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# Washing Dishes to Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction in an Informal Mindfulness Practice

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This study sought to investigate whether washing dishes could be used as an informal contemplative practice, promoting the state of mindfulness along with attendant emotional and attentional phenomena. We hypothesized that, relative to a control condition, participants receiving mindful dishwashing instruction would evidence greater state mindfulness, attentional awareness, and positive affect, as well as reduce negative affect and lead to overestimations of time spent dishwashing. A sample of 51 college students engaged in either a mindful or control dishwashing practice before completing measures of mindfulness, affect, and experiential recall. Mindful dishwashers evidenced greater state mindfulness, increases in elements of positive affect (i.e., inspiration), decreases in elements of negative affect (i.e., nervousness), and overestimations of dishwashing time. Implications for these findings are diverse and suggest that mindfulness as well as positive affect could be cultivated through intentionally engaging in a broad range of activities.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Washing Dishes to Wash the Dishes: Brief Instruction
in an Informal Mindfulness Practice
Adam W. Hanley & Alia R. W arner & Vincent M. Dehili &
Angela I. Canto & Eric L. Garland
Published online: 5 November 2014
#
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract This study sought to investigate whether washing
dishes could be used as an informal contemplative practice,
promoting the state of mindfulness along with attendant emo-
tional and attentional phenomena. We hypothesized that, rel-
ative to a control condition, participants receiving mindful
dishwashing instruction would evidence greater state mind-
fulness, attentional awareness, and positive affect, as well as
reduce negative affect and lead to overestimations of time
spent dishwashing. A sample of 51 college students engaged
in either a mindful or control dishwashing practice before
completing measures of mindfulness, affect, and experiential
recall. Mindful dishwashers evidenced greater state mindful-
ness, increases in elements of positive affect (i.e., inspiration),
decreases in elements of negative affect (i.e., nervousness),
and overestimations of dishwashing time. Implications for
these findings are diverse and suggest that mindfulness as
well as positive affect could be cultivated through intention-
ally engaging in a broad range of activities.
Keywords Mindfulness
.
Well-being
.
Positive affect
.
Negative affect
.
Time perception
.
Dishwashing
Introduction
Recent evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness has
fueled efforts to understand how traditional mindfulness
practices manifest in daily life. Mindfulness, conceptualized
as the capacity to purposefully sustain attention on an object,
such as the breath, without attachment to, or pursuit of, tran-
sitory cognitive or emotional experiences (Brown and Cordon
2009; Dreyfus 2011), can be developed through sustained
practice (Carmody and Baer 2008) and has been linked with
improved well-being (Brown and Ryan 2003; Carmody and
Baer 2008), executive functioning (Moore and Malinowski
2009;Zeidanetal.2012), and emotional regulation (Jazaieri
et al. 2013), as well as reduced cognitive bias (Garland and
Howard 2013) and clinical symptomology (Black et al. 2012;
Grossman et al. 2004; Hofmann et al. 2011). Importantly, the
term mindfulness is used in at least four distinct ways within
the literature: a dispositional tendency, a mental state, a kind of
meditation practice, and a type of therapeutic intervention
(Vago and Silbersweig 2012).
However, what constitutes a mindfulness practice and what
practices or activities could be plausibly used to cultivate
mindful states is muddled by a variety of mindfulness prac-
tices based on, at times, opposing schools of thought. The
majority of mindfulness research has focused primarily on
modern interventions like mindfulness-based stress reduction
(Kabat-Zinn 1990) or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
(Segal et al. 2002), which combine formal mindfulness med-
itation practices (e.g., mindfulness of the breath) with informal
mindfulness practices (e.g., mindfulness of everyday activi-
ties) to foster participant mindfulness. In contrast, most labo-
ratory studies of mindfulness h ave used formal mindful
breathing inductions to induce the state of mindfulness (e.g.,
Jha et al. 2007;Krameretal.2013).
