It is not uncommon for this time of the year to leave us in a heightened state of stress. With presents to wrap, shortbread to bake, trimmings to hang and catch-ups to be had, we may constantly feel ‘on’ and possibly struck down by the fear of missing out! I don’t think I’m wrong in saying we all look forward to Christmas. However, to truly savour the festivities and make sure Christmas does not pass us by, it’s important to slow down, be present and spend meaningful time with loved ones. All bias aside, I not only believe, but also well and truly know, cooking is the prefect way to achieve this! Cooking is therapy and a healthy cook-up is not only beneficial for our mental well being but also for our physical health.
In case you have lost touch with how stress can take a toll on the body, both physically and psychologically, here is a re-cap. Excess stress may:
- Inhibit immune system function
- Drain energy resources leaving us feeling flat
- Disrupt and inhibit digestion
- Promote central adiposity
- Raise blood pressure
- Contribute to blood sugar imbalance
- Cause irritability and low mood
- Trigger emotional eating
Being overcome with stress is not a way to live and whilst day-to-day stress is often unavoidable, we can put in place measures to undo its negative effects. Cooking as a form of therapy and relaxation tops my list and here is why:
- Just like artists and other creative people are famous for their chilled out persona, it is believed cooking is equally a de-stresser because it serves as a creative outlet;
- Cooking promotes relaxation by activating all senses: taste, touch, scent, visual delight and sound;
- It provides us immediate and repeated gratification: it doesn’t take long to benefit from the results of our efforts and we may engage in cooking at least 3 times daily;
- Cooking forces us to be in the moment, be present and often time escapes us as we are so focused on the task at hand;
- Cooking is an act of nurturing others which makes us feel good;
- Some people use cooking as a trigger for new ideas, when feeling stuck and lack lustre;
- Helps stimulate appetite and digestive processes allowing for better digestion;
- Makes us more appreciative of our food and therefore more likely to eat mindfully; and
- Some people view it as a complete form of meditation and rightly so!
Are you feeling inspired to shift the focus of cooking as a chore to cooking as therapy but not sure where to start? Here are some ways to get more out of cooking as therapy:
- If you don’t bake: try baking, new experiences open our minds and play a role in reducing stress;
- Don’t stress if your dish doesn’t turn out, the fun can be making something out of “nothing”- view it as a creative challenge;
- Deviate from recipes for an added sense of freedom, get lost in your own senses and feel, not the text of a recipe;
- Touch food before cooking it, don’t go straight from packet to pan;
- Socialise over cooking, instead of venturing out, invite friends over and cook them dinner, sit around the kitchen and talk as you share the cooking;
- Try cooking different cuisines Asian, Italian, Indian and Mediterranean or try a fusion by combining two;
- Play music as you cook or listen to a podcast you have been wanting to, make it ‘you’ time;
- Don’t cook under pressure or try too many things at once, simplicity is key for enjoyment; and
- Cooking need not be reserved to those experienced in the kitchen, everyone can find joy in cooking no matter what level you are at!
Here are delicious summer recipes to get all senses fired and leave you feeling relaxed in no time!
Summer Pork Fillet with Wild Rice and Roasted Nectarines
Honey, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Lemon Cake with Vanilla yoghurt