In the Broadway musical South Pacific, lead character Nellie sings, “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair” as a way to get past frustrations from a romantic entanglement. Now, University of Michigan researchers have found that washing the body actually relieves the mind of some negative thoughts.
“Cleansing is about the removal of residues,” said researcher Spike W.S. Lee. “By even just thinking about washing themselves, people can rid themselves of a sense of immorality, lucky or unlucky feelings, or doubt about a decision.”
The researchers looked at multiple studies on the subject for their study, which was published in the latest issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science. Among the revelations were that when people were clean, they tended to feel better about things. In addition, when people were exposed to a dirty setting or a foul odor, they judged others more harshly. Those who viewed themselves as physically clean also tended to feel “morally superior.”
“Cleansing removes the residual influence of earlier experience,” Lee said.
Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.