I really love cleaning my apartment. I love the sweeping, the mopping, even the act of picking up all of the bobby pins that are inexplicably all over the place. I'm not a neat freak when it comes to other people's stuff, but it feels so satisfying to have my space in order and to wake up to an organized environment. If you're in need of some serious stress relief but aren't in the mood to release the tension with a workout, you're in luck. According to experts, the simple act of cleaning your home can reduce your stress and bring you back to center.
Dr. Sal Raichbach, a licensed psychologist at Ambrosia Treatment Center, says the state of your personal space can definitely have an effect on your mental well-being. "Where you live is an extension of yourself, and it feels good to come home to a place that is tidy and organized," he tells Elite Daily in an email. "Even people who don't enjoy cleaning find that if they approach it as a form of self-care instead of a chore, it can be very therapeutic."
A fair amount research seems to confirm the link between cleaning and lower stress levels, as well. In a study of 60 dual-income spouses, published in the scientific Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, each person gave self-guided tours of their homes, and researchers analyzed the tours by "calculating the frequency of words describing clutter, a sense of the home as unfinished, restful words, and nature words." According to the study, the researchers found that those who described their home as more cluttered and stressful were more likely to experience a depressed mood throughout the day.
If you're familiar with cleaning consultant Marie Kondō's popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you've probably at least considered adopting a minimalist attitude toward the things you keep in your home. Kondō's theory on this, as described in her book, suggests asking yourself if the items around you "spark joy," and then letting go of the things that don't.
Elizabeth Su, a life coach, mindfulness expert, and certified yoga teacher, explains how important this mindset is in relieving stress. "Cleaning can be a beautiful practice of non-attachment and realizing that we are not defined by the things that surround us," she tells Elite Daily. "You can learn a lot about yourself by the simple act of decluttering and paying attention to what things truly hold meaning in your life."
Which makes sense, right? Since cleaning generally requires you to set aside a period of time without distractions like social media or other tasks on your to-do list, you have the opportunity to be alone with your thoughts — an opportunity that, I'm willing to bet, you normally don't get throughout your everyday routine.
According to Dr. Raichbach, the physical act of scrubbing or dusting something also contributes to the benefits of cleaning for your mental health. "By immersing yourself in a simple, repetitive action like dusting," he explains, "you're forcing your brain to shift gears away from stress. The task at hand becomes the focus, and it's much easier to let go of that extra baggage, like worry and anxiety."
If scrubbing the toilet isn't exactly your idea of a fun way to de-stress, try rethinking your approach to cleaning. "Take it step-by-step so you don’t get overwhelmed," suggests Dr. Raichbach. "When any project seems impossible, it’s always easier to break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks." Not only will this make each step feel less intimidating, he says, but it will also help keep you encouraged along the way. "The satisfaction of seeing your hard work becomes motivating, pushing you to move on to the next task."
Another way to bring a little fun into an afternoon of cleaning? Turn on your favorite playlist. "Making it a fun activity by listening to music while you clean can help," explains licensed marriage and family therapist and professional counselor Heidi McBain.
Personally, I find that choosing the right music can be really helpful for directing my mood during a cleaning session. If you're super stressed, I recommend checking out the Calm Vibes playlist on Spotify. And if you consider cleaning to be the absolute bane of your existence, try some Beyoncé. Nobody, no matter how much they hate vacuuming, can stay upset while dancing to the Queen Bey.