If you live alone, you most likely think of cooking as a means to an end.
You have to cook to eat, and you have to eat to live, amirite?
It takes little time and effort to throw together boxed macaroni cheese or pre-bagged salad, but it turns out there are a ton of psychological benefits to cooking an actual meal, and not just for yourself.
I remember the first meal I ever cooked for my husband. We had just started talking back in college, and he was in my dorm room complaining about a sore throat.
I quickly whipped up a bowl of soup and a slice of buttered toast for dipping, and the genuine look of gratitude on his face just completely melted my heart.
Soul food doesn't just allude to plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes; it's the idea that cooking meals for loved ones, friends, and even co-workers can really have a positive impact on your mental health.
1. There's A Sense Of Nurturing
It's human nature to want to take care of others.
Michal AviShai, a culinary arts therapist, told Huffington Post,
Feeding fulfills a survival need, and so our feeling of fulfillment comes not only from the good of the act of giving, but also the fact that we have 'helped' in some very primal way. We have given fuel.
Even though you may not have intimate relationships with your co-workers past forwarding emails and brief conversations at the espresso machine, it feels good to know you made some sort of genuine impact on their day.
2. You Can Form Genuine Connections
Personally, I love owning the kitchen.
But I also really enjoy preparing dinner with my husband, or baking for a family gathering.
Making and sharing a dish is one of the simplest ways to show you care for someone.
And is there anything easier to bond over in this world than a plate of super delicious food?
3. Compliments To The Chef
It's always a nice feeling when your sister takes the time to mention how appreciative she is for the appetizer you made for mom and dad's anniversary party, or how much your co-workers loved the blueberry muffins you left on the conference room table for breakfast.
Don't be ashamed of it! Everyone basks in other people's approval once in a while, and even the smallest of compliments can be a total self-esteem boost.
Own it and enjoy, my friend.
4. It's Super Therapeutic
One of the best forms of therapy is to create something with your bare hands.
Think of it this way: to paint or draw a masterpiece, concentration is key. That same idea applies to cooking.
Culinary nutritionist and health Consultant Mikaela Reuben told Coveteur
Sometimes being forced to stay alone in a kitchen with my hands busy when I am going through something in my life has helped me stay with my feelings rather than trying to completely distract [myself]. The simple non-stressful task of chopping still acts as enough of a distraction so I am not completely overwhelmed by the personal experience I am going through.
5. It's Better To Give Than To Receive
I put together red, white, and blue shish kebabs for a Fourth of July get-together this year.
It was a simple recipe, mixing and matching patterns of sliced banana, strawberries, and blueberries, but I received compliments from every one of my aunts about how delicious it was, how fresh the fruit tasted, and how nice it was for me to make them.
Granted, I'm the type of person who saves up all year to buy my loved ones something really special for Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love receiving presents, but I love giving them even more.
I also really get a kick out of whipping up a batch of my father's favorite cookies, or trying out a new recipe for dinner with family.
Sharing is caring, after all.
6. It's Emotional
Cooking can be a form of celebration.
For example, bake a cake for your best friend's birthday, or a batch of your dad's favorite oatmeal raisin cookies for Father's Day.
It can even be a way to communicate more sentimental emotions during times of hardship.
For instance, to cook dinner for someone who recently lost a loved one can represent the compassion you're feeling for them, and can maybe even communicate those feelings better than a simple "sorry-for-your-loss" card in the mail.
To cook is to create, and there are so many delicious, as well as mental, health benefits that come with cooking for others, as well as ourselves.
My advice? Pass on the pre-packaged stuff.
Do your mind, body, and loved ones some good and get creative in the kitchen.