Is there some secret benefit to washing dishes? Are you missing out on getting something a little more soul affirming out of your grimy water or is this simply another thankless task waiting for your attention around the kitchen?
Well now there’s a new way of looking at this age old practice as explored in this article in Time. Apparently with the right attitude washing the dishes can actually allow you to gain a kind of appreciation of life through mindfulness and a kind of in the moment mentality.
Believe it or not, washing dishes is actually the subject of many psychological enquiries. One famous story is told by Richard Bolstead, an NLP practitioner and author who currently lives in New Zealand.
Several years ago he invited some friends around his house for a soiree. They did all the normal party things, bringing food, wine and good cheer. Everyone went about their business enjoying small talk, serious conversation and frivolity.
At this point Richard noticed that dirty dishes and glasses were accumulating throughout his house. He is a little bit of a neat freak and someone who is a bit obsessive about keeping things clean and tidy.
So in order to alleviate his stress and discomfort, he began to run around the party collecting all the dishes, glasses, cups and cutlery. Running a sink full of soapy water and balancing the offending items next to the sink, he rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck into an anxiety relieving exercise.
He picks up a dirty dish. Feels the dirt on it and puts it in hot water. He washes the dish and lifts it out and checks it is clean and shiny by listening out for the squeaky noise that indicates the removal of all grease. This is his cue to put the dish on the draining board.
Repeating this process he begins to attack the huge pile of dirty crockery. Setting his sights on feeling good when it’s complete. However his friends seem to have other plans, as they then start mine-sweeping all the remaining plates and drinking utensils, keeping him topped up.
Continuing this behaviour for some forty minutes, Richard then realised that the function of the party was supposed to be to enhance his social life. However the behaviour he is engaged in is about washing dishes to get dishes clean. It occurs to him that everything he is doing is about anxiety reduction whilst his life disappears over the horizon.
At this point he decides that he is actually willing to go through anxiety in order to serve time with his friends. If you’re going to wash dishes as some kind of psychological boon then do it as a way of enjoying the experience of the moment and completing a vital task for your life. However as with everything in life you should stop short of curtailing your own dreams and passions for regular everyday tasks and make sure that you always find the time for what’s important for you.
If you want to find out how you can use mindfulness to recover the joy of your day to day tasks, then why not book in a free consultation with me? We can explore some interesting avenues available to you and discuss how to bring excitement into ordinary areas of your life.