How Washing the Dishes Restored My Happiness

dv1449023Ugh, there they sat, a sink full of dirty stinky dishes…and I (as usual) was the only one to do them. Dear hubby had piled his breakfast mess in the sink and left for the office, and now I had to clean them up. It took me half an hour just to get as far as the kitchen; my body felt as though I had been run over in the middle of the night by a steamroller. My joints ached, my hands were sore and swollen, and the soles of me feet felt bruised, as I slowly walked across the hardwood floor. I had been in bed for 10 hours straight and yet I felt as though I had just run a marathon, and now, I had to do someone else’s dishes!

I could feel my already tense shoulders grow even more rigid and my heart-rate start to increase as the anger and resentment began to pool in my brain. As I angrily flipped on the water and began taking my rage out on the dishes, I realized that the only things that were going to come out of this activity, were a). me feeling sorry for myself and b). me staying pissed off at my husband all day. Neither of which were going to do me, or my aching body, any good. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as though I hadn’t done both of those things plenty of times before, but I was SO beyond exhausted, that even I was tired of that routine. It was time for something to change.

So, I took a monumental mental step back, one that has forever changed my health and my happiness. I took a deep breath and did something I had never done before…I led with gratitude. I had heard (probably while watching Oprah) that when gratitude is present in our thoughts, it crowds out all feelings of resentment and anger. The theory is that, if gratitude is an active thought, it is actually impossible to have thoughts to the contrary (anger, resentment, etc.). So, I took a deep breath and decided to give it a whirl. I started with the simple things. I thought, “I’m grateful to have a house with running water”…hmm, ok, not bad…I looked out the window and saw the snow on the ground and thought “I’m grateful for a warm house to do the dishes in”…alright, yes, that feels…good. My previously racing mind slowed a little and I turned my attention on the dishes themselves. I remembered receiving the silverware as a wedding gift. Suddenly I felt a rush of love thinking about the person who gave it to us. My crusty heart softened as I thought about each dish as my hands moved over the slick surface. I remembered the day hubby and I picked the plates out at that enormous Scandinavian store and smiled. I examined the food remnants as I washed, and felt happy and proud that my husband took the time to make a healthy and nourishing breakfast for himself, especially since he’d been trying to adopt some of my healthier eating habits. I paused and felt even more love fill my heart. I focused my attention on the water running over my fingers and realized it felt nice. I added a little more soap which coated my hands in a soft cloud of suds, and as I washed the last plate, I noticed that the soreness in my knuckles was less intense now. As I dried the dishes, I was no longer pissed that my “lazy” husband “selfishly” left his mess for me, and reminded myself that he was not the type to be lazy or selfish. I realized he was probably in a hurry to get to a job he had to commute an hour to. A job he didn’t care for very much, but  a job he nonetheless worked very hard at, in order to provide this house and these dishes. My heart swelled with love and pride and even more gratitude. As I put the dishes away, I typed out a text to hubby to tell him that I love him, and I noticed my fingers were no longer sore, my neck and back felt looser and even the soles of my feet were less tender.

I could have easily stewed in my own anger and resentment all day, which most likely would have led to more physical pain and a wasted day of being a serious grump. I could have also saved up all that negativity for my hubby to deal with at the end of his long day, which most likely would have led to a stressful argument. I could have chosen to be pissed, and feel isolated, and mistreated – and worst of all, I could have easily allowed that to become a habit. Instead, I made the choice to lead with gratitude, and once I did that, not only did my day change, but so did my hubby’s. It was clear that if I can find love and comfort in doing the dishes, I can find love and comfort in anything.

I had always heard that happiness is a choice, but what I didn’t know until that day, was that it’s as easy as making just one choice. The minute that internal shift goes from resentment to gratitude, everything else looks a whole lot better. When you choose happiness on a regular basis, it becomes a habit and once it’s a part of your daily life, it no longer requires a conscious choice, it just exists. That is bliss…

So, whenever you feel those emotions of anger and resentment bubbling up, look for the things in life to be grateful for (which there is always an abundant supply), and focus your attention on just one – because, one is all it takes.