A Place to Eat, health

Why Cooking Is Your Secret Relaxation Weapon

So much of what we do in life is all about mindset. For some people, jumping out of an aeroplane is fun – for others, it’s a nightmare. The same variations in attitude occur concerning cooking. For many people, getting out all the crockery to make a meal from scratch is a massive chore, especially after a long day at the office. For others, it’s a sacred ritual – something you feel like you have to do for the day to feel complete. 

chopping board full of healthy food such as broccoli, carrots strips, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes

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It’s a shame that cooking is seen as “just something you have to do,” like brushing your teeth. Because, in truth, it’s not like that at all. Rustling up a delicious meal is more like creating a work of art than sweeping the floor. You get a rare opportunity to do something original that other people can enjoy immediately. That’s a good thing, right? 

Cooking is, in many ways, your secret weapon for more relaxing evenings. There are all sorts of reasons for this – many of which you wouldn’t expect. What’s more, they can all have massive ramifications for your overall well being, changing how you feel daily. 

Cooking Brings The Family Together

image shows two parents and two children cooking together

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Do you sometimes feel disconnected from the other people in your household? If so, it could be because you’re not spending enough time eating together. 

Research shows that families that take the time to eat meals together are typically a lot happier with their setup than those who don’t. There’s something about combining good conversation and delicious food that allows people to connect and enjoy each others’ company. It seems like such a simple thing, but it works. Plus, people will be more willing to put down what they’re doing if they know that something special awaits them at the dinner table. 

Cooking Provides Important Structure To Your Day

From the moment we wake up to the moment we have our evening meal, we’re in a high state of alert, constantly checking our emails and tapping away at our computers. But then when we eat dinner, we cross a threshold. Afterward, we relax, switch off our devices, and take some much-needed time out. 

However, when we just grab meals or quick snacks out of the refrigerator, we undermine this ritual. We’re not making a conscious decision to stop what we’re doing and relax. And that’s a problem. If your parasympathetic nervous system is continually active, it can’t recover from one day to the next. And that means that you ultimately wind up with burnout and chronic fatigue – not what you want. 

Cooking is something that provides structure to your day. Once you get the chopping board out and start arranging ingredients on your sideboard, you know that it’s “me time.” Everything after that point is about unwinding and preparing yourself for bed so that you can do it all again tomorrow.

Cooking Allows You To Eat Foods That Reduce Brain Inflammation

Brain inflammation sounds scary – and it can be. But it is also something that affects the vast majority of people. The reason has to do with the standard western diet.

The majority of the food that people eat at restaurants, take-outs, or pre-prepared contain factors that cause the body’s immune system to go into overdrive. Various toxins, chemicals, additives, and bacteria in the food all trick the body’s defenses into believing that they need to mount a response. Consequently, immune cells start churning out inflammatory factors that make their way to the brain. When this happens, it becomes inflamed, leading to problems like low mood, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and depression. 

When you cook, though, you invariably avoid artificial and highly processed products. Most of the time, recipes call for fresh fruits and veggies as they come out of the ground. No middlemen are spiking them with ingredients that will cause inflammation or take away fiber and nutrients that protect your body. 

Did you know that when you put people on a whole food diet, the inflammation level in their brains goes down? Invariably, they report feeling better and more relaxed. Over the course of a month or so, it can make a massive difference. 

Cooking Allows You To Include Pro-Relaxation Ingredients

Dietary styles, such as eating unprocessed foods, can help to combat exhaustion and stress. But some superstar ingredients can do the same thing. 

Take saffron, for instance. This simple herb is famous all over the world for its fragrant smell and yellow color. It’s a beautiful thing to include in your cooking, no matter what you’re making. But it is also extremely relaxing. The same goes for the spice cumin. It acts as a painkiller, calming the center of the brain responsible for anxiety and pain. 

Then there’s CBD oil – something that people are increasingly including when cooking baked goods. It attaches to particular receptors in the nervous system, creating a calming effect and bringing the body back into balance. You can add the stuff to things like brownies or cupcakes (made with healthy ingredients, of course). 

Not many people have heard of the Indian ayurvedic spice, ashwagandha, but there is robust evidence that it also helps people relax. Like some of the other herbs we’ve discussed, it contains chemicals that attach to receptors in the nervous system, shutting down pain and anxiety and balancing your mood. Again, people swear by it. 

Ashwagandha is a bit of a weird ingredient, but you can order it online. It smells a bit like “sweaty horse,” and has a kind of musty aroma. But you can add it to cereal, soups, and baked goods. 

Just be warned – it’s funky stuff!

Cooking Takes Your Mind Off Your Worries

We live in a troubled world. There are so many problems, both in our personal lives and society at large. Thus, sometimes you need a way to switch off and escape your thoughts. For many people, that means sitting down in front of the TV and watching your favorite shows. But for others, it means losing yourself in a recipe and mastering it. 

Cooking is great because it requires you to concentrate on it wholeheartedly. You can’t follow a recipe and think about emails from your boss at the same time. There are so many components involved in making a decent meal; you need to apply yourself fully. 

In that sense, it’s a bit like work. While you’re doing it, you do not have to deal with your own thoughts. You have a distraction. 

Cooking Allows You To Try Novel Flavors

We already talked about some strange flavors, but the range of ingredients and cuisines out there is truly remarkable. The amount of different sensations you can have dancing on your tongue is spectacular, from the tartness of freshly-chopped pineapple to the strange tingling sensation you get eating Sichuan peppercorns. 

Most people eat the same five meals on repeat throughout the month, never really trying anything different. That’s a shame because there are so many flavors out there with which you can experiment. There are also undiscovered cuisines that aren’t available for take-out. You have to make them yourself. 

Novel flavors are important for relaxation because they help increase your dopamine levels. When you find something exciting or new, it floods your brain with feel-good neurotransmitters, reducing stress levels almost immediately. 

Thus, next time you’re in the kitchen, take some time to experiment. Look for new flavor combinations and run with them. Becoming a great chef can be a way to improve your overall wellbeing and create delicious food at the same time. 

This is a collaborative post

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