Early humans cooked to stay alive, utilizing fire to make better meals that strengthened their chance at survival. Modern humans use cooking for more than nourishment. They use it for fun; to bond with friends, lovers, and children; to make a living; and even to compete for fame and fortune on cooking shows. And now, cooking has gone one step further to treat mental and behavioral health conditions.
Culinary Arts Therapy is rapidly becoming the new health craze among therapists and mental health clinics. Linda Wasmer Andrews in Physology Today, writes that cooking is being used to treat “depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, and addition”.
A study on Nutritional medicine published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal shows that because nutrition has such a a strong impact on mental health, “diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology,” making food the most obvious natural remedy to turn to as the next untapped vault of treatment.
So how exactly is cooking, so long regarded as a tedious, undesirable chore, supposed to relieve any serious mental disorders?
Primary, culinary therapy has the direct link to physical health. If the body is healthier, then the mind and heart will be happier, giving the cook better physical and mental well-being.
Cooking can also be an exercise in mindfulness. During therapy, cooks focus on each small task of washing, peeling and cutting fruit; every sound of sizzling oil, squirting fruit, and oven flames shooting up; and each stinging smell of onion, sour vinegar, and strong cheese. These exercises help relieve stress and improve focus while promoting a greater sense of value in life and the world.
Finally, cooking creates a sense of satisfaction, self-positivity, and happiness as the cook takes pride in the meal they made. The recipe itself is a practice in creativity, an outlet that is so often overlooked in a busy, automated society.
Logistically, a working kitchen is the only thing needed to practice culinary therapy. As therapist Julia Ohana told Huffington Post reporter Julie R Thomson, “I have an office space that has a kitchen… I have also done many group sessions for staff groups in offices.”
The coworking space at Free Range Office has long been celebrated for its versatility, adapting seamlessly to accommodate baby showers, comedy shows, conferences, coworking and drama therapy sessions alike. Now, culinary arts therapy is also welcomed either in individual or group sessions, using the fully functional, state-of-the-art kitchen facilities.