When you come home from a long day, sometimes you just want to eat something that can be ready in two minutes. Who wants to spend a hour bent over a hot stove anyway? But as I’ve learned, there is a cathartic and positive aspect to going through the complete motions of cooking.
There is a calming sense that can come from chopping vegetables and cooking a steak that can help you unwind in a way that can be different from the typical therapeutic methods. Firstly, it can be fun! You can find some fancy obscure recipe online that no one would ever think you capable of making, and treat it like an adventure or a game. Even if you burn it, you can always order a pizza.
Secondly, there is nutrition. A healthy mind and body needs a healthy intake of the proper vegetables and fruits and so on. Mental health problems involve a lot of hormones and neurotransmitters and a lot more medical jargon, and certain foods can help you with regulate them. According to WebMD, there are a ton of foods that can help with depression symptoms like broccoli (antioxidants), oranges (Vitamin C), whole grain carbohydrates (serotonin likes carbs), and beef (protein helps you be alert). The best part: chocolate has happy chemical dopamine in it!
There is also the benefit of completing a task fully and completely. When you start out to create something but your painting needs more work or that bit of writing needs to be revised a couple more times, it can be discouraging. But when you are cooking something, especially if it is for yourself, it can be more satisfying. You can choose to create something specific that day and see the beautiful end results in a short time frame. You can cook with multiple colors and flavors and experiment with tastes and even invent something new!
So when you have the time and patience, maybe take out an old cookbook and reconnect with that one grandmother who made really good mac and cheese, or your dad who is known for his steak sauce. Food can connect you to yourself by giving you new things to try and get out of your comfort zone, or even just perfect your comfort zone. Or you can connect to your family or culture in a way that is both affirming and nutritious.
Trust me, you can create anything! Just remember to cook chicken all the way through, and to cut a slit into an eggplant before you stick it in the oven (or it might blow up. Not that that’s ever happened to me…). So envision yourself as this stock photo chick and be the cook you’ve always wanted to be!