Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. Surprisingly, their number even surpasses depression. And, with this prolonged season of quarantine, anxiety is at an all-time high. I am committed to your health and safety and that of your loved ones. And, I want to share one possible solution that you can utilize every day from the comfort of your home … culinary therapy!

What Is It?

Culinary therapy has been defined as “a therapeutic technique which uses culinary arts, cooking, gastronomy, and an individual’s personal, cultural, and familial relationship with food to address emotional and psychological problems faced by individuals, families, and groups.”

In today’s society, there are many forms of alternative therapies which are making a huge impact. These include art, dance, and many others. But, culinary therapy, which is familiar to us and engages so many of our senses, is an underutilized form of healing.

Creative expressive processes, like cooking, are designed to help you learn more about yourself. Additionally, they can help you better understand, communicate, and navigate your feelings. This is especially helpful when words can be difficult to find.

Moreover, culinary therapy often leads to better nutrition. This then promotes overall body health. Similarly, whatever food is being cooked or used in this type of therapy allows the release of Dopamine (a pleasure chemical) and Ghrelin (a mood hormone). And, Cortisol (an anxiety and aggression hormone) is lowered.

Simply put, culinary therapy is the total mind-body healing package we all need in some form or another.

Benefits of Culinary Therapy

  • Creates a specific time to slow down, focus, and prepare
  • Enables reflection/revelation when it comes to familial or cultural relationships when using a family or ethnic recipe
  • Creates communication opportunities between spouses and within families
  • Results in quality time with self or with families
  • Allows for room to learn and grow; possibly even have some laughs
  • Assists with processing upsetting emotions when things get burnt, or the recipe doesn’t turn out right, without the stakes being high-risk
  • Creates a safe place to try new things, be adventurous, and get creative
  • Ensures the focus is on cooking and on the meal, which can make others open up because they don’t feel the attention is on them

There is a plethora of benefits to culinary therapy, and these are just a few. Cooking creates its own unique atmosphere that consistently and constantly opens new doors on the path to wellness.

How to Use Culinary Therapy

With social distancing being our new norm, culinary therapy principles have never been more applicable for improving your mental health from the comfort of your home.  Consider all the unique ways you can use grazing tables to create memories and generate conversation. You and your significant other can create a charcuterie board for an intimate date night in. Or, you can create an all-desserts board for family movie night, or make an individual wine and cheese board and do a video call with friends.

Whether a DIY charcuterie board or a home-cooked meal is your preference, all the aforementioned benefits can be cultivated by gathering together in the kitchen, around the dining table, in the living room, or in the backyard. Use the meal-prep time to its fullest; and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. There is no limit to how you might use the culinary arts to be uplifting!