3 mindfulness tricks to take the stress out of cooking
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
It’s very easy to associate cooking with stress when you’re trying to keep the pot from overheating while answering work emails, stressing about bills, and trying to wrangle your rambunctious kids. With all that chaos at the forefront of your mind, you’re not paying attention to the one thing you’re actually trying to do: Cook.
When it comes to the kitchen, mindfulness is more than a buzzword; it’s a way to help you decompress and appreciate each meal more just by keeping you fully aware of the process.
The first time I practiced mindfulness, I was at a client’s house, trying to prepare a meal while my mind was going in circles. It had been a hard time for my family. My mother’s health had taken a turn for the worst, and in my distracted state, I found myself more concerned with checking my phone and envisioning worst-case scenarios than making sure my measurements were precise and the food wasn’t overcooked.
After a few simple mistakes, I realized I needed to make a change. I put my phone away and dedicated myself to focusing on the task at hand. It wasn’t easy, of course—being in the moment never is—but by the end of the evening, I realized that I had stopped making careless mistakes, I no longer felt rushed, and I’d forgotten all about my mother’s medical condition for four straight hours, which I really needed.
Since then, I’ve developed a few simple tricks to make mindfulness while cooking a habit for myself. Hopefully, they’ll help you find solace or appreciation the way they helped me.
Set your intention. Every time I prep for a big meal, I start by reminding myself that I’m not just doing a chore; I’m nourishing my family. If it’s a client, I remind myself that I’m helping a family spend more time together or providing a special treat for someone with dietary restrictions. Having that goal in mind—and visualizing the results of my efforts—creates a sense of purpose that makes it much easier to stay present.
Light a candle. Every time I cook, I light a candle, and whenever my mind begins to drift, I look to its flickering light to help me remain anchored in the moment. The technique is a form of object meditation and doesn’t necessarily require a candle. Any commonplace object will do, so long as you have no positive or negative associations with it.
Get your groove on. Some people might like to listen to podcasts or turn on the TV while they cook, but when it comes to ear candy, music is always my go-to. Not only has it been proven (again and again) to relieve stress, but it can also serve as an anchor to the present moment. I’m a huge fan of reggae and will blast it ’til kingdom come, but you find whatever music winds you down or pumps you up and see how that one small change can make a huge difference.