Reasons to make home cooking your new form of meditation

The UK’s first 100% plant-based recipe kit subscription service has been putting the impact of cooking on our mental wellbeing to the test

Grubby sent its plant-based meals to 17 home cooks, with an average age of 30, to monitor their heart rates using Fit Bit watches before, during and after cooking, and asked them to fill out a survey to assess their emotional state.

Here are some interesting results: 

  • 93% agreed that focusing on a cooking task was a helpful way to relax and detach from the working day 
  • 73% agreed cooking had an overall calming effect on their mood 
  • 100% agreed cooking had an overall positive effect on wellbeing and mental health
  • 100% would consider cooking as a way to relax in future
  • 100% would recommend cooking to a friend to help them relax after work 

Although heart rates increased by an average of 8 bpm when cooking, when home cooks could enjoy their meals, heart rates dropped an average of 8.9 bpm with the average heart rate across all participants after eating sitting at 70 bpm – a standard heart rate for healthy adults. 

To understand why cooking is so beneficial for mental wellbeing, Grubby spoke to psychotherapist and nutritionist Uxshely Carcamo at The Food Therapy Clinic

Q: How can home cooking serve as a form of meditation to quieten the mind and ease everyday stress? 

“Cooking can be very therapeutic,” says Uxshely.

“Often, we spend our time thinking about the past and worrying about the future.

“Instead, taking the time to focus our attention and awareness on an activity like cooking can take us away from day-to-day stressors and into a calmer mental space. 

“Focusing our attention on preparing food and putting together a meal shifts our focus away from unhelpful thoughts.

“Cooking can also constitute some very powerful ‘me-time’ in which individuals can process their feelings and think things through by gently acknowledging any negative thoughts and accepting that they are there, rather than trying to suppress and dismiss them.

“It’s often only in these moments where we are engaging in an activity such as cooking that we can listen to, acknowledge and accept or process the thoughts running through our mind that often we are too busy to notice are surfacing.” 

Q: How can home cooking contribute to improved mental and physical wellbeing? 

“Preparing home-cooked meals allows individuals to connect with what they are eating. 

“Eating becomes a much more mindful activity and one in which someone has a lot more gratitude for their meal when they have prepared the food themselves.  

“I’m also noticing a trend of people not having very regular meals, relying on grazing or snacking through the day and then finding themselves ravenous and overeating in the evenings.

“By preparing more home-cooked meals and having more structure to meal-times, I find that people feel so much better about their food choices and what they are putting into their bodies.

“By cooking our meals, we take back ownership of our health.

“We are in complete control of what we are choosing to put into our bodies and, in turn, our health.” 

Q: How can we facilitate positive relationships with food in a month that often focuses on dieting and restriction? 

“Giving yourself permission to enjoy and savour food is a helpful first step. So many people feel so much guilt for eating.

“However, developing a positive relationship with food involves allowing yourself to truly enjoy the food you eat (without guilt) and really savour the food.  

“Secondly, it can help to see meal times as sacred and prioritise them.

“We often eat on the go, in a rush or doing something else.

“This can lead to over-eating, but it can also mean that we never really take the time to experience the food we are eating entirely.” 

Expert tips for mindful cooking 

Treat cooking as an act of self-care 

Allocate time in your diary for cooking as you would for an important meeting or a therapy session.

By doing this, cooking becomes a non-negotiable part of your day that you have planned for in advance.

You will be much more likely to follow through on your intention to cook regularly.

Don’t engage in all-or-nothing thinking 

Just because you commit to cooking more, don’t put pressure on yourself to suddenly cook all of the time.

Aim to cook slightly more than you currently do and gradually work your way up to cooking more frequently. 

Work with the time you’ve got 

I often find the most significant barrier to people cooking more is that they don’t feel they have the time for it.

Still, it can be a great way to improve self-worth by communicating to yourself that you are worth the time and effort it takes to prepare a nutritious meal and that you and your body deserve that care.

You don’t need to cook very elaborate meals. Even taking 10-15 minutes to prepare something simple can improve self-worth. 

If the thought of home-cooked meals is slightly overwhelming, why not let someone else take the wheel when it comes to decision-making by using a meal subscription service. 

Grubby has more than 50 plant-based recipes to get you out of your food comfort zone and inspires new ways to cook with fresh ingredients. 

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