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.