Cooking Therapy: See What it Can Do for You

April 9, 2018

It’s about more than just consuming food to fuel our bodies; cooking has the power to reduce our stress and anxiety. Would you like to learn about what cooking can do for you? Considering all of the cooking shows on TV and all the resources online, cooking has become more accessible. We learn techniques and how to work together as a team to prepare a meal. But how can cooking be therapeutic?

Cooking and creativity

Say you have all your meals planned out for the week. Suddenly, it’s Tuesday and you’re missing the main ingredient for a dish you planned to make. Ugh! Do you have time to go get it? Will the neighbor let you use some of theirs? Here’s the solution: be creative.

Maybe the dish you make doesn’t look exactly like the one you had in mind. Or maybe the first time you make it, you don’t get the exact amount of salt right. But learning how to combine foods and play with textures and flavors can be very good for your brain.

What you might’ve interpreted as a setback is now an opportunity. Having to change plans on short notice gives you a chance to be innovative. You let your imagination loose and get creative. It makes you more decisive, organized, and efficient. So many new skills!

Stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to just “see what happens” will give you confidence in yourself.

Cooking muffins.

Cooking makes you grow

Something else cooking does is put your patience to the test. It takes time, and no matter how much of a rush you’re in to eat or serve it, you can’t change that fact. To get the result you want, you have to wait and let it take the time that it takes.

It also takes coordination and sensory awareness. That is, it makes you use your senses. Think about how you your sense of smell, taste, or sight can tell you where the food is in the cooking process, and how correct it when necessary.

When you knead flour, you also use your sense of touch. To see how browned something in the oven is, you use your sight. Therefore, sensory integration is a necessary part of cooking. And that means focusing on the present.

Cooking means cooperation and communication

Cooking in a group can be fun and very rewarding. For example, if someone has trouble delegating at work, it can be truly therapeutic to cook together as a family. Also, for people who are quite used to being independent, it gives them practice in being understanding and generous.

Dividing up work is fundamental in all areas of life. That goes for chores at home, projects at work, and even a party with friends. Having good negotiating skills is important.

Cooking helps teach us how each person’s role is important in reaching a common goal. Nothing is trivial, and everything matters. Every person matters in the process of making a meal.

Cooking together, chopping onions.

Cooking versus depression and anxiety

Mental health professionals often specifically recommend cooking for patients with depression, anxiety, or elevated stress. They learn how to cook, some starting from square one. Following the teacher’s instructions so they don’t miss any steps, and learning so many new culinary techniques allows them to disconnect from their problems. 

They focus on cooking, not their condition. It gives them another perspective of what “psychological help” can be, since most people don’t picture a kitchen when they imagine therapy. Cooking can be an effective part of a cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approach. 

Cooking is learning

No matter how old we are, we never stop learning. The more we activate our neural networks, the less likely we are to develop degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Start cooking and stay healthy!

Learning about new foods, using new cooking techniques, trying recipes from friends or family, creating new dishes… It all keeps our brain active. And in addition to all the individual benefits, cooking can also be a great way to bring people together.