Sometimes it can be hard to find the time and energy to cook a nutritious and healthy meal, especially if you lead a hectic and busy lifestyle. This is why there has been a big rise in the popularity of easy meal recipes such as: Jamie Oliver’s 10 minute meals, or slow cooker dinners. These are fine for when you’re running out of time, but they’re not particularly inspiring. Moreover, recent findings suggest that taking the time to plan and prepare a thoughtful, nutritious meal has powerful psychological health benefits.
Cooking for others is an altruistic act, but also so much more
Cooking for other is a form of altruism, which can make people feel happy and connected to others. When performing an act such as cooking for others it can be tremendously confidence-boosting and self-esteem boosting. There’s nothing quite like the feel-good factor you get from rustling up your loved one’s favourite meal. And the psychological benefits are two-fold: the receiver of the dish feels cared for, but in addition the person who cooked it feels great too.
Cooking is a form of nurturing
Giving to others can be very fulfilling and even more so when it’s cooking because feeding fulfils a survival need. The feeling of fulfilment can come not only from the good of the act of giving, but also the fact that we have ‘helped’ someone. This can help to encourage a sense of trust, community, meaning, purpose, belonging, closeness, and intimacy ― all of which have been linked to things like increased happiness, decreased depression, and greater/more positive overall wellbeing.
There’s a reason that some recipes are known for being “labours of love”. By taking the time to carefully construct a meal, you are demonstrating how much you love the people in your life.
Cooking can build bonds
Cooking for others helps bond us to our loved ones and others. Cooking for others helps us build and strengthen connections, it creates bonds between people, it can be a very fulfilling and meaningful act. In creating this bond with others it can provide social acceptance and help us to feel part of a community, whether that’s friends or family.
So it’s not just cooking for close family and friends that can give us a mood boost. Stepping outside of our comfort zone to provide for a wider audience is a big, bold step which helps forge strong relationships with others.
Cooking is a form of self-care
But it’s not just cooking for others that can have a great impact on your wellbeing. The actual act of making sustenance for yourself and taking the time to feed your body is significant. It not only nourishes you, but it sends yourself a message that you are important. If you’re cooking good food for yourself, cooking can be very nourishing to yourself, and that’s very important!
Home cooking can provide peace of mind
There are certain factors about home cooking that can promote a relaxed state of mind. And these can be as simple as know exactly what is going into your meal. You have complete control over what goes in to your dish, enabling you to have the certain knowledge that there are no allergens present, for example. You have a say in how fresh and nutritious your ingredients are going to be, and can dictate the amount of salt, fat and sugar is in your particular dish. Also, you can ensure that your food was cooked at the correct temperature, meaning that you greatly reduce risk of food poisoning.
Benefits for self-esteem
Cooking can also help raise self-esteem and confidence. When you learn to master a new dish, you are building new skills such as time management and multi-tasking; overcoming challenges; all of this is helpful for promoting self-reliance and self-assurance.
Cooking is a practice of mindfulness
Mindfulness is very ‘in’ right now, but cooking can be one of the most mindful acts you perform. Anyone who has ever tried to cook a complex meal while distracted by the kids or while on the phone can vouch for the fact that to cook well, you need to concentrate. There is plenty of evidence out there that mindfulness is good for your health, cooking can be one of the most therapeutic acts you do for yourself because it can encourage you to really focus on what you’re doing”.
Cooking can help overcome depression
Time spent in kitchen lends itself to being introspective. All the senses are tied to a cooking experience, and memory is connected to the sense of smell. Reconnecting with memories, especially if happy, can be extremely positive. Some scientists suspect they could be powerful enough to be used as an effective treatment for depression.
Cooking is a real health tonic that we can all benefit from
The most important aspect of cooking for yourself and others is that there’s a cumulative effect. The effects of all the psychological benefits combined are powerful. Cooking is self-care, it’s taking care of others, it’s physical care, it’s mindfulness, and it meets the most basic needs for yourself and others. Cooking has multifaceted advantages for you and those around you. So, perhaps next time you are about to heat up a microwave meal or order a takeaway, think about what you might be missing out on by taking that supposedly ‘easy option’.