- Recent research links cooking therapy to higher scores of socialization and mental wellness.
- Studies have, in fact, backed with evidence the much-asked question – Why is cooking good for mental health?
A never-ending spate of pop-cultural gems like Friends, Julie & Julia, Chef, Emily in Paris, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Ratatouille, and Eat, Pray, Love has served to highlight the therapeutic benefits of cooking—beyond its association with nutrition and dietary quality.
What Is Cooking Therapy?
Cooking therapy is a creative form of self-care that uses arts, cooking, gastronomy, and a person’s personal, cultural, and familial relationship with food to address emotional and psychological problems. It is alternatively known as culinary or kitchen therapy.
The Emotional Benefits Of Cooking
It is well-known that eating food is linked to higher levels of brain chemicals (like dopamine and norepinephrine) that boost our moods and motivation. Cooking research, building on existing findings, claims that the process of cooking itself can make people feel happier, more capable, and self-appreciative.
In fact, the mundane act of cooking and sharing meals can enhance socialization, healthy attachment patterns, trust, and quality of life.
Why Is Cooking So Therapeutic?
The rewarding benefits of cooking have been linked to:
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater concentration and mindfulness
- Better skill-building habits
- Better mood and emotional regulation
- Delayed gratification
- Better exploration of one’s creativity
- Better brain health and reduced risks of brain aging
How Cooking Can Boost Your Mental Health
Mental health and cooking have an intricate and effectual relationship. Recent studies show that cooking interventions have been employed in a variety of therapeutic and rehabilitative settings. It is touted to be an effective non-pharmacological mental health care method used to treat:
- Chronic anxiety
- Eating disorders
- Substance addiction
- Social withdrawal
- Self-esteem issues
- Brain injury, etc.
Availing The Mental Health Benefits Of Cooking
Cooking for mental health is considered by many an affordable and easily accessible self-care ritual closely tied to positive psychology. Its ‘sessions’ are considered amenable to innovation and group participation.
For instance, baking therapy, a type of cooking therapy, can be administered in groups—often involving community support for cognitive health (in the form of bake sales, charity kitchens, etc.).
The benefits associated with cooking and mental health also extend to other factors, namely, encouraging healthier food choices, saving money from unnecessary indulgences in food take-outs and restaurant dine-ins, supporting cognitive health by lowering inflammation and stress, as well as boosting social interaction and communication.