Science Says You Can Actually Get A Mental "Clean Slate" By Doing This One Thing

by Imani Brammer

There have been too many days when I've woken up from a restful sleep, only to lament the incomplete tasks from the day before.

I dwell over the work I didn't finish, the doubts about my performance, and the inescapable feeling that I may have wasted an entire day.

While practicing yoga or meditation in the morning usually helps, it's not always the quickest or the most effective fix.

However, according to a recent study, shaking off yesterday's troubles may not actually require anything as complex and involved as yoga or meditation.

Researchers at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management found that the simple act of cleaning your hands can actually affect what you're willing to let go of and how you're willing to proceed.

How It Works:

According to the research, cleaning your hands -- whether it be with soap and water, hand sanitizer, or even a wet wipe -- can help you shift the urgency of the goals you have in mind, by taking the focus off of previous tasks and directing it toward the present.

To get the ball rolling in the experiment, researchers asked participants to take a short survey that focused their attention on their goals — a process called “priming."

After that, they were asked to use a hand wipe. The results eventually showed that those who wiped their hands became less driven to pursue their previously primed goals, less likely to act in accordance with them, and more willing to move forward with the subsequently primed goal.

For example, those who had health goals, but wiped their hands were more likely to reach for the chocolate bar instead of the granola bar.


The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, shows that cleansing one's hands has effects on short-term goal pursuit rather than long-term goal pursuit.

Believe it or not, this study is not very far fetched. According to “How the Body Knows Its Mind,” by Sian Beilock, “Cleansing acts make us feel better about ourselves and help restore moral cleanliness. Sometimes it is as simple as washing one's hands of the situation.”

So, regarding your stress about yesterday, last week, or even last month, the next time you feel hung up on an incomplete goal, cut yourself some panic, do yourself a favor, and wash your hands.

Here's to leaving yesterday at the door and only welcoming what's to come. Here's to starting new, fresh and clean -- literally.

BRB. Gotta go wash my hands.