Though informal mindfulness practices are integral to
mindfulness-based interventions, little, if any, experimental
investigation of such practices has taken place to date. This
oversight is unfortunate given the apparent goal of mindful-
ness practice being a more full engagement with the varied
activiti es of life (Ha nh 19 75), which for most Western
A. W. Hanley (*)
:
A. R. Warner
:
V. M. Dehili
:
A. I. Canto
Educational Psychology & Learning Systems, 3210 Stone Building,
PO Box 3064453, T allahassee, FL 32306-4453, USA
e-mail: awh10d@my.fsu.edu
E. L. Garland
Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah,
Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103
DOI 10.1007/s12671-014-0360-9
practitioners involves a significant amount of time each day
away from formal mindfulness practices (e.g., off the [med-
itation] cushion”—encouraged by Hanh (1975)andKabat-
Zinn (1993)). It may be that informal mindfulness practices, as
more closely aligned with daily experience, could facilitate
greater state to trait consolidation of mindfulness. Indeed,
Thompson and Waltz (2007)suggesteveryday mindfulness
as a tendency towards maintaining the open, accepting, pres-
ent focus of attention during day-to-day life (Thompson and
Waltz 2007, p. 1876). Hypothetically, mindfulness of every-
day life activities may enhance situational awareness of sen-
sory details, enhance affective experience during task perfor-
mance, and possibly even influence the perception of how
much time has passed during the activity.
Specifically, two recent studies indicate that mindfulness
leads to overestimations of time intervals (Berkovich-Ohana
et al. 2012; Kramer et al. 2013); such alterations in time
perception are theorized to be adaptive and associated with
Common models of time perception rely on two primary
components, a pacemaker and an attentional gate
(Kramer et al. 2013, p. 847). The pacemaker emits rhythmic
pulses, which the attentional gate collects. The more pulses
collected by the attentional gate, the greater the estimation of
time. However, the subjective experience of time can be
altered by arousal or distraction. Arousal increases the pace-
makers pulse rate, thus encouraging overestimation of time
spent on an activity. Distraction decreases the likelihood of
pulse collection. Thus, the focused attention associated with
mindfulness practices would be expected to result in a greater
accumulation of pulses and consequently an overestimation of
time spent on an activity. As some researchers have found
meditation to reduce arousal (e.g., Vujanovic et al. 2010)and
improve attentional awareness (Jha et al. 2007; Slagter et al.
2007), it is hypothesized that overestimations of time in mind-
ful states can be attributed to an enhanced attentional aware-
ness as a higher percentage of pulses are attended to and
collected by the attentional gate (Glicksohn 2001;Kramer
et al. 2013). Indeed, both Kramer et al. (2013)aswellas
Berkovich-Ohana et al. (2012) found mindfulness to increase
time overestimation in laboratory-based mindfulness studies.
However, as expected given the dearth of research on informal
meditation practices, there have been no studies to date inves-
tigating the effect of mindfully undertaking an everyday task
on time estimations.
Informal practices, such as mindful dishwashing, or other
forms of mindful manual labor (e.g., the classical chop wood,
carry water instruction in Zen), have been offered in contem-
plative texts. Hanh and Cheung (2010) specifically addressed
mindful eating at length in a recent book, and Hanhs(1975)
Miracle of Mindfulness of
fers explicit instruction on a diver-
sity of informal mindfulness practices: walking, conversing,
drinking tea, washing clothes, housekeeping, and even
bathing. Dishwashing was chosen as the target of this study
given the abundance of sensory experiences associated with
washing dishes (e.g., water temperature, smell of the soap,
dish shape and design), Hanhs(1975) vivid description of
mindful dishwashing, and its place within the monastic life-
style, as well as the general commonality of dishwashing
experience. Moreover, dishwashing can be easily standardized
and the task can be used to derive objective measures of
mindful sensory awareness (e.g., number of dishes counted,
scent of the soap).
It may also be that informal practices are more accessible to
a wider range of people as they may appear more secularized,
carrying fewer religious associations. Furthermore, informal
practices could conceivably be incorporated into any activity,
from leisure pursuits to vocational responsibilities. Yet, how
mindfulness interacts with daily living tasks or if daily living
tasks could be used as mindful practices has not been directly
addressed by the scientific literature. As such, this study sought
to investigate whether the act of washing dishes could be used
as an informal contemplative practice to promote the state of
mindfulness and attendant emotional and attentional phenom-
ena. We hypothesized that mindful dishwashing instruction
would be associated with higher state mindfulness, situational
awareness, and positive af fect, as well as less negative affect,
when compared with a descriptive dishwashing control condi-
tion. Given that trait well-being and positive affect have been
previously associated with state and trait mindfulness
(Carmody and Baer 2008; Eberth and Sedlmeier 2012), we
controlled for th ese pot en tial c onfoun ds in ou r ana lysis .
