Finding Joy in Everyday Chores: The Art of Mindful Dishwashing


Washing the dishes

is like bathing a baby Buddha.

The profane is the sacred.

Everyday mind is Buddha’s mind.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

In the book The Miracle of Mindfulness, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh explores the idea of making meditation more accessible and even transforming the seemingly unpleasant activity of washing dishes into an enjoyable experience.

The fact is that people live in a magnificent period of convenience. Modern technology has gone a long way in making daily life more bearable. You can heat up food in seconds with the push of a button at any time. You can keep food fresh for weeks without having to pay someone to deliver ice to your door daily.

But how often have you washed the dishes while thinking about your next task? Dishwashing is frequently a mindless chore. However, doing this routine task while using your senses gives you a tremendous chance for mindfulness.

This article provides insights on how to wash dishes and alleviate stress simultaneously while doing the dishes mindfully.

Techniques for practicing joyful dishwashing

Whenever you’re doing the dishes, engage in the moment and focus on the positive aspects of the task, such as the pleasant scent of the soap, the warmth of the water on your hands, or the sensation of the dishes being washed in the water.

Then, just be present in these times and enjoy them as a lovely few moments of solitude. Slow down and tune into the entire experience of being with those dishes and helping them transform from dirty to clean. Below are some tips on how you can practice joyful dishwashing:

Allocate time

When you start practicing mindful dishwashing, ensure you have plenty of time and no social distractions.

Think about the entire process from beginning to end

Before you start moving anything, take a moment to imagine the entire procedure from start to finish. Is the drain board empty if you’re hand washing? Is there enough hot water if you live in an area with water immersion?

Focusing on the specifics of your setup

Set the stage for attentive dishwashing by paying attention to the details of your setup, such as emptying the drainboard or dishwasher, gathering all the dirty dishes next to the sink, and ensuring you have enough soap and a clean sponge.

Create a soothing environment

Fill your wash bin or sink with warm, soapy water after taking a few focused breaths to settle your body. Take note of the smells, the warmth on your hands, and the sound of the water running. 

If you find yourself caught in thinking, simply acknowledge it and return your attention to the sensations in the environment.

Begin washing the dishes one by one

Choose less oily dishes first to keep the water cleaner for a longer period. As you rinse each dish, check it briefly to ensure that all oils and food residues have been properly cleaned, then gently set it into the drainboard.


Adjusting dish placement in the drain board as required along the way. If you find yourself lost in thinking, simply acknowledge it and return to dishwashing: just this dish, these sensations, scents, and sounds.

Drain the sink

Empty the wash bin or start the dishwasher after all the dishes have made their way into the drain board. Rinse the sink’s edges and dispose of any food crumbs accumulated near the drain.

Take a moment to appreciate the clean sink and drying dishes

You have created something beautiful. Congratulate yourself!

Also, give thanks for the clean, running water, the people who created your soap, the people who built the sink, and the people who dirty your dishes so you might clean thoughtfully.

Benefits of mindful dishwashing

Practicing mindfulness and gratitude while cleaning dishes will alleviate some of the mundane qualities of the chore and also seem like a method to clear the mind and put order back into a chaotic situation.

Improved mental well-being and stress reduction

According to a study published in Mindfulness in 2015, washing dishes may be an informal mindfulness exercise and a method for individuals to de-stress after a long day at school or work.

The study involved 51 undergraduate students who were divided into two groups. Half of them received explicit instructions on washing dishes, while the other half read a modified Hanh piece highlighting the importance of being present during the task.

The researchers concluded those who wash their dishes mindfully feel more motivated and less nervous afterward. However, the group that followed the guidelines saw no improvements.

In another study, dishwashing was found to be a useful chore for practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to pay attention and attain a higher level of awareness, which can aid in stress relief and managing mental health.

Cultivation of mindfulness and presence in daily life

When you wash the dishes, the world is at ease. You wait patiently for the sink to fill with soapy water, wash each dish thoroughly, rinse with cold water, and carefully place each dish into the drainboard, one at a time.

The core of mindfulness is paying attention to the details of what is happening in the present moment to the extent that one’s level of attention affects the environment around them. Even though you don’t yet know what will happen, you may create a precedent for the acts that will come after by doing what needs to be done right away.

Routine activities like dishwashing are vulnerable places for losing mindfulness because they tend to be monotonous. While “half doing” what’s in front of you, it is simple to become preoccupied with planning or replaying a memory in your mind.

In conclusion

Finally, as Thich Nhat Hanh states, while washing the dishes, one should only be washing dishes, which means that one should be completely aware that one is washing the dishes.

Mindfulness is the discipline of ignoring unpleasant or distracting thoughts to become more aware of one’s feelings and sensations. It entails being present in the current moment rather than letting your mind wander and think about things you have done or need to do. 

The idea behind washing the dishes mindfully is to approach this chore as a meaningful duty rather than rushing to complete it as quickly as possible. By engaging in mindful dishwashing, you can simultaneously accomplish the task while reducing stress levels which is beneficial for your well-being.

If you would like to see more resources on dishwashing, check out the Household Management Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Household Management Science Labs today.

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