We are all familiar with the phrase ‘Food is medicine’ and sure it is. We often hear how using healthy herbs, nuts, seeds, leafy greens etc. in our diet will help us achieve a better quality of life. But food is not limited to healing the body but it nurtures the mind as well. What I mean to say is, cooking is an art form and it is being taken up as a therapeutic means to relax tangled nerves, soothes the senses, curb boredom and distract people from a tensed or overworked mind. We have seen our mothers or women in the house cooking as a part of a daily regime, but now it has become more than that. Culinary therapy is catching fire and many health care professionals are suggesting people with depression, BP issues, insomnia to take up culinary therapy as a part of stress management.
The experience of making something is rather relaxing and healing even though I am a bit new to it. Earlier I cooked when it was needed as the food in Indian households is usually taken care of by mothers. Off lately, I have developed this new taste for cooking and the pleasure I derive from eating what I cooked and also serving others is commendable. I never realized that I was taking up a therapy when I started cooking, but only after a few meals I realized this is my affordable, quick and in house therapy, which I can avail anytime. If you are not good at it, don’t worry, just switch on good sites like veg recipes of India or turn on some you tube videos and you would be guided at every step.
‘A Road to Mental Health Through the Kitchen’ an article published on wall street journal states, “Psychologists say cooking and baking are pursuits that fit a type of therapy known as behavioral activation. The goal is to alleviate depression by boosting positive activity, increasing goal-oriented behavior and curbing procrastination and passivity.” Let us know how and why cooking is considered to be therapeutic:
Why Cooking is therapeutic
1. Cooking & Creativity
An alternative therapy, cooking is long known as art, and this is so true. Food is juxtaposed to culture, religious, spiritual purposes in different parts of the world and this forms a perfect canvas for great artwork. When you cook, a lot of mix and match takes place based on the ingredients we have in our kitchen. Sometimes we are merely following a video online and other times we can just put together whatever we have in our refrigerator. All in all, from adding the herbs, spices and other ingredients into the pan or baking a cake to serving it in with a good presentation skill, cooking is like an art where the bold strokes of brushes are replaced by whisking, mixing, chopping and baking.
2. Cooking & Health
A creative outlet and a productive boost, it awakens the sensory motors and requires coordination to put the final product on the table. People addicted to stress or suffering from chronic tension are often entangled in the loop of their thoughts. Cooking acts a way of distracting their mind and engaging them into productive work. The aromas, feel of the texture of the food, visualizing appealing colors and the tantalizing taste buds, it is a through sensory experience. It also boosts mental health by creating love and care in the background. When you cook for the people you care, a feeling of doing something for them boosts togetherness.
Just as a mother experiences love for her child, a person can feel love and connection to the food he/she has cooked. Also, people who cook for themselves and do not order in or eat from a box are known to be healthier, stronger and slimmer. A research by John Hopkins school of public health have stated in a report that people who cook meals at home are consuming lesser calories, less sugar, less fat and healthier food. Excess weight or obesity can be a reason for depression, negative thoughts and low self-esteem and with cooking, all of this can be combated.
3. Cooking & Self Confidence
Another reason why cooking is therapeutic because it offers a chance for the patient or the cook to showcase his/her creative skills to the society. Often when I cook something and my loved ones appreciate it, I experience a confidence boost. Also, when my mother tells her friends about her daughter healthy cooking endeavors, it is yet another reward. Indian society juxtaposes success of a woman to her culinary skills. While this is not what I am aiming for, the sheer joy of making something is what keeps me going back to the kitchen. The feeling of creating something and then being appreciated for it is rewarding. As per wall street journal, “In one study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy in 2004, researchers in the U.K. found that baking classes boosted confidence, increased concentration and provided a sense of achievement for 12 patients being treated in inpatient mental-health clinics.”
4. Cooking & Catharsis
Have you ever heard of people cooking when they are angry? I sure have! Some of my friends and friends of friends cook when they are stressed out. This is so true. It is an outlet to vent out your emotions. Just as painting or sketching or pottery allows one to ejaculate an artist’s vent up emotions, cooking offers similar platform. Catharsis means a way to release the trapped emotions so it will be right to say that cooking paves way for catharsis. Next time you want to cry and release it all out, try chopping onions, this should work well. Often people with depression have a tendency of socially alienating themselves, but by sharing recipes or food cooked, they can open up to their friends, family and even to the world.
5. Cooking & Management Skills
Cooking and baking both are time based skills where boiling, shaking, mixing, straining everything is bounded by the clock. This way one can add time management skills to their kitty. Many schools and colleges are adding cooking as yet another sport like hobby where students can learn a great deal of management techniques. Compiling everything together, without spoiling any food item this time-based activity requires cleaning up later on as well. An all-comprehensive activity, Cooking is great for enhancing, organizing and planning skills as well.
Throw yourself into making colorful salads, delicious vegan meals or dunk into non-vegetarian meals to let go of all that trauma and heartache.