One of life’s daily responsibilities is cooking and for some is even considered a chore. Between balancing your job and keeping up with relationships, cooking at home often falls to the wayside for a quick to-go box.
However, food is fuel to keep you moving through your day and too often the convenient solutions like throwing down a microwave meal can make you feel worse. Plus, to-go meals and frozen food usually don’t benefit your health.
With the right mindset and approach, cooking can offer therapeutic benefits. Inspired by Kitchen Cabinet Kings’ visual on 8 ways cooking is like self-care, cooking can foster not only your physical well-being but also your mental health. In some ways, it can be a form of therapy in itself.
Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment. It’s when you calmly accept and recognize your thoughts, feelings, and sensations at that moment, then choose to let them go.
The benefits of mindfulness offer benefits like stress reduction, improved focus, enhanced cognitive flexibility and boosts to the immune system. Mindfulness is common with things like meditation and yoga, however, many activities can be performed in a mindful state. Cooking is no exception!
If you already love to dive into the cooking process, it shouldn’t be difficult to approach it with mindfulness. If cooking is more of a challenge for you or something you don’t enjoy, it just takes practice.
Find an old favorite (or family) recipe that can help you practice mindfulness. Whether that’s starting with simple and familiar ingredients or basic techniques, you can more easily focus.
Or, for the experienced chef, try a new challenging recipe that allows you to concentrate on the current moment of peeling that veggie or sauteing that meat. It provides a distraction from negative thought processes. You may find that different types of recipes work better on different days.
Engage Your Basic Senses
While cooking, you can truly focus on the moment and let your worries melt away. Prep your ingredients with care and precision. Engage as many of your senses as possible, like sight, smell and touch. This will create complex sensory inputs.
Try to avoid as many stressors as possible. Give yourself plenty of time to prep and prepare so you don’t feel rushed. Practice letting go of any problems, negative thoughts or emotions that force their way into your mind. Use the first tip, mindfulness, to engage your senses and immerse yourself in the process.
Use Cooking as a Creative Outlet
Instead of seeing the cooking process as a responsibility or chore, view it as a way to express yourself. Creative outlets are rewarding. Spending time and effort on something that you can later say “I did that” can make you feel proud and accomplished.
With cooking, you eat what you make. You don’t have to worry about what you’ll do with it when you’re done, because it’s fuel for you to move through your day. It’s a fun activity to invite friends and family over, spend time together and improve your relationships. Try a do-it-yourself taco bar or pizza bar where people can get creative with toppings and sauces.
Stimulates Your Brain
We often find ourselves falling into a drag of work and daily life. Even when it’s something we truly enjoy, routines can get repetitive. If this sounds like you, having to make another decision at the end of the day (what to cook) sounds draining.
The cooking process is a perfect way to bring some mental stimulation and change to your daily routine. Experiment with new ingredients and recipes that you’ve never eaten before. Learn and practice new cooking techniques. Research your favorite food blogger, a new cookbook and find variations of a dish you usually make or combine different elements to create something totally new.
Find Joy in the Simple Things
Daily life is full of commitments and responsibilities. If you’re lucky, you can find ways to turn what you love into a profession, but even then burn out can happen. Instead, choose to find joy in the simple mundane things, like creating a new soup or not deflating that pie, can help make life so much sweeter.
The act of eating is often seen as rejuvenating. We stress eat or treat ourselves to a special meal after a particularly good (or bad) day. We grab a cup of coffee to get us through the morning or a pint of ice cream to console us if we’re sad. Instead, shift this mindset to enjoy the process rather than the reward. By approaching cooking with a different mindset, we can find as much joy in the creation process as when we consume food.
Meet the Author
As a senior content marketing specialist, Megan is most passionate about creating and promoting unique content that drives client growth. Outside of the office, you can find her seeking out the next camping spot or consuming way too much coffee. Read more on cooking as therapy here.