Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, and it has long been the guiding principle of the ancient art of yoga. Taking the time to fully process your thoughts and external stimuli isn’t easy these days, however. We live our lives at breakneck speed, and miss out on many of life’s wonders as a result.
There are some very clear benefits associated with mindfulness — which we can all benefit from if we change the way we live. There is evidence to suggest this ancient principle can improve our general wellbeing, our mental health and various aspects of our physical health.
Of course, it’s not easy to focus and meditate when life moves so fast. But it might surprise you to know that you could be practising the art of mindfulness while going about your everyday cleaning jobs.
We’ve put together a few tips to get you started. So, clear your mind, and focus on the here and now for a little while.
Before you start washing dishes, try to empty your mind of thoughts. Control your breathing, and turn your attention to the job at hand. This is your opportunity to leave your worries for a few minutes, so embrace it.
Mindfulness is about tuning out everything other than the job at hand. In this case, you’re tuning out all thoughts other than those related to the water, the bubbles and the dishes themselves. Focus on each breath you take as you go.
Start by tuning into the water. How does it feel on your hands? Is it hot? Focus on the sensation as you slowly dip your hands into the water. Watch how the bubbles move, slide and burst. And try to pick out the scent of the water.
Now take a moment to focus on the movement of your hands as you wash each dish. Watch how they become submerged, only to reappear covered in bubbles. Watch how your hands change shape as they clean each dish.
And spend some time focusing on the purpose of this vital task. It’s not just a chore; it’s a way of ensuring your next meal is going to taste and look great. Image how the food will look when it’s presented perfectly on the plate or in the bowl.
All too often, we wash dishes begrudgingly. We’re often annoyed that we could be doing something far more interesting. Yet, when you take the time to zone in on what you’re doing, you might be surprised at how fascinating this simplest of household chores can be.
Doing the Laundry
Laundry isn’t as tactile as dishwashing, but it can be equally as fascinating — particularly if you approach it in the same way you’d approach people watching. Imagine you’re sitting in a busy coffee shop, for example. Watching people come and go, their various mannerisms and the way they communicate with others takes you into a different reality. And exactly the same feeling can be achieved with laundry.
Every time you pick up an item of laundry, study it closely. Look at how each strand or fibre interconnects with the next. Take a few moments to fully drink in the pattern. And look for imperfections (such as stains or tears) that make this particular item unique. This is the only item of its kind in the world. So tune into it and explore its every facet.
When laundry comes out of the washing machine, hold each item for a few seconds. Pay attention to how different it now looks. How does it feel against the skin on your hands? Notice how the colours now look different. Pick up a dry item, and compare weights. How can water make such a difference to the look, feel and smell of clothes?
Untidiness and clutter cause stress. Whether you know it or not, being surrounded by unnecessary “stuff” can make relaxing and focusing very difficult. There’s also evidence that clutter can negatively impact productivity and the creative process. Decluttering is a great stress-reliever — even more so when it’s carried out using mindfulness techniques.
Rather than scooping everything up and chucking it somewhere. Take a more considered approach to the process. Every time you pick something up, examine all of its lines, colour and imperfections. Get as close as you can to the object, and look for details you’ve never seen before.
Each and every item of clutter in your home has a story to tell. So, forget about those bills or the leaking tap for a second, and focus on what you have in your hand. Think about where it came from, who’s held it in the past, and where it might end up. How was it made? What materials were used?
But don’t forget that this exercise is about removing the objects that don’t bring you joy. If it doesn’t, and it doesn’t make your life easier in some way, sell or donate it. But as you make that decision, think about the joy it might bring someone else. Imagine the item you have in your hand in someone else’s.
Vacuuming is something we spend several minutes doing every week. It’s a great opportunity for some mindfulness exercises, as it can be quite therapeutic and isolating. Start by honing in on the sensations around your body. When the vacuum’s motor starts up, how does that affect your hand and your arm? How does the weight of the vacuum affect your shoulders, your back and your posture?
Now move on to the carpet. Carefully study the carpet before every pass. And watch how the carpet changes every time the vacuum cleaner covers it. Try to pick out specific items of dirt or debris, and watch carefully as they vanish before your eyes. And pay attention to how the colour of the carpet changes ever so slightly.
If you have a bagless, cyclonic cleaner, you have a great opportunity to lose yourself in the moment. Watch as the cyclone inside spins the dirt and dust around. Focus on how much is already in there, and watch as the collection of nastiness gets bigger and bigger.
It’s important to focus on your breathing throughout the process of vacuuming. This isn’t a pleasant job; in fact, it’s downright tedious. But if you focus on each breath and take some joy in the sights and sensations being creating, you can make it something you actually look forward to.
Also important is freeing your thoughts. Before you switch on the vacuum cleaner, sit for a moment. Force everything out of your mind, save for the vacuum cleaner. A good way to clear your mind is to study the cleaner for a few moments. Pick out specific design details, and drink them in.
Some mindfulness experts recommend doing absolutely nothing for at least 10 minutes a day — and that includes thinking. Just before you start your household chores is a great time to bring a little nothingness into your life.
Let’s be honest, very few of us actually look forwards to household cleaning. But that’s because we see it as an inconvenience… something that gets in the way of doing the important things in life. But if you take the time to concentrate on the job at hand, you mind find yourself enjoying it more than you ever thought possible.