How Cooking Improves Your Mental Health

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Looking on the bright side and wearing rose-colored glasses is a wonderful goal to have. But let’s be honest. We all have those days when we just want to find a deserted island and live on it for a while.

Mental health isn’t a race to the next “glass half full” thought. It’s a marathon that requires a lot of careful balancing to make sure the glass doesn’t simply spill and shatter.

One thing that experts say can help while you’re in this marathon called life is to find a hobby. And what better way to fill your mental glass than to cook?

Studies show that cooking may improve your mental health, even if you never eat any of your creations.

Want proof? Here are some indisputable ways that getting in the kitchen and coming up with culinary delights makes you feel better.

1. It Establishes a Routine

While so much else in your life can feel like it’s out of your control, mealtimes are consistent. The typical person eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can set your clock by it.

You know that when you walk into a restaurant at midday, it’s going to have a lunch menu focus. In the evening, a choice of dinner options is on the table.

Using this structure to plan your days around the meals you cook has a stabilizing effect on your mental health. Instead of feeling out of control and without a purpose, you know you’ll have to cook a meal.

So, part of your routine becomes meal planning, shopping for ingredients, prepping recipes, and cooking.

The act of preparing the meal takes your mind off of your worries for a little while. The routine becomes something you can look forward to, especially if it means getting your family around the kitchen table for a little while.

2. Your Nutrition Improves

The food you eat acts as fuel for your body. When you load up on fast food and heavy meals at restaurants or pre-packaged meals, you feed your body sludge.

There is a powerful connection between nutrition and mental health. If your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs for each system to operate correctly, your mind feels the effects.

The most obvious example starts in your digestive system. Most of us don’t realize that there’s a physiological link between our gut and our brain.

Moody? It Could Be Your Stomach Talking

Like the Pavlov effect, thinking about food causes your stomach to start releasing its juices. You suddenly feel hungry, although you just ate.

Have you ever gotten those “butterflies” in your stomach when you were nervous or upset? Your gut has a connection to your emotions, too.

Ninety percent of serotonin, the “happy hormone,” is made in our digestive system. Serotonin is a chemical that the brain uses to determine our moods, memory, stress management, and sleep quality.

By cooking your meal, you can pay attention to the foods you consume and what’s in them. Use added ingredients that you know have health benefits, such as cinnamon and garlic.

Cannabis has become a go-to ingredient in the culinary arts today, too. Making edibles improves your mental and physical health, as Veriheal explains here.

3. You Get to Have Fun and Be Creative

When was the last time you let your creative side run wild? When you cook, let those creative juices flow!

Sure, you can start with recipes you find in a book or online. But as you get familiar with how different ingredients affect the results, you can start tweaking how you use them.

Soon, you’ll learn what you love best, and you’ll have your own recipes for everyone to ask for.

Creative activities like art are entwined with improved mental health. Cooking is a “culinary art,” so it falls into this category.

The act of putting together a meal boosts your mood and makes you feel confident. And, of course, it’s an amazing feeling when you have someone compliment something you worked hard on.

Conclusion

Something we all have in common is the fact that life is going to throw curveballs at us occasionally. How we handle those stressors is what makes us unique.

It’s normal to have mental health bumps now and then. If you want to prevent them or work through a period of the blues, get behind the kitchen counter and get cooking!

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