In a fast-paced world, we are never in lack of situations to keep us preoccupied. Constantly absorbed in worry, anxiety and fear, our mind is like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode even at the slightest trigger. Almost everyone is weighed down with the stress of some sort and not everyone has an option to quit or start over. A vacation is the first thing that’d come to our mind when we want to de-stress. But it isn’t like we can pack our bags and set off. Or we could learn an instrument or a new skill but practically that is only a couple of times a week. What we need is something we can do to unwind every day.
Dr Michael M. Kocet, a nationally certified counsellor, and a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology suggests culinary therapy as the key to mindfulness. Culinary therapy—or cooking therapy—as defined by Dr Kocet is “the therapeutic technique that uses arts, cooking, gastronomy, and an individual’s personal, cultural, and familial relationship with food to address emotional and psychological problems faced by individuals, families, and groups.”
What is cooking therapy?
Dr Kocet conducts sessions called ‘chocolate meditations’, where his students are asked to unwrap the chocolate, smell it with their eyes closed, associate that with memories or experiences and then savour every single moment as the chocolate slowly melts in their mouths.
We often dismiss cooking as a simple household chore. But there is more to cooking than just a chore. Eating, by itself, is an innately rewarding feeling. Cooking, thereby, is an inbuilt rewarding action. The idea of cooking therapy isn’t to become a chef, rather a method to enjoy the process and practise mindfulness. It helps you unlock your creativity and in turn, have fun. Even something as simple as making yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is bound to make you feel accomplished.
Who needs Cooking Therapy?
How many of us know what is our mom’s favourite food? Most of the time the answer would be ours or our father’s preference. Our moms are so accustomed to eating what we like. And needless to say, working moms just want to get done with the dinner business. The last thing they want is for us to go empty stomach because they made something they like.
To every other working professional with chaotic work timings, food is merely an object to merely silence hunger.
And to everyone who is away from home, be it for studies or work, a simple home-cooked meal is a blissful experience. In short, everyone needs it. Food is an integral part of our lifestyle. If the quality of food and the experience of dining is poor, it is bound to lead us to physical and psychological issues someday.
Benefits of cooking therapy
● Psychological detachment - it is the sense of being away from work, both physically and mentally, during your time off
● Healthier lifestyle - Many working professionals tend to order from outside or prefer takeaways instead of cooking. But putting that extra effort to make yourself a meal after work is going to ensure you at least one meal of wholesome, home-cooked and additive-free food
● Enhances Learning - Cooking is all your school lessons in one action. You learn the science of how ingredients react, the correct measurements to get the taste of your liking, its origins, your family traditions and what not
● Sense of accomplishment - you feel accomplished when you have fixed yourself a meal. And when you cook for others, you feel appreciated and a sense of agape. It makes you feel good about yourself because it’s a way to nurture others. It also delivers a sense of immediate gratification.
● Helps practise gratitude - When we cook, we learn to appreciate the labour of love the ladies (or men) of our family shows us.
● Survival skill - Cooking is an essential skill and it makes us self-sufficient. On a candid note, the year 2020 put a lot of our culinary skills to action. It proved to be a stress buster.
● Self-care - This is particularly important because there is no greater self-love than cooking yourself a meal or even making yourself a cup of good coffee. It makes you feel important and it gives a boost to your self-esteem.
Culinary or cooking therapy is meant to ease your soul so start with something easy, something which you know you won’t fail. You are eventually going to get better so take it slow. If at all you aren’t able to make yourself a meal, relax and just mindfully savour every bite of your takeaway.
Having meals with your family or as a group is a happy experience and the satisfaction of having cooked a healthy meal can become a rush of healthy self-inflation. Cooking is about emotion, it’s about culture, it’s about love, it’s about memory. Remember to just cook with your heart and enjoy every meal.