“Cooking can help your mental health?” you wonder. Can you really manage your anxiety and/or depression by simply preparing your own meals? After a long day, maybe the last thing you feel like doing is putting together a meal, then having to clean up. But let’s take a closer look at cooking and how it can help your mental health.
For one thing, the process of chopping, stirring, tasting, and even cleaning can be meditative, introspective, calming, and just what you need to clear your mind. Maybe you’ve heard the zen instructive: “When you cook, just cook. When you wash dishes, just wash the dishes.”
Cooking has been described by aficionados as “therapeutic, cleansing, nourishing, centering,” and as “nothing else you will do at any other time of your day.”
Preparing a meal as a therapeutic exercise is also known as culinary therapy, therapeutic cooking, and culinary mindfulness. But at the end of the day, can cooking really help your mental health?
Here are nine reasons you might want to give it a try:
Patience may or may not be a virtue, but in a world where everyone needs to have everything right this minute, patience can instill a refreshing sense of calm in you. Think of patience as a super power, if you will. It means emotional freedom, allowing you to calmly observe, pause, and know when the ideal time to act is.
Getting organizedYou might start with simple recipes, but eventually, a sense of what flavors go well together will become second nature. You will also learn another level of organization–when you start planning your meals for the week and go to the store, you’ll better know what ingredients you already have in the pantry, which will help you with the grocery budget, eating healthier, and staying organized.
Helping you nurture a healthier relationship with food.
You might not have considered it, but learning how to prepare meals yourself can improve how you think about and approach food and eating. Teaching yourself how to cook not only boosts your confidence, but planning your meals in advance really gives you a victory over that feeling of not knowing what to do when it’s dinnertime.
Exercising your creativity.
You may wonder what is so creative about cooking, but you’ll be surprised. Speaking of creativity, by getting your creative juices flowing, you not only refine those skills, you bolster your own mental health. Try it sometime. Drawing, singing, writing… cooking. You’ll see for yourself why creative people are happier people. As you prepare a meal, regardless of what recipe you’re using, try swapping out different ingredients, like substituting cauliflower for potatoes in this recipe for cauliflower mashed potatoes.
Sparking that sense of accomplishment
Whenever you prepare a meal for yourself or someone else, you set a short-term achievable goal for yourself – then you accomplish it. This is otherwise known as behavioral activation, a method used to treat anxiety and depression by increasing a subject’s proximity to a “payoff” or reward. Behavioral activation can also be implemented to overcome procrastination with reinforced goal-driven outcomes. You can try out whatever recipe or meal planner fits your skill level and voila! Dinner is served, and your self-esteem is boosted.
Clean, healthy living.
Do you have health goals? Just start out cooking for yourself a couple of nights every week, then work your way up to more. Those who prepare their own meals tend to eat healthier than those who go out to eat more often. Keep in mind that 95 percent of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, your pain tolerance level, and your sleep) is generated in your gastrointestinal tract. Eating healthier also improves your mental health.
Control over how you spend your time.
Nothing boosts your self-esteem more than feeling like you’re in control of things. Cooking for yourself will help you manage and allocate your time better, giving you a better sense of having a grip on your day rather than wandering without objectives through it.
Sense of purpose.
You’re now on track to a feeling of purpose, direction, and determination, which is another way to feel more in control of your time and your day. No more wandering to the nearest fast food restaurant to get your dinner through the drive through. You know what you’re doing, and control how your meals come about.
Better budget control.
Eating out less for dinner, and having leftovers ready to take to work the next day will help you keep more of a handle on your finances. It will also save you time and gas because you’ll be driving around less.
The truth is that culinary therapy is being used in treatment methodology for various mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, and eating disorders–the very process of mindfully preparing a good meal can nourish your psychological well-being.
Taking it a step further, preparing a meal with your partner can smooth communications and teamwork by setting aside differences in order to accomplish a mutual goal. It’s also a chance to work on conflict resolution skills when differences in taste and likes arise. Make it a date night!
Are you anxious about your lack of sleep? Is your lack of sleep making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.