19.40 Wash Hands to Less doubt


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19/40 From the desk of Rabbi Brian




Hand Wash to Less Doubt!    

A little learning about relieving post-decisional dissonance

This article will offer a simple suggestion that just might alleviate you second guessing yourself so much!

The scientists call doubting yourself after making a decision post-decisional dissonance. Doesn’t that sound so much cooler than regret, doubt, or second-guessing?
The thrust of this article isn’t exactly spiritual-religious, but it’s close and so cool that I wanted to share it with you.
Scientists have long known that the act of ablution (washing yourself) makes people feel like they’ve washed away their sins. (Think: Lady Macbeth.)
We know that washing the self is a metaphorical action associated with cleansing the soul. Literally, you wash away the dirt, the grime, the germs – but in a spiritual sense, you also wash away the darkness, the black spots on your conscience, to arrive at a “clean slate.” (On a related note, when I wash my car – which I do far too infrequently – I somehow feel purified.)
Washing not only makes clean, but it helps you feel cleansed.
Makes sense, right?
A recent study reveals something more about washing your hands: When you’re trying to make a decision you’re ambivalent about, if you wash your hands after making the decision, you’ll feel less ambivalent.
Spike W. S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz conducted the study at the University of Michigan and wrote about it in Science Magazine. Here’s a quick summary of what happened:

  • The scientists asked undergraduate students to review a list of 30 CDs and rank them according to the top 10 they’d like to own.
  • They had the students choose between the 5th and 6th CDs on their ranked list, in order to receive one of those as a free gift.
  • The scientists asked some of the students to perform a seemingly unrelated task – rating soap. Some students were told to rate the soap only by looking at the packaging. Others rated the soap based on actually using it to wash their hands.
  • They found that students who washed their hands with soap felt less uncertain about their selected free CDs. There was less beating themselves up about their decisions. The students who had only looked at the soap packaging second-guessed themselves about which CDs they had chosen.

The moral of the story is: wash your hands.
I know it sounds silly, but try it.
Maybe washing creates a sense of calm?
(What do you have to lose besides doubt?)
Hey, you eat food frequently, right? Do you ever second-guess where you should go to eat, or what you’re going to eat? How about this: for the next week, after you decide where or what you’ll eat, wash your hands and see if you experience less doubt.
Judaism, the tradition in which I was trained, prescribes ritual hand washing before meals.  It you want to learn more about netilat yadayim (the lifting up of the hands), here’s a five minute video on the subject.  I’m not big on the details of the ritual washing — getting the prayer exact in Hebrew, using the special two-handled cup, etc. — as much as I’m in favor of hand washing in general and getting one’s intention in the right direction.

Spiritual-religious, but also hygienic, advice: Wash your hands before meals. 

With love,

Rabbi Brian

Rabbi Brian

The 77% Weekly

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