In a highly connected, chaotic world, finding ways to become grounded and centered seems more important than ever. A non-stop hurried state increases your stress response, which can negatively affect your metabolism—mainly either increasing or decreasing weight.
If stress persists over an extended period, it can overtax your body and may even contribute to physical and psychological health problems.
While some people find practices like yoga or meditation helpful to combat these effects, you can also incorporate a practice of slowing down in everyday activities—like cooking.
Slowing down in the kitchen can help develop awareness by training your attention to focus on the task at hand. As you concentrate on preparing a meal, you begin to calm your mind and emotions, which, in turn, can bring some much-needed benefits to your body.
Here are five ways to nourish your mind, body, and soul in the kitchen.
1. Pleasure Your Palate
Pleasure research has shown that food—in addition to sex and social interactions—is fundamental to your survival, and these basic stimuli take priority in resource allocation. Learning to enjoy simple pleasures is a great practice and can be easily done with food.
Practice: Take time to enjoy foods you really like. As you do, try slowing down to fully enjoy each bite. Become fully present for the experience of eating and the pleasure that it can bring.
2. Focus on Flavors
Flavour is the sensation felt when food or drink comes in contact with your taste buds. There are five basic tastes:
- Umami (a savoury taste)
The flavour of a dish is derived from a combination of these basic tastes. A beginner or seasoned cook can combine similar or contrasting flavors to produces a harmonious balance.
Flavors can be enhanced by the temperature, colours, texture, and consistency of the foods used.
Practice: Notice the flavour, texture, or temperature of what you are eating during your meal. Focus on one and savour the sensation.
3. Garnish with Gratitude
Enjoying a meal is something precious that many people don’t get the chance to do. Around 795 million people in the world are hungry. Keeping this statistic in mind, you become aware that eating is a privilege and not to be taken for granted.
According to Harvard Health, gratitude is shown to be strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. It not only helps people with savouring good experiences, it improves overall health. It’s a practice that helps you refocus on what you have instead of what you lack.
Thich Nhat Nanh, a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, offers these Five Contemplations on Food:
- This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
- May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
- May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation.
- May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
- We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.
4. Stir up Social Connections
According to Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., “Many of the key conditions that threaten to set you back or shorten your life can be staved off by upgrading how frequently you connect with others.”
Cooking is a fun activity and, as a shared practice, can boost connectedness with others. Eating is inherently a social behaviour, so finding ways to share this experience will be of great benefit. Findings show that sharing food can help establish and increase:
Practice: Set aside at least one meal each day to share or cook with family or friends.
5. Preserve with Play
It’s important to find ways to enjoy yourself and have fun with both new and everyday endeavours.
According to Editor of the American Journal of Play Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D., “We don’t lose the need for novelty and pleasure as we grow up.” Finding ways to incorporate play—which focuses on experience, not accomplishment—is key.
Practice: Dance as you roast root vegetables, sing as you swirl pancake batter, allow yourself to experiment, mess up, and, for the sake of preserving positive change, make everything fun!
Setting intentions in the kitchen is a great way to begin a practice of nourishing your body, mind, and soul. When done regularly, the benefits will be carried over into all aspects of your life.