Where does your mind go when you’re in the shower? Like any routine activity that doesn’t take our full attention — cutting the grass, unloading the dishwasher, flossing our teeth , driving— our brain is free to wander. And there are some common directions it tends to go when it isn’t fully occupied:
- Worrying: “What if the meeting goes badly?” “Why is my child struggling?” “Should I get that spot checked out?” “What if traffic’s a mess?”
- Replaying conversations: “I can’t believe I said that.” “He must think I’m an idiot.” “Why did she say that to me?”
- Practicing potential arguments: “I’ll just tell him that. And then if he says this, I’ll really let him have it….”
- Running through our to-do list: “I need to go there first, and then on the way back I stop there, and then still get back home in time to….”
- Berating ourselves for mistakes we’ve made: “Why wasn’t I more careful?” “How could I have been so stupid?” “I’m such a dope.”
All of these mental activities 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 probably cause ourselves unnecessary stress.
Intentionally giving our full attention to our daily activities is a big part of mindfulness—and 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 your 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. It’s an antiquated term but I do like the idea of “mental hygiene” — we can practice wellness for our minds even as we take care of the physical hygiene of washing our bodies.
What’s there to notice in the shower? Plenty—most of which we miss when we’re preoccupied with our mental activity. We can pay attention to experiences like:
- The many sounds of the water
- The feeling of the water striking and running down our bodies
- The warmth and wetness of the air
- The scents of the soap and shampoo
- The sensation of our feet on the bottom of the tub or stall
Chances are we’ll find it’s a pretty nice experience when we really take in our time in the shower. Just by paying attention to what’s real we can break free from problematic tendencies of the mind, like ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
If you’ve been drawn to the practice of mindfulness but found that meditation wasn’t your thing, consider using the shower as a place to practice bringing your full awareness into the present.
This type of practice can help us break the habit of trying to do something besides simply being where we are. As long as we’re showering, we can allow our bodies and minds 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 commuting to work, making dinner, or doing the dishes. Wherever it happens, we can notice when our minds run off to unhelpful places, and gently bring them back to where we really are.