How Does Cooking Nourish My Psyche?

If you’ve ever fallen victim to summertime sadness, don’t let your self-esteem take the heat—get grillin’ instead! Unbeknownst to many, home-cooked meals aren’t just good for you and your wallet; they’re also an unappreciated form of self-care.

July happens to be National Grill Month and Culinary Arts Month, which means it’s time to reach for the “Kiss the Chef” apron—but not before getting up to speed on how cooking feeds the soul.

Cooking has provided sustenance—for body and mind—since the beginning of time.

Of course the earliest forms of cooking were much more primitive than the elaborate dinners that we’re used to today, but the purpose of food hasn’t changed: energizing the body, feeding your overall function and engaging the senses in an experience unlike any other.

We’ve certainly come a long way from crude paste bread, after all! As food became less about survival and more about enjoyment, experimental cooking was born—and with it, the opportunity to explore new ways to make long-established recipes that have brought comfort and nutrition for thousands of years. So how does this play into a well-nourished well-being?

When you play chef, your brain receives the ingredients for success.

Intentionally investing time, patience and dexterity into your three meals a day can make a difference in your day-to-day life. In fact, the benefits extend far beyond getting your gut health in check.

Psychologists have found that creativity and emotional function go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter if you’re mixing up cookies from the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag or you’re creating a whole new concoction off the top of your head: you’re stimulating the brain in a way that boosts concentration and confidence, and can even lower feelings of depression as you gain new skills and purpose.

Food connects you to the past, present and future.

Meals are a social activity by design. Recall helping mom or dad in the kitchen when you were younger, hovering over a grill full of meat with the designated grill-master at family holidays, or setting all aspects of life aside just to enjoy dinner around the dining table with loved ones.

Cooking with others harbors feelings of community and belonging. It brings people together in what’s equivalent to a team-building activity: working toward one central goal—or multiple goals for that matter, if you’re making side dishes as well! Similarly, as you cook recipes that run in your family or are traditional to your culture, you’ll not only feel a connection to those you share your history with, in the form of a meal—you’ll feel close to your ancestors who once made those same meals, too.

The next time you’re feeling down, don’t just turn to fast food for an quick dinner. If you can manifest the energy to cook something warm and fulfilling, you’ll benefit from a full stomach and a nourished mind, too. Bon appétit—and happy cooking!

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