Now Wash Your Hands

This post is part of
my ‘This is my real life’ week.  

To read how that
began, you can
click here for the opening post.

To read the first post
in the series, you can
click here.

One of the things that irritates me most in life are the
signs on toilet doors that instruct ‘Now wash your hands’.  To be clear, I mean irritate, not full-blown
annoyance; I’ll reserve that for more serious and significant matters than
this.  Still these signs are one of life’s
bugbears.  I’m no rebel (eating a chocolate
bar not purchased on the premises whilst in a coffee shop last Monday made me
feel naughty, even though I had bought a drink from them), but being given this
instruction makes me want to refuse.  I’m
almost tempted to feel a bit gross and potentially spread nasty germs around
simply because the condescending tone irks me.

This urge to not wash my hands when I see these signs runs
completely counter to my general attitude to the issue.  I am a big fan of handwashing.  I am also aware of how facile that statement sounds,
like a glib quotation from a celebrity lifestyle advice, but hear me out on

I’ve found that handwashing is a great little mind-trick in
all sorts of situations.  I allude to
this in my previous post about resetting
your day
, where I list it as one of the steps to help you start over when
things aren’t going well.  Even without
the other actions, though, handwashing can have an affect beyond the obvious
one of hygiene.  

Cleanliness is undoubtedly part of it.  Even though many of us don’t get our hands
particularly dirty in the course of day-to-day life, it can be surprising how
good it feels – how clean – if we wash our hands after doing an activity.  I first noticed this when I started regularly
doing a long commute in my car.  Often
when I got home, I’d be seized by a strange urge to thoroughly clean my
hands.  Immediately some of the fatigue
and stress from the journey would evaporate.

The metaphorical aspects of this are pretty obvious.  If you’ve been doing something challenging
then you get a sense of washing it off yourself, rinsing yourself clean of the
issue, or sending the problem down the sink.

There’s also a meditative element.  Consciously choosing to wash our hands provides
a few moments where we can simply be present with the task itself, give it our
attention and focus.  Just let the water
flow, rub our hands, lather the soap, rinse it off.  Even if meditation doesn’t appeal to you,
consider trying this next time you need a bit of timeout.

Finally washing our hands is a natural demarcator.  Think of all the timeless activities that
involve handwashing at the start, end or both: preparing food, for instance, or
changing a baby’s soiled nappy.  This way
of marking opening and closing can be applied to anything in our lives; try it
whenever you have something you wish to begin or complete.

As you go
about your days, look out for any times when a good wash of your hands might be
just what you need.  Maybe you’ve been
snapping at your kids and just want to stop doing it.  Maybe you’ve been worrying about a problem at
work but know there’s nothing you can do until you go back on Monday.  Maybe a throwaway comment from a friend just
really pushed a button.  In all these
situation and more, it could be the simplest technique for letting go and
moving on.

Let me know how get on if you! If you’d like to share with
me then there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or
the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page – or you can email (

 This post is part of
my ‘This is my real life’ week.  

To read how that
began, you can
click here for the opening post.

To read the first post
in the series, you can
click here.

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