Ever feel stuck in your head? Heading to the kitchen and opening up a cookbook may be the answer to relieve this stress. There’s a calm sense of ease that comes with following instructions, getting back in touch with your senses, and enjoying the delicious results. According to a study done by psychology researchers in New Zealand, those who participate in daily creative activities report a more positive mood that day. Well, what counts as a creative activity? (***) According to the researchers of this study, it includes “expressing oneself in an original and useful way”. Feeding oneself is certainly a “useful” endeavor-after all, everyone must eat! (***)
Image by J. Brister 2018
The Mental Payoff
From a nutritional standpoint, you don’t have to be making a kale salad in order to benefit biologically from making a meal. The pay-off happens mentally! (***) In addition to the psychological payoff, cooking at home is often a cheaper and healthier alternative to going out.
The act of cooking teaches you patience-in essence, you are creating something from scratch and seeing it through from start to finish. There’s such a feeling of satisfaction after putting together components and watching them turn into an edible result. Even stress therapy professionals are starting to see the benefits of making food. The Gourmandise School in LA offers classes on “Pie Therapy”- taught by a group of therapists. The class offers an intro to baking with a therapeutic twist. According to their website, attendees of the class can “gain insight into anxiety and exploring and managing perfectionism”, all while creating delicious pies (***). Talk about a yummy way to relieve stress.
Image by M. Taylor (2019)
From a sensory standpoint, cooking a meal is very involved and it also cultivates mindfulness. The sights, smells, and sounds from cooking force you to be in the moment. The aromatherapy of herbs and spices, or even the scent of a freshly baked pie emerging from the oven is enough to bring your emotions back to the present (***). Making food for friends and family can also be a homey and feel-good experience. According to Dutch researches, young adults associate cooking with self-realization, social-togetherness, and personal development (Von Essen & Martensson, 2014).
Cooking Vs. Baking
Some people prefer cooking while others prefer baking, yet there are benefits to both when it comes to stress release. Baking is a science, while cooking allows flexibility. Depending on your personality type, you may be drawn to one or the other.
When it comes to baking, some people find comfort in the measuring/weighing of ingredients because they are not forced to decide. An article published in the Journal of Food Quality stated that “people find choosing to be a depleting task on their limited psychological resources” (Osdaba, 2015). For someone feeling stressed, the set of small specific tasks that baking entails can be a major source of comfort. You’re able to be in control while using your senses and enjoying a creative activity.
When it comes to cooking, there is more flexibility involved because sometimes you may have to substitute an ingredient, season along the way, or use your own judgment rather than follow the recipe exactly. In this way, the cooking process is more about a creative experiment than a controllable ratio.
Whether you choose to cook or bake, heading to the kitchen during midterm season is a great way to facilitate self-care and connect your mind and body. Enjoy this sweet potato recipe while you take a break from studying.
Recipe and image by M. Taylor (2018)
Sweet Potato Brownies (***)
Conner, T, DeYoung C., & Silvia P. (2017). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. Journal of Positive Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049
N.a. (November 20, 2018). The Gourmandise School of sweets and savories: Pie therapy. Retrieved from: https://thegourmandiseschool.com/pietherapy/
Osdoba, K., Mann, T., Redden, J, and Vickers, Z. (2015). Using food to reduce stress: Effects of choosing meal components and preparing a meal. Journal of Food Quality and Preference. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2014.08.001
Von Essen, E., & Mårtensson, F. (2014). Young adults' use of food as a self-therapeutic intervention. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 9, 23000. doi:10.3402/qhw.v9.23000
Woman cooking: https://www.elitedaily.com/p/the-ingredients-that-help-you-relax-are-probably-in-your-kitchen-already-so-go-indulge-12267912
Chopping veggies: https://unsplash.com/photos/yWG-ndhxvqY
Rolling pastry + Sweet Potato Brownie photos by M. Taylor
The Digestible; a site for easy to understand food, nutrition, health, and energy balance information.