You may have heard about the health benefits of staying in the moment. Here’s how to de-stress through housekeeping.
It’s worth the effort. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley has compiled a host of research on the subject, suggesting that mindfulness can reduce stress, boost the immune system, increase empathy and improve memory and attention, among other benefits.
If you want to take advantage of the far-reaching benefits of mindfulness but haven’t found the time to start working it into your day, consider using a task you already perform as an informal meditation. You already have to get certain things done, so why not practice enjoying them for their own sake rather than rushing to get them over with or worrying about something that happened yesterday? To get started, pick just one chore to practice with. Start small and build up to doing more.
Here are seven common housekeeping chores that lend themselves to the practice of appreciating the present moment. After reading this list, you’ll find five tips to try as you perform each task.
1. Wiping the counters and stove. If you’re not sure where to begin, this is the task I recommend starting with. Wiping down the surfaces in your kitchen is a job that probably doesn’t take more than about five minutes, but it happens regularly. Begin by setting your intention to create a clean, clear space. As you work, bring your attention to the here and now: to the way the light falls across the counter, to your breath and to the simple transformation from crumb-covered to clean and smooth.
As you make your bed, don’t rush. Each time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the texture of the sheets, the sounds around you and the simple pleasure of doing a small job well.
Try washing the dishes to wash the dishes — then maybe you will be inspired to drink your tea to drink your tea.
Plants thrive on your attention in a way your floors or dishes never will. And your mindfulness with plants doesn’t have to happen outdoors — watering and tending to houseplants works just as well.
If you have a clothesline, use this time to simply be present in the moment, noticing the breeze riffling the clothes, the shifting light and the satisfying clip-clip of the pins.
- Set a compassionate intention for doing your chore well — creating a nice, clean space for you and your family to sit and drink tea, for example.
- Take a moment to consciously relax any tension in your body.
- Gently become aware of your breath as you work, to help you stay in the moment.
- When your mind wanders (and it will) to complaints, your to-do list or something that’s been bothering you, simply notice the thought arising and return your attention to the task at hand.
- Pay attention to your senses: the feeling of warm, soapy water; the grain of the wood counter; the sounds coming from the open window.