Secondarily, we hypothesized that participants in the mindful
washing condition would be better able to recall the details of
their dishwashing experience (e.g., number of dishes washed,
scent of the soap). Finally, in light of evidence suggesting that
formal mindfulness practices result in perceived slowing of the
passage of time (Berkovich-Ohana et al. 2012;Krameretal.
2013), we hypothesized that mindful dishwashing would lead
to overestimation of time spent during this task.
Method
Participants
Participants were 51 undergraduate students registered for a
class in the College of Education at a large southeastern
university. The average participant age was 20.24 (SD=
(65 %) completing this study. The majority of respondents
identified as White/Caucasian (69 %), Afr ican-American
(18 %), or Hispanic (14 %). Respondents were relatively
evenly dispersed across acade mic standing : freshman
(29 %), sopho more (24 %), junior (31 % ), and senior
(16 %). The most commonly reported majors were education
1096 Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103
(39 %), psychology (12 %), sports management (8 %), crim-
inology (8 %), and business (3 %). Participants religious
affiliations were most frequently identified as Roman
Catholic (39 %), Protestant Christian (22 %), none (16 %),
or as other (16 %).
Procedures
A brief description of this study, titled ABitof
Dishwashing, was posted online for recruitment purposes.
Mindfulness was not identified as a research theme in the
posted title or the online description, with the description
stating the studies intent was to better understand dishwashing
habits. Students received 0.5 h, of a required 2 research hours
per semester, for participating. Those students not choosing to
participate in research were offered the option of completing
other assignments of comparable length to fulfill their 2-h
research requirement. The universitys institutional review
board approved the study.
Following consent, participants completed the following
protocol in the same 0.5-h session. Participants completed the
Scales of Psychological Well-Being (a trait well-being mea-
sure), the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (a disposi-
tional mindfulness measure), and the Positive Affect and
Negative Affect Scale (an affect measure). Participants were
also asked a single question regarding their enjoyment of
washing dishes to control for differences in individual beliefs
about dishwashing during data analysis. Then, participants
were randomly assigned to read either a short mindfulness
dishwashing passage or a short descriptive dishwashing pas-
sage. The group randomly assigned to read the mindful pas-
sage included 26 participants, while the control group includ-
ed 25 participants. Baseline data indicated no significant dif-
ferences between the two groups before the intervention with
respect to demographic characteristics or the variab les of
interest (Table 1).
The descriptive dishwashing passage explicitly outlined
procedures for washing dishes, from filling the sink with water
to the order in which dishes should be washed.
Prepare the water, making sure you use the correct water
to begin dish washing. Wash the lightest soiled items
first, usually including glasses, cups, and flatware. Wash-
to tackle bigger jobs. Wash plates, bowls, and serving
dishes, remembering to scrape these items before wash-
ing. Wash gently and keep an eye out for when you
should change the dish washing water. Wash cooking
dishes. Any tough food should have been soaking al-
ready, making this dish washing go more smoothly.
Wash the pans thoroughly, an d youre done washing, but
dont forget to clean the bottoms of pans, as any oily
residue left will burn onto the bottom of the pan at the
next cooking session. Rinse the dish washing suds and
residue from the dishes. If you have a double sink, use the
second sink to rinse of the dish washing suds from the
dishes. If you dont have a double sink, you can use a dish
pan filled with hot water to rinse/dip your dishes clean. Dry
the dishesIf youve used the right water temperature, the
dishes will dry quickly on their own. In some instances,
you may have to use a dish towel. Make sure the towel is
clean, changing the towel when it becomes damp.
