The joys of cooking –A therapeutic force

Cooking or baking as therapy is an area that deserves our full attention. It calms stress, forms self-esteem and limits negative thinking

In this period of the Corona related lockdown, cooking has given me great joy despite the prevailing uncertainty and anxiety. I am also delighted to see my prowess at it ,despite not being in the kitchen for years. In fact, as a therapist and healing practitioner, I am seeing my rediscovery of the culinary art in that light.

Cooking or baking as therapy is an area that deserves our full attention. It calms stress, forms self-esteem and limits negative thinking. Purely from a psychological angle, it’s a goal directed, purposeful action that is akin to any other creation. The mind is intent on following a recipe but is in a state of ‘flow’ and sublimation as well.

Anyone with a frying pan on the stove knows that postponement, distraction,and mindless action can only lead to failure. To feel rewarded and accomplished, a successful process leading to a successful culmination is crucial.

Even for a most basic meal, one has to engage the mind in a ‘meta and micro’ way. It involves inventory and menu planning, kitchen management, bringing the recipe to mind, directing actions in sequence and the art of judging proportion and right amounts for cooking. Too less or a bit too much and it all becomes a waste.

The therapeutic aspects are cognitive, emotional and at times, intrapersonal. Physically, cooking is a task that burns calories. It works the shoulders, fingers, wrists, elbow, neck, as well as the legs and balance. One sweats it out when lifting, mixing, cutting and chopping. I have been a kitchen volunteer for a few years at the Bombay International School in Mumbai. It is a unique institution where the lunch meal for the entire school population totalling nearly 400 is prepared by volunteer school parents and I know now how substantive scale cooking is a complete workout. It has also given me some of my closest friendships within the group of kitchen volunteers. That’s the magic of cooking together.

Coming back to the emotional aspects – one has heightened awareness and a sense of resolving chaos when one brings a recipe to life.

But the core of why ‘cooking is therapy’ is about creativity. Cooking gives the joy of creation like painting, writing or singing. But it also makes one feel good because it nurtures others. Like applause from a crowd, the smacking of lips and sounds of your family devouring your cooked meal gives immediate gratification. In Indian culture, food has deep cultural and religious meaning. Annapoorna is a Goddess.

Cooking as a creative outlet channels energy and express emotions through food as the medium.

I surprised myself by the output and quality I achieved but I was not so assured when I started off. The lesson there is that –like any art –practise makes perfect.Good home cooks get years of stove time. Still, one shouldn’t hesitate to start small. An omelette is just as much a cooking task. Scale and proficiency can come later. Remember that we are approaching this from a therapeutic direction.

A few ways in which cooking is similar to any corporate career , real life scenario or even life itself –

1. It makes you take charge.

2. Things never happen exactly as planned

3. You’ve to improvise and alter things as you go along

4. The reward is always at the end

5. The smallest ingredient makes a difference

6. It humbles you by failure.

7. It makes you more grounded when successful

8. Cooking is self-care at its most basic and nourishing

9. Being good makes you feel good - self-esteem and confidence is up

10. Cooking can be a way to connect - food brings people together.

Finally, adhering to no stereotype, cooking is a rewarding experience because eating is inherently rewarding. Eating your own cooking is a powerful reward. Cooking with your partner can increase communication and teamwork.

It is an activity with no downside. But, mind the calories !!

Let us cook our way to bliss.

Tags assigned to this article:
COVID-19 Crisis therapy Cooking


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