Your life is busy and hectic. From your morning cup of coffee to that working lunch all the way through to leaving the office well after dark, there’s little time in your day to relax and de-stress. It’s easy to find yourself at 10pm collapsed in bed stuffing a sad, reduced, meal-deal sandwich into your mouth before you pass out in front of your latest Netflix obsession.
But how much are you really missing out on by neglecting your kitchen? Recent studies show that the act of cooking can actually be a powerful form of meditation.
Why bother with meditation anyway?
Meditation is no longer just for veteran yogis and self-confessed hippies; the wellness trend of the last few years has evolved into a billion pound business with dozens of apps on the market all professing to help you become more mindful. And for good reason – there are a slew of benefits that come with regular meditation that have been discovered in recent years. It’s been shown that, amongst many things, meditation can help to:
- Increase blood flow to the brain which improves brain function – literally making you smarter!
- Reduce blood pressure and slow your heart rate which means less stress on your arteries and heart
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Increase empathy and compassion
Finding the time
With your busy schedule it may seem impossible to incorporate traditional meditation into your daily routine, but there is a solution! Therapists are now promoting the idea of ‘culinary therapy’ which is exactly what it sounds: using cooking as a tool to help treat mental health problems. Combining meditation and cooking could help you if your days always seem to rush by with little spare time.
‘Preparing a meal is unlike anything else I do in the course of a day… It’s a nourishing, centering act that gets me to slow down and focus.’ Ellen Kanner, food writer.
So if you’re starting to rethink having that last minute takeaway or microwave meal for dinner, read on.
How does it work?
The basic principle of meditation is to slow down the world around you and truly be present in the moment. This may conjure images of crossed legged monks or yummy mummies on expensive yoga mats ‘om-ing’ with their eyes closed, but something as mundane as brushing your teeth in the morning can be considered a meditative experience if you slow down the moment and savour it.
Cooking is a goldmine for repetitive tasks that can easily give you the chance to meditate and reflect; chopping, peeling, whisking, mixing, rolling pastry and even washing up are all simple activities that you can find peace and enjoyment in if you set your mind to it.
A simple way to focus your mind on being more present when cooking is to force yourself to concentrate on your ingredients. Look deeply at the bright colours of your vegetables, really listen to the sound of the garlic sizzling gently in the pan, inhale and take time to understand exactly what paprika mixed with cumin smells like when added to a bubbling stew. This is meditation – well done!
Get cooking for your mental health
If this still hasn’t encouraged you to get in the kitchen more then it’s worth remembering that many recent studies have linked poor diet to mental health problems. Risk of depression increased by around 80% in a study that compared teens with a low-quality diet to those with a higher quality, whole-foods diet. Whilst mental health is a complex subject and those suffering with poor mental health can not ‘cure’ themselves by simply eating more vegetables, the benefits of a well balanced meal are clear and you are more likely to get this from home cooked meals free from excessive salt and flavourings.
Try it out darlings, and see if you notice a difference in your body and mind (and if not, at least you’ll still get some impressive meal pics for the gram).