The mindful dishwashing passage was adapted from Hanh
(1975) and related the importance of presence while washing
Table 1 Between-group comparisons of demographics and variables of
interest at baseline
Mindful
(n=26)
Control (n=25)
t
Age (year) 0.62
Mean (SD) 20 (2.79) 20 (1.31)
χ
2
Gender 1.14
Female, n (%) 15 (58) 18 (72)
Race 2.30
White/Caucasian, n (%) 18 (69) 17 (68)
Latino, n (%) 2 (8) 5 (20)
Black/African-American,
n (%)
6(23) 3(12)
First year, n (%) 9 (35) 6 (24)
Sophomore, n (%) 6 (23) 6 (24)
Junior , n (%) 7 (27) 9 (36)
Senior , n (%) 4 (15) 4 (16)
Religious affiliation 5.06
Roman Catholic, n (%) 7 (27) 13 (52)
Protestant Christian, n (%) 12 (23) 6 (20)
None, n (%) 4 (15) 4 (16)
Jewish, n (%) 2 (27) 1 (4)
Other, n (%) 1 (8) 0 (0)
Dishwashing enjoyment 2.65
Yes, n (%) 5 (19) 10 (40)
F
Dispositional mindfulness 0.10
Mean (SD) 127.65 (18.03) 126.24 (913.29)
Psychological well-being 1.16
Mean (SD) 103.19 (12.73) 106.44 (8.28)
Positive affect 0.04
Mean (SD) 14.50 (4.02) 14.76 (4.99)
Negative affect 0.76
Mean (SD) 5.92 (1.13) 6.28 (1.74)
Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103 1097
dishes as reflective of the capacity to bring attention and
awareness to all areas of life:
While washing the dishes one should only be washing
the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes
one should be completely aware of the fact that one is
washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a
little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing?
But thats precisely the point. The fact that I am standing
there and washing is a wondrous reality. Im being
completely myself, following my breath, conscious of
my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions.
Theres no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a
bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
If while washing dishes, we think only of what we
would rather do, hurrying to finish the dishes as if they
were a nuisance, then we are not washing the dishes to
wash the dishes. Whats more, we are not alive during
the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are
completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life
while standing at the sink. If we cant wash the dishes,
the chances are we wont be able to drink our tea either.
While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking
of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands.
Thus we are sucked away into the futureand we are
incapable of actually living one minute of life.
Passages were matched for length (230 and 227 words,
ing, participants wrote their interpretation of the passage and
then explained their interpretation to the research assistant to
increase cognitive processing of the passage and to serve as a
manipulation check. Next, participants were timed as they
washed a set of dishes in the College of Educationsdaily
living skills lab. Each participant washed the same set of 18,
clean dishes. The dishes were prearranged in the same manner
for each participant, and the research assistant began timing
participants when they made their first move to either pick up
a dish or turn on the water. After washing, participants com-
pleted the Toronto Mindfulness Scale, a state mindfulness
measure, and the Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale,
an affect scale, before being asked to recall features of their
dishwashing experience (i.e., number of dishes washed, soap
smell, how long they spent washing dishes).
Measures
Psychological Well-Being
The Scales of Psychological Well-Being (SPWB; Ryff 1989)
consist of 18 items that are rated on a 7-point Likert scale from
1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). While the SPWB
consists of six unique dimensions (self-acceptance, purpose in
life, e nvironmental mastery, positive relations, personal
growth, and autonomy), we focused only on the total score.
The mean rating represents the total score with higher scores
reflecting greater trait well-being (α=0.77). The SPWB was
chosen as it assesses a broader conceptualization of well-being
(i.e., eudaimonic). In comparison, subjective well-being
(SWB), possibly a more common well-being construct, is
largely hedonic in its conceptualization and thought to result
primarily from positive affect and life satisfaction.
Dispositional Mindfulness
The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ; Baer et al.
2006) consists of 39 items that are rated on a 5-point Likert
scale from 1 (never or very rarely true) to 7 (very often or
always true). While the FFMQ consists of five unique dimen-
sions (i.e., observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-
judging, and non-reacting), because it served as a covariate in
the present study and was not a primary dependent variable,
we focused only on the total score. The mean rating across all
the scores represents the total score with higher scores
reflecting greater trait mindfulness (α=0.84).
Affective State
The Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS;
Watson et al. 1988) short form consist of ten adjectives that
are rated on a 6-point Likert scale from 0 (very slightly or not
at all) to 5 (extremely). A total negative affect score is derived
by taking the mean rating across all the negatively valenced
adjectives (upset, hostile, ashamed, nervous, and afraid; α=
0.83) whereas a total positive affect score is derived by taking
the mean rating across all the positively valenced adjectives
(alert, inspired, determined, attentive, and active; α=0.87).
