Cooking is a form of self-care that has tons of positive impact on your mental health, including providing a sense of accomplishment, helps boost your mood, and reduces stress. Who doesn't want that?
If you had asked me over a decade ago whether cooking could become my refuge to find grounding and peace of mind, I would have said no. Simply, cooking was not a thing I liked to do. I ate out a lot, and I mean a lot. I just never equated cooking as a form of self-love. It wasn't till I transitioned to a vegan and plant based lifestyle, did I begin to form a relationship with the practice of cooking.
I was truly blessed to have been able to witness my now 90-year old Greek-immigrant grandmother slay the kitchen throughout my life. She's by all means a master home chef, she would embarrass Gordon Ramsay's cooking (she also loves watching his shows and critiquing. It's quite funny to watch!). Let me digress though. Her cooking has always been a form of love for all those around her, but I realized it was also her time for her. She raised my four uncles and my mother, grandmothered nine of us. Her home was full and so were her responsibilities. So, kitchen time meant it was time for her to be with herself. It was a time to clear her mind.
There are so many ways we can bring ourselves to state of balance in our mind. Yoga, the gym, breathwork, reading, time in nature, and so much more. Today, I share with you some of my takeaways I have made through my grandmother's and my experiences of cooking.
Cooking can be a form of stress relief
The process of preparing a meal, especially when it involves chopping vegetables or stirring a pot of soup, can be a great way to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand. The smells and flavors of the food can also be soothing and help to reduce anxiety.
Cooking is a great way to relax & unwind after a long day
The repetitive motions and focus required to chop vegetables or knead dough can be meditative, so it can help clear your mind and reduce stress. On top of that, the act of creating something from scratch with raw ingredients can be incredibly therapeutic and satisfying.
Cooking can be a form of self-care
Taking the time to prepare a meal for yourself or for others can be a way to show up for yourself with love and care. It can also be a way to practice self-discipline and set boundaries, as you make the decision to prioritize your health and well-being by choosing to prepare meals filled with nutrients.
It can be a social activity!
Sharing a meal with your loved ones can help strengthen those relationships and improve overall well-being. The act of cooking for others can also be a way to show love and care, which can be beneficial for both the giver and the receiver. Selfless acts expand our hearts, and well, that's just a really good feeling for everyone involved.
Cooking can boost your confidence & sense of accomplishment
As you learn new recipes and techniques, you might find a sense of pride and accomplishment in your ability to create delicious meals. Preparing a meal from scratch, whether it be a simple sandwich or a complex dish, can give you a feeling of satisfaction and pride in your work, and you deserve that! This can boost your self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose and direction. Cooking is a form of self-expression and it can often result in that feeling of inner happiness. So, overall, cooking is an incredible mood boosting practice!
Cooking can be a way to practice mindfulness
Focusing on the present moment and the sensory aspects of cooking, such as the feel of the ingredients in your hands and the smells and flavors of the food, can be a form of mindfulness meditation. As you may know, meditation can help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. So, think of cooking as a meditation practice. Rather than practicing it on the mat or a cushion, try it in your kitchen.
Cooking is a great way to experiment with new flavors & ingredients
The kitchen is your vegan oyster! It can be a fun and exciting way to break out of a routine. Stagnation can result in stuck energy, so shake it off, find a new recipe and welcome the newness of your cooking sensory experience. Experimenting with new ingredients and dishes can leave you feeling inspired and as mentioned before, feeling accomplished
As you can see, cooking has endless benefits. It's important to remember to approach the practice with mindfulness. For instance, if cooking becomes a source of stress or if you find yourself constantly comparing your cooking to others, it can of course lead to negative feelings. Return to my favorite mantra, "this journey is about progress, and not perfection", you are exactly where you need to be right here, right now, and to enjoy the process rather than focusing solely on the end result.
In short, cooking can be a wonderful way to improve your mental health by providing stress relief, self-care, connection with others, a sense of accomplishment, and a way to practice mindfulness. So next time you're feeling down, try heading to the kitchen to cook up something tasty and nourishing for both your body and mind.
Remember to take your time, experiment with new flavors and recipes, and most importantly, have fun in the kitchen.