Bask in the Benefits of Culinary Therapy

We all know stress reduction is essential to stay healthy. What better way to enjoy a heart-healthy lifestyle than to cook a delicious meal and relax in the process?

More and more health experts are recognizing the therapeutic benefits of cooking. Research published in 2004 showed that mental health patients benefited from baking classes, helping them gain a sense of confidence and develop new skills.

“ There’s a tremendous amount of confidence-boosting and self-esteem boosting, performing an act like cooking for others,” said culinary arts therapist Julie Ohana in a Huffington Post article.  

“As you toss in sliced vegetables, listen to them crackle as they hit the hot pan, inhale their fragrance and watch the interplay of colors as they change.”

Cooking allows us to nurture and feed others while we engage mindfully in a task that removes us from the stress of the day. Focusing on all of our senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—is soothing and keeps our mind focused in the moment.

For a relaxing experience, try these tips:

  1. Prep in Advance. It’s hard to relax if you don’t know what you are going to cook and whether you have the necessary ingredients. Lay the groundwork by shopping ahead and developing a game plan before cooking. Chefs use the term mise en place—“everything in its place” – to organize the process and increase efficiency. Chop vegetables, mince herbs, measure ingredients and lay out bowls, utensils and cookware that you will need.
  2. Set the Mood. Tune in to a favorite music playlist to melt away stress from the day or listen to a podcast. Although I sometimes watch movies or television when I cook, they are distracting, pulling my attention from the present. As you savor these precious moments, pour a glass of wine or sparkling water to sip as you cook.
  3. Bask in the Experience. When adding olive oil to a pan, watch it slide over the surface and coat it. As you add minced garlic, listen to it sizzle and notice how the aroma changes as it cooks. As you toss in sliced vegetables, listen to them crackle as they hit the hot pan, inhale their fragrance and watch the interplay of colors as they change.
  4. Give Thanks. Research has shown that gratitude is associated with increased well-being. The abundance of food that we enjoy and the people we cook for are unmistakable sources of joy.

After work, cooking often feels like one more task at the end of a long to-do list. But if we look at it as an opportunity to reduce stress, savor the moment and cherish the abundance we have and the people we share it with, meal times take on an entirely new meaning.

2 responses to “Bask in the Benefits of Culinary Therapy”

  1. When I interviewed a young priest for a newspaper article many years ago, he told me he believes cooking and serving food to others is a form of Communion. He loved sharing his prepared meals with members of his church community. Cooking can, indeed, be a joy!

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