The specific positive and negative affective items will also
be examined to more directly investigate between group af-
fective differences (e.g., Schimmack
2003;
Vinson and Arelli
2006).
State Mindfulness
The Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS; Lau et al. 2006)con-
sists of 13 items that are rated on a 5-point Likert scale from 0
(not at all) to 4 (very much). The TMS was designed to
measure the experience of mindful states, sp ecifically
prompting reflection following engagement with a designated
mindfulness practice (Carmody et al. 2008; Lau et al. 2006).
The TMS is commonly employed independently as a post-test
measure (e.g., Bonamo et al. 2014; Feldman et al. 2010;
Ortner et al. 2007) as well as a manipulation check following
mindfulness-based interventions (e.g., Alberts and Thewissen
2011). Two unique dimensions are measured by the TMS,
1098 Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103
curiosity (e.g., I was curious about my reactions to things; α=
0.83) and decentering (e.g., I was aware of my thoughts and
feelings without overidentifying with them; α=0.83). The
summed rating across all the scores represents the total score
with higher scores reflecting greater state mindfulness (α=
0.88). For the purposes of this study, the TMS was used
primarily as a manipulati on check and as a standardized
means of describing and differentiating phenomenological
experience during mindful and non-mindful dishwashing.
Dishwashing Enjoyment
Participants enjoyment of dishwashing was assessed with a
single, dichotomous item: Do you enjoy washing dishes?
This variable was used as a covariate in regression analyses.
Situational and Time Awareness
Situational awareness was assessed with two items measuring
participants ability to recall details of the dishwashing expe-
rience: (1) Please estimate how many objects you washed
and (2) What did the soap smell like?
Participants time awareness was assessed with a single
item: Please estimate how long you washed dishes?
For the three situational and time awareness items, partic-
ipants were provided with a free response space in which they
typed their responses.
Results
Effects of the Induction on State Mindfulness
Multiple regression analyses were used to test if experimental
condition significantly predicted participants state mindful-
ness during the dishwashing task, after controlling for partic-
ipants reported enjoyment of dishwashing, trait well-being,
trait mindfulness, and affective state. Given the established
associations between mindf ulnes s, well-being, and affect
(Carmody and Baer 2008; Eberth and Sedlmeier 2012)along
with the observed relationships in this sample (Table 2), these
variables, as well as participants enjoyment of dishwashing,
were controlled for in three regression models to reduce the
possibility of a spurious association between participant con-
dition and state mindfulness.
Controlling for these variables allowed for specific exam-
ination of the unique effect of the dishwashing task on total
state mindfulness, the curiosity state mindfulness dimension,
and the decentering state mindfulness dimension (Table 3).
Controlling for this set of covariates, the experimental condi-
tion significantly predicted total state mindfulness, F(6,50)=
2.87, p=0.02, and the curiosity dimension F(6,50)=3.75, p=
0.004, but not the decentering dimension F(6,50)=1.55, p=
0.19. This set of predictors explained 28 % of the variance in
state mindfulness scores and 34 % of the variance in curiosity
scores. In both significant regression models, pre-test positive
affect (β=0.38, p=0.01; β=0.39, p=0.006) and experimental
condition (β
=0.34, p=0
.02; β=0.43, p=0.002) were signifi-
cant predictors of state mindfulness.
In support of our hypothesis, individuals in the mindful
dishwashing condition repo rted s ignificantly greater state
mindfulness during the dishwashing task than those in the
control condition. The results of the regression analysis sug-
gest that when dishwashing enjoyment, trait mindfulness, trait
well-being, and affective state are controlled for, engaging in
dishwashing as an informal contemplative task is significantly
associated with greater levels of state mindfulness than
dishwashing in the absence of mindfulness instruction.
Effects of the Induction on Situational and Time Awareness
A one-way ANOVAwas used to test if participants differed by
experimental condition on their ability to recall the number of
dishes washed and the scent of the soap as well as their
accuracy in estimating the amount of time spent washing
dishes.
