to music. Still others would rather do something more physical such as exercising or gardening,
But what if I told you that a new study has shown that washing dishes can relieve stress, calm your mind and boost your mental well-being?
It just so happens that a new study on Mindfulness says exactly that. You can find the article HERE
It turns out that mindful engagement in simple tasks such as washing dishes can actually be a great stress relief as well as a boost to your mental well-being.
The study authors wrote; “participants receiving mindful dishwashing instruction would evidence greater state mindfulness, attentional awareness, and positive affect, as well as reduce negative affect.”
The study, conducted at a Florida State University (Hanley, A.W., Warner, A.R., Dehili, V.M. et al. Mindfulness (2015) 6: 1095. doi:10.1007/s12671-014-0360-9) found that engaging in mindful dishwashing helped trigger a positive state of mind.
The act of focussing on the warmth of the water, the fragrance of the soap and the feeling of the dishes ensured that participants remained engaged in the process. Instead of becoming distracted they remained aware they were washing the dishes, while they were washing the dishes. The act of remaining present in during the activity is very similar to the states achieved by yoga and meditation.
It is the conscious act of reducing negative or distracting thoughts that allows space for one to become aware of one’s feelings and sensations in the present moment. Such awareness has been proven to relieve stress, reduce anxiety and contribute to feelings of wellbeing.
It is also critical to note that by focussing on the positive aspects of dishwashing study participants effectively reframed their perspective of dishwashing from a “chore” to a pleasurable and useful experience.
This positive reframing resulted in participants reducing their nervousness by 25% and increasing their inspiration by 27%.
Each participant was given instruction explaining the correct dishwashing techniques and then asked to give both verbal and written interpretations of the instruction. Each participant then cleaned 18 dishes.
A.W. Hanely wrote “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.”
Researchers also said; “Implications for these findings are diverse and suggest that mindfulness as well as positive affect could be cultivated through intentionally engaging in a broad range of activities.”
The implications of these study are broad reaching. Making the effort to remain fully aware of and engaged in the moment can be practiced throughout the day. With practice you can learn to remain present and engaged in any number of menial tasks such as laundry, cooking and mopping the floors.
If you want to be happier while engaging in daily activities here are a few points to consider;
1.) The attitude you bring is far more important than the activity.
Life is a constant series of choices and every choice matters. The activity is almost irrelevant but attitude is critical.
Monks practice this sort of mindfulness in a wide variety of simple tasks such as sweeping floors and gardening.
We can all choose to remain engaged in what we are doing including remaining focussed on the positive and pleasurable aspects of our activities.
2.) With any endeavor we can choose to focus on the negative or the positive.
In this case participants were told to focus on the pleasant sensations associated with washing dishes such as the warmth of the water and the fragrance of the soap which made it a much more pleasurable experience.
Do you actively search for pleasant sensations in your daily activities?
3.) Participants stayed in the moment.
They didn’t focus on the past or the future, they stayed with the present and focussed on enjoying the experience.
4.) Even completion of small tasks results in feelings of accomplishment.
Other studies have shown that the achievement of any small goal adds to our feeling of happiness and well-being.
If you want to be instantly happier set a small goal and achieve it.
5.) Washing the dishes requires low intensity physical movement.
As people we were all born to move. In today’s world many of us are effectively sedentary. Aside from engaging in moderate aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week I am a huge advocate of movement.
Getting off of the couch and engaging in some form of physical activity is a wonderful thing and our chores help us achieve that. Gentle movement gets your blood flowing, your mind engaged and instantly lifts your mood.
So there you have it, a scientific study that proves that washing dishes can make you happy.
But we can bring that same sort of mindfulness into anything we do.
If you can learn to remain engaged in your small daily chores you will begin to become a happier person, remaining engaged means you have the ability to begin to appreciate the pleasant sensations involved with daily living.
As always thank you for reading success on the far side of fifty. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of service and remember that your mundane day-to-day activities and dreary household chores could actually be a lot more worthwhile than you thought.