If you have ever been inspired to cook up an impressive meal or bake a marvelous pastry or cake, did you feel ultra-accomplished and a noticeable sense of calm? If so, you might have a special connection with spending time in the kitchen that translates into the multitudes of mental health benefits that are possible through this form of creation. Really diving into the realm of creation – it can be things like cooking, painting, music, or writing – can be incredibly healing for the mind, especially when the intention is placed and the space is given for it within your life. Used in conjunction with consistent therapy with a professional, and you can have a wonderful and therapeutic regimen for your mental health. Cooking and baking are similar concepts but executed very differently, and one might resonate with you more than the other. Cooking offers a bit more creative freedom and less “rules,” while baking requires more precision and attention in some ways. We’ve listed out some ways in which these outlets are beneficial for the mental state, and why you should give them a fair chance if you haven’t already.
There is something about setting aside the time to cook a dish or some type of dessert that is incredible at uplifting the mood in a profound way. You can make it into your own special ritual whenever you set out to create a new meal by putting on some of your favorite music, a show, or a podcast and really dive in and place your full focus on the process of your cooking. If you have had a particularly long or difficult day, this can be your time for yourself to put your all into what you are making and hopefully cheer up as an outcome of doing so. Going into it with direct concentration allows you to be more present with what you are doing, which in turn will promote a heightened sense of mindfulness that can translate into other areas of your life, as well. Cooking is a very sensory experience that involves smells, flavors, and textures that you can purposefully pay close attention to so that you can really become one with the process of whatever you are cooking and baking.
Getting in the kitchen and whipping up a new dish that you may have never even had before is a perfect way to spark a new level of creativity and passion within you. Cooking makes for a great hobby, and you might just discover that it is a passion of yours that you weren’t even aware of. Spending time in the kitchen allows space for creativity to flow, which is something that everyone’s mental health can benefit from in one way or another. You can truly customize and tap into any inspiration when creating a dish – and you might even discover a new favorite food while you’re at it! You can experiment with different flavors and combinations – the possibilities are practically endless. These benefits can trickle into other areas of your everyday life and inspire you in various ways outside of the kitchen, too.
A great thing about spending time in the kitchen is the fact that you can choose to use it as the chance to be alone and as a period of reflection and mindfulness, or you can team up with someone you’re close with and use this as a bonding opportunity where you work together to produce something that you can both enjoy afterwards. Cooking and baking require high levels of communication and teamwork so that a situation where the wrong ingredients are combined or the wrong timer is set can be fully avoided. When you are finished cooking, you now get to sit and bond over what you’ve made and enjoy the result of the whole experience of working together for this common goal. Bonding with a loved one over a shared interest such as cooking is unsurprisingly very therapeutic for the mind, and it can become a new go-to pastime to appreciate with one another.
It can certainly help the mental state a lot to look at cooking and baking in a way that encourages an increased sense of gratitude that maybe was not there before. Many studies have shown that tapping into the state of gratitude has nearly endless advantages on our overall wellbeing. You can look at the food and ingredients that you are working with in a light of sheer gratefulness, and you can especially look at your final result in this manner, as well. Actively practicing gratitude, even when you might not feel like there is anything to be grateful for, is so important for our mental health, and it can really help you tap into a better state of mind and in seeing the good things no matter the circumstances. Having the means and the opportunity to create delicious food and finding the beauty in that is just one of the many ways that cooking and baking are so beneficial to us.
It is so wonderful that something as fundamental as cooking for yourself can have numerous benefits for the mental health and that this activity is able to resonate with so many individuals on different levels and for different reasons. Quality time in the kitchen can help you melt away anxiety and stress that may be present and nourish your body as well as your mind. Also, don’t worry if you’re not necessarily a proficient chef and are intimidated by the thought of stepping foot anywhere near a stovetop. Ease into it like you would with anything else in life, because you can learn and grow within any area that you wish to try out for yourself.
If you are looking to improve your mental health and wellness, we are ready to help on that journey. We have a team of psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication management. Our team of compassionate and skilled professionals is available for in person appointments for patients in the DFW area. We also offer online appointments for patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston and San Antonio areas.