The main effects for participants recall of the number of
dishes washed, F(1,50)=1.39, p=0.24, and the scent of the
soap, F (1 ,50 )=0.88, p=0.35, were not significant. Thus,
mindfully washing dishes did not appear to be associated with
participants ability to recall task-related details.
A significant main effect by experimental condition was
found for participants estimation of time spent washing
dishes, F(1,50)=4.45, p=0.04 (Fig. 1). Participants in the
mindfulness condition estimated spending significantly longer
washing dishes (M=8:01, minutes:seconds; SD=3:28) in
comparison with participants in the control condition (M=
6:19, SD=2:06), despite the two groups evidencing no signif-
icant difference on the amount of time they actually spent
washing dishes, F(1,47)=0.879, p=0.35: mindful condition
(M=6:16, SD=1:56) and control condition (M=6:51, SD=
2:23). These results suggest that mindfully washing dishes
affected participants perception of time, such that they
Table 2 Correlation matrix for the primary control variables
Va r i ab le 1 2 3
1 Psychological well-being
2 Dispositional mindfulness 0.53**
3 State positive affect 0.31* 0.20
4 State negative affect 0.10 0.04 0.25
*p<0.05; **p<0.001
Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103 1099
overestimated their dishwashing time when undertaken
mindfully.
Effects of the Induction on Positive and Negative Affect
Despite a non-significant time X condition interaction on
composite scores for positive affect, F(1,49)=1.90, p=0.17,
and negative affect, F(1,49)=2.01, p=0.16, the observed
mean changes in affect following induction were in the ex-
pected direction. Participants receiving generic washing in-
struction exhibited no negative (T
1
6.28, SD=1.74; T
2
6.48,
SD=3.08; Cohens d=0.09) or positive (T
1
14.76, SD=4.99;
T
2
14.84, SD=4.60; Cohens d=0.02) affective change across
time whereas the mindful washing participants demonstrated
modest, but non-significant, decreases in negative affect (T
1
5.92, SD=1.13; T
2
5.42, SD=0.76; Cohens d=0.52) and
increases in positive affect (T
1
14.50, SD=4.02; T
2
15.69,
SD=5.06; Cohens d=0.26). Because informal mindfulness
practice might produce emotion-specific effects, paired sam-
ples t tests were used to explore changes in individual affec-
tive state items. In that regard, participants in the mindful
dishwashing condition reported significantly decreased rat-
ings of nervousness, (T
1
1.69, SD=0.88; T
2
1.23, SD=0.59;
Cohens d=0.61) t(25)=3.33, p=0.003, and significantly in-
creased ratings of inspiration, (T
1
2.12, SD=1.14; T
2
2.65,
SD=1.36; Cohens d=0.42) t(25)=2.41, p=0.02. The remain-
ing specific affective state differences were non-significant,
but largely in the expected directions.
Notably, an aggregated bi-variate correlation analysis re-
vealed a significant relationship between positive affect and
estimated time spent washing dishes, r=0.29, p=0.04, such
that overestimation of time spent dishwashing was related to
greater increases in positive affect irrespective of experimental
condition. However, a mediation model in which the effect of
state mindfulness on positive affect could be mediated by time
estimation was found to be non-significant (p>0.10).
