Cooking As a Stress Reliever? What Research Says About the Surprising Connection

July 28, 2021

We've talked before about how you can do some simple things each day to help relieve stress and support your mental and physical health. But did you know that you can use cooking as a stress reliever?

It's been shown to not only decrease stress but also boost your mental health, which goes a long way in supporting your overall health. So, let’s take a look at how it works and learn about the ways cooking boosts your mental health so you can take advantage of these incredible benefits!


Using Cooking As a Stress Reliever: 5 Ways Cooking Boosts Mental Health 

By now you know that stress and overall health are undeniably linked. So, if you can find an activity you enjoy that also boosts your health, it’s truly a win-win.

Let’s take a look at some of the top ways you can use cooking as a stress reliever and, ultimately, boost your mental health as well as your overall health.

1. Boosts confidence

Think back to the last time you made a dish or dessert that tasted absolutely delicious. How did you feel when you took that first bite or saw the look of excitement on the face of someone who tasted your creation?

Odds are that you felt proud of yourself and experienced a new level of confidence in your cooking abilities. And these feelings result in optimism. Here’s why that matters for your health.

According to a 2019 study, people who were more optimistic were 1.5-times more likely to live to the age of 85, compared to those who were more pessimistic. [1]

And a 2018 review confirmed that cooking supports positive mood, self-confidence, and self-esteem. [2]

The best part is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can choose a simple smoothie or even salad dressing to throw together. As long as it’s tasty, you’ll get a confidence boost that will benefit your overall health.

2. Decreases stress

When you’re under stress, one of the best things you can do is clear your mind. Some people like to go for a long walk or run while others prefer to do yoga or even meditate.

But did you know that using cooking as a stress reliever is actually a great idea?

According to a 2021 study that examined the psychological impacts of cooking during the COVID-19 lockdown period, cooking not only promoted relaxation but even increased self-reported levels of happiness in participants.

The researchers followed 30 people between April 10, 2020 and June 3, 2020 and found that home cooking encouraged the development of special skills, knowledge, self-actualization, and self-enrichment. [3]

Specifically, several participants described the act of cooking as “taking stress away” and a “stress-relieving activity.”

So, if you find that you’re under a lot of stress, consider turning to your kitchen and trying out a new recipe. You may be surprised how much better you feel afterward.

3. Improves concentration

From following a recipe to getting creative and making your very own custom meal, there’s no question that cooking requires concentration. After all, one missed ingredient or distraction could cause your meal or dessert to fail.

While that may sound a bit stressful, the truth of the matter is that when you’re concentrating on cooking, you’re almost forced to put other things out of mind, including concerns and worries that may be keeping you stressed. And that’s why using cooking as a stress reliever works so well!

If you’re looking to boost your concentration, consider trying a recipe you’ve never made before. Or you can get your kids in the kitchen with you to help boost their ability to concentrate, work on literacy skills, and also make some great memories together.

The ultimate perk of that? Kids are more likely to eat food they’ve helped to prepare! And that means no more mealtime struggles!

4. Boosts overall outlook

By supporting your self-confidence and fighting stress, cooking also boost your overall outlook, resulting in a more positive disposition.

According to a 2016 study featuring 658 participants, spending time on small creative activities such as cooking and baking each day caused them to feel happier and more positive. [4]

If you find that you’re feeling a bit down, try getting into the kitchen and whipping up a batch of your favorite cookies (mine are these Gooey Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies). Not only will the sweet smell lift your spirits, but you’ll also have something delicious to share with your friends and family.

5. Improves nutritional intake

Finally, we can’t talk about using cooking as a stress reliever and health booster without discussing the nutritional impact.

The simple fact of the matter is that much of our food today is highly processed. And when you’re eating out at restaurants, it can be really difficult to know exactly what all they’re putting into your food.

Fortunately, by cooking at home, you know exactly what ingredients are being used and can prioritize certain vitamins and minerals based on what you or family may need. For example, if you’re feeling stressed, consider adding more foods rich in B vitamins, which are known to support your body’s stress response.

Worried about your sugar intake? Make desserts with monk fruit sweetener or agave syrup instead. When you’re in control of everything that goes into your body, you’re not only more aware of your nutritional needs but you’re then really tapping into cooking as a stress reliever!


Cooking as a stress reliever - Dr. Pingel


Key Takeaways

  • Cooking has been shown to not only decrease stress but also boost your mental health, which goes a long way in supporting your overall health.
  • Some of the top benefits of using cooking as a stress reliever and health booster include: boosting confidence, decreasing stress, improving concentration, boosting overall outlook, and improving nutritional intake.
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