Washing the dishes has therapeutic benefits.
Washing the dishes can boost feelings of inspiration and decrease nervousness.

Keep your therapist and don’t toss the dishwashing machine.

But do consider the peacefulness and mind-cleansing benefits of washing dishes the old fashioned way – in the sink and using your hands.

New research indicates that washing the dishes mindfully – focusing on smelling the soap, noting the water temperature and touching the dishes -- can significantly lower your stress level.

“If you can consume your attention and consciousness with the soap, the water and the like, it essentially crowds out or takes the place of intrusive thoughts,” said North Shore-LIJ Health System psychologist Curtis Reisinger, Ph.D., who did not participate in the study published in the journal Mindfulness.

“The key to mindfulness is the ability to shift your attention to the stimulus that’s coming into you,” continued Dr. Reisinger, corporate director of the health system’s Employee Assistance Program. “It’s the ability to essentially transfer your attention into the sensations. If it’s the hot water running from the faucet [or] paying attention to the smell of the soap, those are all activities which people trained in mindfulness focus on.”

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and holding a heightened sense of awareness for an activity.

The Florida State University study found that feelings of inspiration jumped 25 percent in mindful dishwashers, while nervousness dropped by 27 percent.

Dr. Reisinger noted that other activities and household chores, such as vacuuming, painting a fence or eating a meal, can promote a mindful state.

“All those [activities] have the ability to essentially take your attention and to consume it for that moment,” he said. “Any kind of job can become meaningful, depending on where your head is at and how you perceive it.”