Discussion
This study explored the effectiveness of using an everyday
activity, dishwashing, as a mindfulness practice. Despite the
brevity of both the mindfulness instruction (a two-paragraph
passage) and the dishwashing practice (approximately 6 min),
results indicate that mindfully washing dishes is positively
Table 3 Predictors of state mindfulness
Variable State mindfulness Curiosity Decentering
Step 1 Step 2 Step 1 Step 2 Step 1 Step 2
ββββββ
Step 1
Enjoyment 0.16 0.22 0.17 0.26 0.11 0.15
Psychological well-being 0.02 0.06 0.10 0.01 0.07 0.11
Dispositional mindfulness 0.02 0.07 0.05 0.01 0.10 0.12
State positive affect 0.40* 0.38* 0.41** 0.39** 0.31* 0.30
State negative affect 0.03 0.09 0.05 0.2 0.10 0.13
Step 2
Experimental condition 0.34* 0.43** 0.19
R
2
0.18 0.28* 0.18 0.34** 0.14 0.17
F 1.97 2.87 1.91 3.75 1.51 1.55
ΔR
2
0.10* 0.16* 0.03
ΔF 6.21 10.85 1.64
*p<0.05; **p<0.01
Fig. 1 Between group estimated and observed time differences (±1
standard deviation)
1100 Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103
associated with state mindfulness, promoted elements of pos-
itive affect, and decreased elements of negative affect. The
effects of informal practice were most pronounced on the
curiosity dimension of state mindfulness. Thus, it appears that
an everyday activity approached with intentionality and
awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness. Results
further indicate that mindful dishwashers experienced affec-
tive change in the expected direction, but to a non-significant
degree. However, this non-significance may be due to an
insufficient sample size and increasing power may yield sig-
nificant results. Nevertheless, engaging in mindful
dishwashing significantly reduced nervousness and promoted
feelings of inspiration. It is interesting to note that a task
potentially construed as unpleasant or a chore can be expe-
rienced as reducing nervousness and being inspirational by
simply shifting ones approach to the task and quality of
attention. That mindfulness practices elevate mindfulness,
encourage positive affect, and decrease negative affect is well
established; however, that these changes were associated with
the coupling of a mindful practice with an everyday task is a
novel finding.
Furthermore, mindful dishwashing appeared to affect par-
ticipants perception of time, such that participants
overestimated the length of time they spent washing dishes
in the mindful washing condition. While the effect of mind-
fulness on time perception has only begun to be empirically
addressed, our results are consistent with recently published
findings indicating that mindfulness can slow the perceived
passage of time (Berkovich-Ohana et al. 2012; Kramer et al.
2013). Parallels with this finding can also be observed in the
literature on flow states (i.e., holistic sensation that people
feel when they act with total involvement (Csikszentmihalyi
1975, p. 36)), consistently reporting time distortionsboth
over and under estimationsin individuals fully attending to
a specific activity (e.g., Jackson and Marsh 1996).
intertwined with Western conceptualizations of emotion and
the self (e.g., depression driven by the past, PTSD by the
disruptions in the present, and anxiety by the future). She
suggests that mindful practices may break rigid autobiograph-
ical narratives by encouraging contact with the present, lived
p. 146). Thus, shifting ones perception of time and, conceiv-
ably, ones orientation to the concept of time may have sig-
nificant effects on well-being. In preliminary support of this
claim, we found that the subjective experience of time dilation
during the dishwashing task was associated with greater pos-
itive affective experience following the task. However, our
non-significant mediation model suggests further work is
needed to clarify this relationship.
Implications for these findings are diverse and suggest that
mindfulness could be cultivated through a broad range of
activities. It may be that Hanhs(1975) list of p ossible
informal practices (e.g., talking, walking, eating) represents
only a fraction of the activities that could be used to cultivate
mindfulness. Consciously bringing mindful awareness to lei-
sure or vocational activities may serve to encourage mindful-
ness and positive affect. Indeed, as mindfully engaging in
work activities has already been shown to enhance perfor-
mance (Dane and Brummel 2013; Shao and Skarlicki 2009),
mindfulness could play a multifaceted role in the workplace.
Furthermore, inclusion of informal practices into mindfulness
training may make mindfulness accessible to more people and
ease the integration of mindful practices in necessarily secular
organizations (e.g., public schools). Relatedly, these findings
suggest that mindful practices need not be left on the cush-
ion but could be embedded in any activity. It is possible that
embedding mindful practices in daily living tasks could more
readily facilitate the conso lidation of mindfulness from a
tr
ansient mental state to a more durable trait-like disposition.
It may be that practicing in real time might serve to more
quickly integra te the attentional and regulatory capacities
cultivated in traditional mindful practices in daily life. Or, as
is more likely the case, it may be that coupling formal mindful-
ness meditation with informal mindfulness practices is the most
effective approach to deepen mindful dispositionality while
fostering positive affectivity and psychological well-being.
While our results are promising, limitations should be
noted and considerably more exploration of informal mind-
fulness practices is needed. We cannot assert that informal
practice caused an increase in state mindfulness without mea-
suring state mindfulness before and after the inductions.
