Under the Hood

Cooking During And After Quarantine Is Good For Your Mental Health

People have been slowly embracing the new normal brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. From how we interact, work and travel, the spread of the disease led to significant changes around the world.

One of those changes is that the kitchen became the best place in some households. “Recipe” has been one of the most searched words on Google since the beginning of March in the U.S. and worldwide, CNBC reported.  

Cooking at home offers many benefits. It encourages people to stay home and avoid going to restaurants during the pandemic, cuts delivery costs and surprisingly helps improve mental health. 

A recent survey by Hunter PR asked more than 1,000 people in the U.S. about their kitchen activities amid the lockdowns. Results showed that 54 percent of respondents were cooking more than before the pandemic and 75 percent said they became more confident in the kitchen.

Half of all the respondents plan to continue cooking more meals even after the coronavirus pandemic. A separate report by the New York Times backed the data saying Americans now cook at home more often than any record in the past 50 years. 

Experts said the growing interest in cooking could help people improve their mental health. This is important especially amid the spread of the coronavirus, which contributes to stress and anxiety. 

A 2017 review of cooking interventions suggested that the activity could positively influence psychosocial outcomes of certain therapies. 

“Why cooking can feel therapeutic is likely because of a combination of factors,” Nicole Farmer, study author and staff scientist at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, told Inverse. “Cooking is something that provides us the opportunity to address multiple facets of psychological well-being.”

Some clinics and counselors have been recommending cooking classes to help patients manage depression and anxiety. Farmer said that some of the positive effects of cooking come from the feeling of preparing food for others, which help improve and build relationships.

Spending time in the kitchen also gives the feeling of autonomy and the opportunity to master new things. Some people also enjoy cooking because it gives them a feeling of purpose or personal satisfaction.

Farmer said there are forms of cooking that provide more benefits and are more therapeutic. Those are the ones that start “from scratch.” 

She cited studies that suggested cooking foods that start from nothing could give “more enjoyment and more fulfillment” to people. For example, baking a cake has been linked to better psychological boost than preparing a box of mac & cheese.

That is because people feel more involved in baking than putting something into the oven or getting other easy-to-prepare meals.

Cooking and COVID-19 A 2017 review of cooking interventions suggested that the activity could positively influence psychosocial outcomes of therapies for mental health. Pixabay

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