Why and How Cooking Works As A Therapy For You | Interesting and Surprising Facts

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Why and How Cooking Works As A Therapy

“Cooking is self-care at its most basic and nourishing.”

~ Meg Bowman

One activity that went trending on our social media accounts amid the lockdown was- Cooking! I saw almost everyone cooking or baking a new dish and posting them on social media. Even the ones who didn’t know a thing about cooking were seen using cooking as a therapy (including me).

Wait!!!

Cooking as a therapy? Is it not just any other activity that keeps you engaged? Well, of course, cooking is one of the most productive activities that allow you to learn a new skill on one hand and keeps you healthily engaged on the other. But, there is a lot more than cooking has to offer.

Cooking as A Therapy: Benefits

Let us explore the surprising benefits of cooking and explore its therapeutic side.

1. A 2018 review article in the Journal of Health Education & Behavior analyzed links between cooking and psychological well-being. It was found that:

  • Cooking increases your self-esteem and overall mental well-being.
  • Cooking has been found to decrease anxiety and agitation among groups of people.
  • Individuals with dementia and burn victims also reported relief in agitation.

2. Another set of studies has shown that cooking decreases the risk of disability and loss of independence as it calls forth multiple physical and mental skills usage simultaneously.

3. Research suggests that exploring recipes together with family or spouse makes the bond stronger while you enjoy your time together.

4. It was found that people who cook themselves are far more likely to eat mindfully and healthily. This in turn improves overall well-being.

5. Culinary arts expert Michal AviShai says that cooking satisfies our instinctual urge to provide as we provide food to others. This further works as a community-building exercise that will make you feel connected to people.

6. A study in 2016 showed that cooking boosts happiness and creativity in an individual.

7. Culinary therapy for patients and communities showed to yield positivity, self-esteem, quality of life, and affect according to a study of 2018.

8. Cooking is also referred to as a doorway to the connection as food brings people together.

9. Culinary therapy also works as a meditation process that brings you calm and soothes your mind (as well as body).

10. In the U.S. culinary therapy has been used to combat various mental conditions such as behavioral health conditions, eating disorders, ADHD, addiction, anxiety, and depression.

11. Interestingly, it was found in a study that cooking after a hectic and busy day will not only take away all your worries but will also prepare you for the next day with more motivation.

By looking at all these benefits that cooking has to offer we have to agree with Mar Berry’s famous quote:

“Cooking and baking is both physical and mental therapy”

But Why is Cooking Therapeutic?

why-you-should-cook-more-at-home

Even I asked this question to myself several times! Why is cooking therapeutic? That’s when I started to look for the answers. To my utter surprise, many reasons explain why cooking works as therapy. So, let us explore them one by one:

Cooking is therapeutic as it activates your sensory awareness

There are very few activities that involve all your senses and cooking is one of them. All are five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste are activated when we are involved in the process of cooking. In addition to this, while enjoying the reward of cooking (that is the dish prepared by you) your senses are activated. Which makes cooking a complete cycle of your sensory activation.

Cooking is therapeutic as it activates our reward system

“Cooking is a comprehensive medication with the assurance of a good healthy meal as the reward” says Zipora Einav (chef celebrity). When you cook something you are able to see the end results and taste it as well. This provides an immediate validation of all your hard work and puts you in a good mood in no time.

Cooking is therapeutic as it is a creative experience

Major amount of research has found cooking as a creative process. Wondering why? Well, you are always creating something new, trying to do something unique with your dish, if not in terms of flavour then some changes in presentation do follow. This makes cooking pure creative bliss, making those creative juices flow.

Cooking is therapeutic as it improves patience and concentration

Opposed to various different activities that makes you feel anxious in the process of completion, cooking puts you at ease and helps you stay more focused. Studies have time and again shown that baking makes you feel happier and capable because of the calming effect caused by it. When you wait for the dough to rise, veggies to boil, and cookies to bake, you definitely learn the art of patience. Plus, while you have to keep check of the steps and work on them one-by-one it improves your concentration and focus.

Cooking is therapeutic as it is relaxing and entertaining at the same time

Cooking does work as an entertaining activity. And no we are not referring you to watch MasterChef here. When you cook with your parents, partner, or even your pet, it turns out to be a fun and engaging fun activity. While you get an opportunity to have fun, bond together, and show affection, you actually soak yourself in an entertaining activity.

Cooking is therapeutic as it improves problem-solving skills

When you are stuck in the process of cooking, you come up with new solutions to resolve it. This improves our problem-solving skills. Further, this learning from cooking is applied to real life situations. Farmer says that while we cook we make use of our working memory and procedural memory. Which are involved in solving a problem and accomplishing a goal.

Cooking is therapeutic as it works as a mindfulness tool

If you are looking for a place to start your mindfulness practice then we suggest you go to your kitchen and start cooking. As discussed above, cooking engages all your senses and allows you to be in the moment as you cook. While you are ruminating in the past or flying in the future, it works as a mindfulness activity for you. Therapist Justyna Wawrzonek tells, “cooking can feel like a meditation practice.” The process of cooking eases our mind and body.

Cooking Therapy Activity

A small activity for you to try to enjoy the benefits of cooking therapy.

So, if you are willing to enjoy the benefits of therapeutic cooking but you are not certain where to start from, we are suggesting a small activity for you. We will refer to this activity as “Culinary Therapy Activity For Me.” Here’s what you have to do:

  • Pick a simple recipe that you are comfortable working with (even making a salad or smoothie will count).
  • Set some free time and space aside to prepare the ingredients.
  • Now, start cooking. Make sure you enjoy the process and focus on creativity over perfection.
  • You may also put up some music and double your fun and benefits.
  • Keep using positive phrases for yourself like “you are doing great,” “this looks awesome,” “it is yummy,” and more. You can choose to pat on your back as well.
  • Once the dish is ready just enjoy it and eat it mindfully.

If the lockdown is over at your place just invite your few close friends and enjoy the meal with them.

Enjoy the culinary therapy benefits now!!!

Pro Tip:
We suggest you pick a simple or familiar recipe as it won’t create anxiety and it is found to be packed with more therapeutic benefits than the difficult ones.


Author’s Story of Experiencing Cooking Therapy

I was not a big fan of cooking up until this year. But when the lockdown was imposed and we were self-quarantined that’s when I unveiled the therapeutic power of cooking. After my working hours and especially on weekends I used to cook something. What ideally started off as a chore, as a distraction, ended up becoming my therapy task. While the process was therapeutic for me the aftermath filled me with joy, when we as a family used to dine together and savor the food made by me. Now, I stand in that position of my life where I am cooking something daily to rejoice in these therapeutic benefits of cooking.

So, from my personal experience and the literature available I will definitely recommend you to give cooking therapy a shot. If you find relief even by 1% you might want to continue it further.

Does cooking work as a therapy for you as well? Share your experience with cooking in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.

Now, go cook or bake your favorite meal and enjoy a min self-therapy session (you might need it).

Time to cook your way to bliss…

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