Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock
Source: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

The next time you're in the shower, notice where your mind goes. Like any routine activity—washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, driving, brushing our teeth—showering doesn’t require our full attention, so our brain is free to wander. And there are a few common directions it tends to go when it isn't fully occupied:

  • Worrying. "What if this happens?" "Will I be OK?" "Should I get that checked out?"
  • Replaying conversations. "Why did I say that?" "I can't believe she said that to me."
  • Practicing arguments we might have. "And if he says that, then I'll let him have it..."
  • Running through our to-do list. "If I start there, and then do that, I can get back home in time to...."
  • Criticizing ourselves for mistakes we’ve made. "Why wasn't I more careful? How could I have been so naive?"

What do all of these mental activities have in common? They take us outside of what’s actually happening, into our memory of the past or into an imagined future. As a result, we don’t experience much of what’s happening in the shower, and we may stress ourselves out unnecessarily.

Intentionally giving our full attention to our daily activities is a big component of mindfulness. Not surprisingly, multiple measures of mindfulness actually ask about our experience in the shower: For example, the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale asks how often you are "aware of how the water is running over my body" when you shower.

If you find that the shower tends to be a place of worry or stress, you can start to use that time each day to do something different. As antiquated a term as it is, I do like the idea of “mental hygiene”—every day as we practice the physical hygiene of washing our bodies, we can practice wellness for our minds, too.

There are a lot of sensory experiences in the shower that we usually take for granted. We can remind ourselves to pay attention to these experiences, such as:

  • The sound of the water
  • The feeling of the water on our bodies
  • The warmth and wetness of the air
  • The smell of the soap and shampoo
  • The sensation of our feet on the bottom of the tub or stall

When we fully experience our time in the shower, chances are we will find that it’s a pretty great experience. Just by paying attention to what’s actually going on, we break free from problematic tendencies of the mind, like worrying about the future or ruminating on the past.

gfpeck/flickr
Source: gfpeck/flickr

Bringing our full awareness into the present moment can break the habit of trying to do something besides simply being where we are. As long as we’re showering, our sole purpose is to be in the shower.

Maybe the shower isn’t where your mind tends to get itself into trouble; maybe it happens while you’re chopping vegetables, driving to work, or exercising. Wherever it happens, though, we can notice when our minds go to unhelpful places, and gently bring them back to where we really are.

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