8 Ways Cooking Has Become My Most Mindful Pastime
Any part of your routine can get old after a while. I used to look forward to my drive to work so I could catch up on my favorite podcasts, but now I can’t get excited about it. It’s the habit of doing something every day that makes it a chore, especially when it comes to cooking. I love a great meal as much as the next person, but the act of cooking isn’t enjoyable when you’re tired at the end of the day. Dreading standing at the stove made me reliant on unhealthy, microwavable meals until I realized that cooking could be part of my mindfulness routine.
Here are eight ways cooking has become my most mindful pastime and how I learned to enjoy it again. Now I’m excited to get home and start making whatever meal is up next because I know it will be good for my body and my mind.
It puts life on pause
When I walk into my kitchen, I have to put life on pause to cook. Whatever work I bring home with me or whatever the kids want, I have to be present in the kitchen to finish a recipe. It’s a subconscious way to teach yourself that you can take a momentary break from what’s stressing you to relieve your anxiety. It works for me nearly every night.
Cooking means no phone activity
There’s always something happening in the world that you want to learn about or get caught up on. Smartphones are a great way to educate yourself on current events, but it’s also the biggest way I get sucked into additional stressors. When I’m chopping carrots or layering lasagna, I can’t hold my phone and scroll through stories at the same time. It’s refreshing to take that social media break and give my brain time to breathe.
It requires my attention
Cooking requires my undivided attention, which is part of what mindfulness is all about. It’s different than other situations, like when you’re riding a bus. When you’re sitting down and waiting for something to happen, you can have a million different thoughts running through your head. I can’t worry about the future, think about the past and fry eggs at the same time.
The need for my attention gives cooking an additional mindfulness layer to bring my thoughts to the present moment and focus on the task at hand.
It engages my senses
Mindfulness habits ground you in the moment, which can require the use of your senses. When I want to hone my mindfulness skills, I engage my five senses while I mix ingredients or handle food. What do you hear when you sear tuna steak for salad and how does that carrot feel as you peel it? Focus your mind only on what you see, smell, and touch to become more mindful every time you cook.
It reverses my anxiety
There will always be a way to find something to worry about. If my mind isn’t focused, my anxiety works up issues that might not even matter in the moment. As I cook, I use the practice to reverse my anxiety. Let’s say that I was worried about how much the groceries cost. Yes, that’s something to keep in mind the next time I go shopping, but it was necessary to make this delicious food that fuels my body.
Cooking justifies things that might worry you, like spending money or stepping away from your work laptop for a moment. Feeding yourself and your family is one of the most important things you can do, so celebrate your cooking by being mindful of every step and letting go of anxiety.
I’m conscious of ingredients
There are two ways mindfulness helps me when it comes to ingredients. I can use my senses to concentrate on the different textures and scents going into my meals. It also makes me more aware of whether I’m eating something healthy or not. Adding a cup of chopped strawberries to a crunchy salad isn’t the same as putting two cups of sugar into a dessert recipe.
Mindfulness encourages me to know what I’m eating and how it affects my body so I can make better choices in the future.
I’ve learned to breathe
When I concentrate on mindfulness, it’s a step away from meditating. During some recipes, I can take time to practice deep breathing techniques to rejuvenate my spirit and body. Inhaling, feeling my diaphragm expand, monitoring each heartbeat, and exhaling are all ways to be mindful of my body as I wait for spaghetti water to boil or gravy to thicken. It’s time I might not have in my routine otherwise if I pushed myself to keep busy with multiple tasks at once.
I focus on my mood
The moment I finish cooking and get to experience the meal, my heart fills with confidence and pride. It gives me a positive mood, especially if I just successfully cooked a new recipe. Positivity allows me to reflect on my thought habits and recognize when I’m too negative or unkind to myself. Every time I focus on my mood during or after cooking, it helps me be more mindful of my feelings in the future when I’m busy with something else.
Try it for yourself
The moment I decided to transform how I felt about cooking, I had to make a conscious decision to stay mindful during every step of the next meal I made. It quickly became second nature, which is why cooking has become my most mindful pastime. Experience these benefits for yourself so you can get back to enjoying your time in the kitchen.
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