Cooking can do more than help us practice mindfulness; it can also help us make meaningful connections ― not only with the people we’re cooking with or for, but people from our pasts as well. Julie Thompson – Taste Senior Editor, HuffPost
Cooking Can Be Therapetice
Cooking is therapeutic because of the psychological benefits one derives from it. A source of mindfulness and self-care with little to no cost.
Good Food Good Company
Food is medicine to the soul. No matter how angry you become, the smell of your favorite food can sweep away whatever is bothering you as if your mind is transported to another planet by just the aroma. Food is therapeutic because it can heal the mind at least for seconds or minutes or however long you may take to savor.
I love food, and my love for food has turned me into a cook. Growing up I did not spend much time in the kitchen, but when I did, I was always amazed how all the ingredients blend to produce such a taste.
Grandma’s cooking in grandma’s kitchen is an art itself
My grandma’s kitchen was a big hut made of cement bricks and grass roofing. It was as if my grandma wanted her guests to savor the food while waiting. There was an opening to let the smoke out of the kitchen which made it easier for the mouth-watering scents to spread throughout the compound and its surrounding. My grandma occasionally received compliments alongside teasing from other women passing through to gardens and large farmlands across from her compound. Sometimes she invited the farmers and gardeners for lunch, and one might mistake it for a great feast or celebration, which shows the appreciation for great food and its power to bring communities together.
Research on the psychosocial benefits of cooking interventions
Systematic research by Farmer and Co examined about 377 peer-reviewed articles and found that Cooking Interventions are used in therapeutic and rehabilitative settings but their level of influence on psychosocial performance it is not well known. Therefore, the aim of the research was to find out how much influence Cooking Interventions may have on psychosocial outcomes (Psychosocial Benefits of Cooking Interventions, 2017).
Farmer and Co. also found that community-based and inpatient Cooking Intervention programs had a positive influence on self-esteem, socialization, quality of life, and affect.
Usage Of Evidence-based Cooking Interventions – Farmer, et al. 2017
- Nutritional improvement
- Weight gain or underweight monitoring
- Cooking skills – teaching people how to prepare their own meals especially in low-income areas, and for individuals living with type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (Farmer et al. 2017)
- Guided cooking groups to help patients with an eating disorder
- Occupational and rehabilitation therapy – used for the evaluation or measurement of cognitive and physical development. Cooking interventions are used for daily activities that involve executive function as well as physical movement.
Benefits Derived From Cooking Interventions – Farmer, et al. 2017
- Improve anxiety and depression – Cooking incorporates different skills (parallel multitasking) related to executive functioning and provides cognitive remediation therapy effective for improving anxiety and depression. Since cooking requires full attention and focus, it can switch one’s mood or change one’s surroundings by virtue of no longer focusing on feelings and pains but rather on the food you are cooking. The need to pay attention and focus on what is happening makes cooking a form of mindfulness therapy.
- Recalling pleasurable memories – through ‘Reminiscence Therapy Experience”. For example, often when people are cooking in the kitchen, good memories are recalled — sharing stories regarding cooking from childhood and the people involved, whether dead or alive. Such incidents open the floor for people to interact and feel connected.
- It increases self-esteem and self-efficacy – the opportunity for someone to gain ‘Mastery’ in cooking may boost and instill self-confidence. Cooking invokes self-care because of the confidence one gets if one becomes a skillful cook. The sense of mastery tends to overshadow any other shortcomings one might have. Cooking instills a sense of achievement, and brings an immediate reward that can boost a person’s self-esteem instantly.
- It improves mood and affect – Gaining a nutritional boost can positively influence psychosocial outcomes. There is research to the support correlation between diet and disorders (depression). The food one eats matters. When a person starts a new diet and feels good about it, their countenance changes. This person often becomes the spokesperson for their new diet, and is always willing to convert anyone who is ready to buy into it with them.
- Socialization improves – Cooking groups provide a great opportunity for socialization and can influence significant psychosocial outcomes. (Farmer et al. 2017). When cooking together, cooperation and interaction is a must, and as a result, people can form relationships and connections when they prepare meals to together. These elements of taking care of yourself while taking care of others come with the benefit of socialization.
Cooking can be a form of self-care
Taking time to cook for yourself in this busy world we live in shows how much you care about yourself and other people in your household. This is a form of self-care because of the health benefits as well as the psychological benefits. Being mindful of what goes into one’s body, mind and soul is very important. It is what goes inside that can determine what comes out of a person.
Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors – it’s how you combine them that sets you apart. Wolfgang Puck
Everyone has their own taste buds and cooking gives you the opportunity to cook food according to your own. It also sets you apart. Even if two people use the same recipe, the taste is never exactly the same. Cooking calls for uniqueness and creativity; there are not really any bad flavors, only those that do not match your taste buds.
As a writer or freelance writer earning money to spend on eating in good restaurants can be difficult. Why not kill two birds with one stone; save money that you already do not have and buy healthy groceries to cook the food you like. Now practice self-care and save money at the same time.
It is free therapy with all of the benefits that come with it. Say YES to cooking.
Farmer, Nicole, et al. “Psychosocial Benefits of Cooking Interventions: A Systematic Review.” Health Education & Behavior, vol. 45, no. 2, 2017, pp. 167–180., doi:10.1177/1090198117736352.