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Mental Health Awareness Week - How Cooking Can Benefit Wellbeing

What is Mental Health Awareness Week & When is it?

Mental Health Awareness Week in 2022 runs from 9th May to 15th May and this year's theme is loneliness.

The Mental Health Foundation has set the theme and hosted Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK for the past 22 years. One of the main aims of the week is to encourage open conversations about mental health and this year, loneliness in particular. People and companies are called to raise awareness, encourage connection and share experiences of loneliness on social media using the hashtag #IveBeenThere.

“One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause, and there’s no one solution. After all, we’re all different! But, the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems.” Mental Health UK

In difficult times, there is no substitute for reaching out to family, friends, colleagues or a health professional. Below are links to 6 great resources here in the UK for those looking for support or more information on the topic or how to get involved:

In this blog, we respond to the Mental Health Foundation’s call to use our unique contribution to help tackle loneliness, isolation and the barriers to connection. We have combined our support for mental health awareness with our kitchen expertise to share our experience of how home cooking can benefit wellbeing.

6 Ways Cooking Can Benefit Wellbeing

Create A Sense of Accomplishment

When we don’t feel 100%, simple tasks become more challenging, and we can lose confidence in ourselves. Cooking is one example of an achievable goal you can set and a way to build confidence. By achieving the task, you are rewarded with a delicious home-cooked meal.

If you are comfortable in the kitchen, you could try challenging yourself with a new recipe. However, the best thing about cooking at home is that it doesn’t have to be a complicated gourmet dish; even making a simple meal can boost your self-esteem and create a sense of accomplishment. The most important part is that you achieve what you set out to do, so it’s essential to start small to build your confidence and then build more complex dishes.

 

Be Present in a Mindful Task

When we find our minds racing, worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, a mindful task can help ground us back in the present moment. The physical act of cooking has the potential to be a mindful experience.

Preparing food can be a repetitive and straightforward process, often one that we’ve done many times before. We can find comfort in this simplicity, which allows us to get lost in action and quiet our minds. Sometimes we’re so busy in life, flying from one thing to the next, and cooking can be an opportunity for a calm moment. You can choose to spend time in solitude, either enjoying the moment of quiet or listening to a favourite playlist, podcast or audiobook. Cooking can also be shared with family, a time to connect and share stories from your day.

 

Look After Your Physical Health

One of Mind’s tips for improving your mental wellbeing is to ‘look after your physical health’. Mind recommends several ways to do this, one of which is to think about your diet.

The Mind website shares that “Basic self-care is important for your physical health and can help you feel better.” Taking the time to think about the food you will eat, making intentional choices and cooking for yourself when you can, are all steps toward self-care, which in turn can enhance your sense of wellbeing.

 

Get Creative & Have Fun

Research indicates that creative outlets can positively affect our mental health.

Cooking at home is the perfect creative outlet, a place to experiment and discover how each ingredient works within a dish. Even if you’re more comfortable following a recipe, the act of cooking something new is a creative and exciting endeavour. New recipes push us out of our comfort zone, allow us to try new things and teach us about cooking principles for other dishes.

When you were young, did you help out in the kitchen? If you did, you are likely to have fond memories of this experience, whether mixing the dough with your hands or decorating biscuits with your own unique, colourful and creative designs. Cooking can be fun at any age! Trying a new recipe, decorating a cake, or making pasta at home are all experiments that can be genuine fun. It’s not about the outcome; it’s about the journey – and sometimes, the cake that didn’t rise is just as delicious as the perfect one.

 

Patience

Cooking often requires an element of patience. After a busy day, it can be tempting to buy ready meals or order a takeaway for a quick and easy option. Setting aside just half an hour of your day can be enough time to prepare your food, which is an exercise in discipline and patience and a positive step for wellbeing.

 

Connection

As we focus on the theme of loneliness, it’s essential to acknowledge that each person experiences these feelings differently. 

When you are ready and comfortable to reach out, cooking can bring people together and help to foster connections with others. The physical act of cooking with someone is an exercise in communication, consideration, and teamwork, whether making cookies with your children or inviting friends over for a BBQ.

Also, sharing home-cooked food with friends or family is an opportunity to show love and care for the important people in your life and create a space for interaction and communication.

 

These are just a few of the ways that cooking can have a positive impact on mood and wellbeing. However, everyone’s experience of mental health is different, so it’s important to find what works for you. We hope that this article has been helpful, whether by promoting the benefits of cooking for wellbeing or the resources that we have shared.

 

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