The benefits of meditation are plenty. Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. It promotes emotional health and self-awareness. It can even increase attention span and improve mental clarity. And yet, traditional meditation is not for everyone. Quieting the mind is no easy task and setting aside time every day to practice poses an additional challenge.
Luckily, mindful cooking is an effective alternative that offers the benefits of meditation without the struggle. Promising research shows that cooking could improve mental health by elevating our mood and self-esteem. No expert culinary knowledge required. Anyone can do it, but here are a few pointers to help you achieve peak relaxation through mindful cooking.
Take your time.
In order for cooking to be a meditative and relaxing experience, it’s important not to feel rushed. Set aside time to prepare a meal just as you would make time to exercise. Think of preparing food as an act of self-care, not a chore. Approaching meal preparation in this way allows you to lose yourself in the process, rather than focusing on getting through it. Enjoying the journey is what meditation is all about.
Limit outside distractions.
Always keep in mind that cooking should be a pleasurable experience. If listening to music or watching a TV show while you cook feels good—go for it. However, make sure to limit distractions that could cause stress or mental interference. Consider putting your phone on Do Not Disturb and avoid checking email or social media while cooking. This is your time, the outside world can wait.
Take it step by step.
One of the most common meditation techniques involves focusing your attention on your breath in order to relax the mind. Focusing on the task at hand while cooking achieves a similar calming effect. When preparing a meal, focus your attention on completing one step at a time. This will help you stay present and distract the mind from the stress of your day, whatever that may be.
Plan around your schedule.
Just like meditation or exercise, it doesn’t matter what time of day you cook, as long as you make the time. Build mindful cooking into your schedule in a way that best suits your individual needs. Maybe this means preparing scrambled eggs in the morning for some pre-work zen, or crafting a hearty salad at lunchtime with all the fixings. The meal you make does not have to be elaborate or decadent, but the preparation should be intentional.
Be proud of what you create.
Of course, the best part of mindful cooking is that you get to eat what you make. Sure, traditional meditation yields plenty of health benefits, but those benefits are not always as tangible as the instant gratification of enjoying a delicious meal. Go ahead and feel doubly accomplished—not only did you make time for yourself to relax, you made yourself something good to eat in the process. Nourishing the mind and body by thoughtfully preparing your food is the ultimate win/win.