Take mindfulness, creativity and a dash of focus. Fold together gently, bake in a slow oven and watch your spirits rise. Yes, your time spent in the kitchen can enhance your mood and promote mental wellbeing. While cooking is clearly a means to satisfy the body’s need for food, it’s increasingly being recognised as a way of nurturing the mind.
A study in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science looked at the therapeutic qualities of cooking as a hobby, including its reported ability to cause a dimmed sense of time and an altered sense of consciousness. The researchers found that the act of cooking improves a person’s wellbeing and is associated with life satisfaction. Additionally, they discovered that cooking was the best predictor of subjective happiness. For some, time spent in the kitchen engrossed in baking and cooking may be exactly the recipe needed for greater happiness and mental wellbeing.
The kitchen offers endless opportunities to express your creativity and find your flow. Ever noticed how two people can follow the same recipe and end up with different results? Part of why this happens can be attributed to the invisible element that is part of every recipe: creativity. If you suffer from anxiety or low moods, cooking could help increase your happiness. Spending time in the kitchen can ease stress and restlessness, and enhance mindfulness, the study concluded.
Make your cake (and eat it)
Not only does the process of cooking and baking improve moods, the feeling of satisfaction gained when seeing the end product naturally enhances happiness. You’ve created something tangible that can be enjoyed and shared, giving yourself a well-deserved sense of achievement. Psychological therapist Annie Gurton says the outcome of cooking goes further than a sense of accomplishment – it can satisfy the emotional need for purpose and meaning in our lives. “Cooking is a task that requires a combination of several skills – understanding and planning, attention to detail, using our memory and imagination, manual dexterity, creativity and style.”
3 steps to bliss in the kitchen
- Find your confidence first: find something simple you enjoy making, and master it. Then move onto more difficult recipes.
- Grow your own ingredients: picking fresh herbs and vegetables and adding them to your dish gives an even greater sense of pride and achievement.
- Cultivate mindfulness: smell the ingredients, feel the texture, notice what happens when you mix different foods together. Take notice of all the senses.
Read more about Baking for Therapy and Self-Empowerment.