If cooking isn’t your thing and even thinking about having to bake a cake has you breaking out in a nervous sweat, then it may surprise you to learn that cooking and baking are now being used to improve mental health.
In a story for Psychology Today, Linda Wasmer Andrews, who holds a master’s degree in psychology, reports that culinary therapy is now being prescribed to patients to treat a variety of mental health conditions and behavioural disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD and addiction.
Cooking and baking meet the criteria of a type of therapy known as ‘behavioural activation’, which are activities that alleviate depression by increasing goal-oriented behavior and reducing procrastination. This is why psychologists now believe cooking can be classed as therapeutic.
One obvious takeaway of cooking for therapy is that the end result is often meals that have been prepared using fresh ingredients at home, resulting in better nutrition. Furthermore, applying your mind to focus on the methodology of cooking, the actions of preparing food, can be a mindful practice that reduces rumination on negative or unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Cooking can even be a creative outlet for some people, mixing flavours, foods and textures to achieve something new and exciting.
On a more scientific level, a new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who often take on small creative projects such as baking or cooking reported feeling more relaxed and happier in their day-to-day lives.
So, next time you’re feeling a little down and out, perhaps try your hand at baking some cookies or pulling a meal together and see how you feel at the end of it.
This article originally appeared on Better Homes and Gardens.