However, measurement of state mindfulness prior to induction
would have been inappropriate given the intent of the partic-
ular scale employed in this study. The TMS was designed to
be implemented immediately following a mindfulness medi-
tation session to describe the phenomenological experience
during the session (Lau et al. 2006). Relatedly, the control
condition instructions may have led participants to be less
curious about their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations
during the dishwashing experience. Thus, the present study
design cannot determine whether the mindful dishwashing
condition increased state mindfulness or whether the control
condition decreased mindfulnesseither outcome might have
produced the relative difference in state mindfulness observed
between study conditions. Future studies should employ pre-
post measures of state mindfulness as well as less reactive
indices of mindfulness (e.g., physiological measures or
neurocognitive tasks) to more accurately assess participants
mindfulness. Moreover, longitudinal studies should use re-
peated measures of state mindfulness following multiple ses-
sions of informal mindfulness practice to determine whether
state mindfulness increases as a linear function of practice
experience.
That the mindful dishwashing passage may have implicitly
suggested the subjective experience of expansion of time by
Mindfulness (2015) 6:10951103 1101
applying negative connotations to hurrying or rushing through
activities is a further limitation of this study. Future research
should guard against potential confounds introduced by the
wording of passages used for experimental manipulations. In
that regard, it is possible that participant responses to the
mindful dishwashing induction in the present study may have
resulted more from the demand characteristics of the passage
than from an induced mindful state, per se. The ecological
validity of this study should also be considered given partic-
ipants washed clean dishes in a laboratory setting. It is unclear
if these results would be replicated with dirty dishes in an in-
home dishwashing experience. Finally, gender should be thor-
oughly investigated given previous evidence that mindfulness
interventions are more effective for women (e.g., Shapiro et al.
2006) and the sample size in this study did not allow for
gender-specific analyses.
Finally, research should investigate the efficacy of a variety
of other informal mindful practices as well as more diverse
populations to address the generalizability of our results.
effects of formal versus informal practices on state to trait
consolidation of mindfulness over time and whether such
consolidation results in enduring benefits with respect to
cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being. As an initial
step in this proposed research program, the current study
offers preliminary support for the feasibility and benefits of
using everyday tasks as informal mindfulness practices.
Acknowledgments The authors would like to extend a special thanks
to Dr. Sandra Lewis for the use of the lab facilities.
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... Formal practice, such as meditation, is a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention (Hanh, 1976;Kabat-Zinn, 2003;Mason et al., 2019). An informal practice involves using mindful awareness in daily activities, such as eating, walking, dishwashing, or exercising (Hanley et al., 2015;Birtwell et al., 2019;Shankland et al., 2020). Recent studies have shown that both formal and informal MP were associated with low stress and increased mental health (Hanley et al., 2015;Yang et al., 2018;Birtwell et al., 2019;Shankland et al., 2020). ...
... An informal practice involves using mindful awareness in daily activities, such as eating, walking, dishwashing, or exercising (Hanley et al., 2015;Birtwell et al., 2019;Shankland et al., 2020). Recent studies have shown that both formal and informal MP were associated with low stress and increased mental health (Hanley et al., 2015;Yang et al., 2018;Birtwell et al., 2019;Shankland et al., 2020). For example, Birtwell et al. (2019) collected data from 218 adults who were practicing mindfulness and found that both formal and informal practice had significant positive effects on mental well-being. ...
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Based on research associating mindfulness with improvements in well-being, attention, and memory processes, brief mindfulness exercises may be helpful in enhancing the encoding of novel semantic information. We used a Swahili-English word pair association task to examine whether engaging in a brief mindfulness exercise enhanced the encoding of Swahili-English word pairs, thus improving long-term recall. Female undergraduate students at a midwestern university (N = 136) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: engaging in a 20-min body scan meditation, a 45-min body scan meditation, or a no-treatment control group prior to learning Swahili-English word pairs. Analyses of variance showed significantly more words recalled by members of the 20-and 45-min groups compared to members of the control group. A separate analysis of variance showed no difference in the level of state mindfulness across groups. However, a follow-up analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) controlling for symptoms of depression and anxiety, attention problems, and trait mindfulness showed that compared to the control group, self-reported mean levels of state mindfulness were significantly higher after the meditation exercise for the 20-min group, with no difference between the control and 45-min group. No group differences were found across the three groups on changes in self-report ratings of state anxiety.
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