Cooking in Addiction Recovery
Cooking is an immersive experience, and, its therapeutic benefits should not be discounted in your own addiction recovery
Cooking incorporates our sense of creativity, independence, mindfulness, and focus, all into one.
Making our own meals contributes to a healthier lifestyle, and allows us to have a balanced diet.
Beyond that, the process of cooking and the feelings that come with it offer therapeutic benefits.
The beautiful part of cooking is that you don’t need to be a master chef to enjoy it
With all of the recipes, classes, and even tv programmes that are available at your fingertips, you’ll have the tips and guidance you need to begin exploring this healing craft.
Cooking For Better Health in Recovery
Many people in early addiction recovery have little time or desire for cooking. This is especially true for those in active addiction, when food choices sit pretty low on the priority list. During active addiction it is common to grow accustomed to skipping meals or grabbing whatever food items are convenient.
Being in recovery from addiction can feel overwhelming, but it brings the opportunity for growth and learning new skills. Cooking can be a wonderful opportunity to nourish your body, mind and your soul.
Many people love cooking and find it to be rewarding. The act of creating and then eating your own meal is empowering. The process of cooking can also be incredibly relaxing and soothing.
Cooking in Addiction Recovery Encourages Independence
Cooking also encourages independence and taking care of our own basic needs. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to provide for ourselves on such a primal level. We can lose our sense of autonomy during addiction, and cooking is a simple and accessible way to give that back to ourselves.
Cooking can also be therapeutic, it fosters focus, creation, and mindfulness (or the food will burn!). When you’re cooking, you are focused on what ingredients you need, how to assemble them, and how to put everything together properly. The world around you quietens, and it’s just you and the food in front of you.
Even if you aren’t following a recipe and you’re just sort of figuring it out as you go, the process of cooking encourages you to stretch your mind in creative ways, while also focusing on the task at hand.
Cooking, in many ways, can be a meditative process. It can be used as a coping skill, or as a healthy distraction from the stressors of daily life. Recovery can be challenging on multiple levels, and cooking can be an emotional and mental outlet to channel your energy. It can help you get out of your own mind and experience an internal stillness, facilitating a healthy recovery from addiction.
Cooking For Therapy
Cooking appears to be so helpful for mental health that it has been utilised in what’s known as cooking therapy, or culinary therapy. According to Dr. Michael Koscet of The Chicago School, cooking therapy is defined as:
“The therapeutic technique that uses arts, cooking, gastronomy, and an individual’s personal, cultural, and familial relationship with food to address emotional and psychological problems faced by individuals, families, and groups. Culinary therapy involves an exploration of an individual’s relationship with food and how food impacts relationships, as well as psychological well-being and functioning.”
More and more mental health facilities and therapy offices have begun to incorporate cooking therapy as a part of their comprehensive treatment plans. Cooking therapy has been used in this way to help treat those struggling with many mental health and behavioural concerns, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, eating disorders, and addiction.
The Benefits of Cooking in Addiction Recovery
Research shows that for some, cooking can even help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. One study explains that this could be because cooking engages the executive functioning in our brain, and research states that people with good executive functioning also seem to have better emotional regulation.
Cooking may also help alleviate symptoms of anxiety because it helps people feel more in control. When we’re feeling anxious, we lose all sense of control in our minds and sometimes even our bodies. Cooking hones in on a specific task with a specific objective, where all the control is in our hands, and all the focus is on the ingredients before us.
Aside from alleviating symptoms of anxiety, there are so many benefits of cooking for those in addiction recovery. These benefits help not only our physical bodies, but also our mental, emotional, and even spiritual bodies as well.
The benefits of cooking in addiction recovery:
- Encourages focus
- Fosters mindfulness
- Promotes creativity
- Reduces symptoms of depression
- Helps create a sense of control
- Increases goal-oriented behaviours
- Can help stabilize moods
- Acts as a form of self-care
- Promotes relaxation and calm
- Can foster social connectedness
New to Cooking?
If you’re in addiction recovery and totally new to cooking, don’t fret! There are many resources available that can help you get started. The internet today provides a wealth of information on cooking and recipes, for everyone from newbies to experts.
A quick Google search for “simple recipes” provides pages and pages of beginner recipes for you to try out. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out Youtube videos for ideas and recipes. There are specific channels that offer dietary-based recipes, such as the keto diet, gluten-free, vegan, and more.
If you have truly no idea where to begin, think of a meal that you enjoy eating. Everyone has a favorite food, after all. Once you’ve come up with something, look up a simple recipe for making that meal. You’d be surprised at how easy it probably is to put together!
Also, don’t be afraid to explore different forms of cooking. You may not like cooking pasta dishes, but find that you love making baked goods. From creating pastries to whipping up stir-fries, there are so many variations of cooking to try out.
Test a few different options out and see what you most enjoy! You never know what you’ll find you have a knack for.
What comes from cooking may surprise you, as you’re not only being accountable for your own health and well-being in recovery, but you just may experience new levels of self-esteem and independence.
There’s truly a sense of satisfaction knowing exactly what we are putting into our bodies, and knowing that our time, effort, patience, focus, and creativity are what created it.
The Joys of Cooking in Addiction Recovery - Sharing is Caring
Not only does cooking provide wonders to your own well-being in recovery, but cooking for others can help improve your mood, and helps you feel more connected to other people.
The sense of giving and altruism that comes from cooking for friends and family can leave your heart as full as their bellies, and acts as a means of spiritual enrichment.
There are so many ways you can give to others by utilizing cooking. You can cook meals for your other friends in recovery, who may not have hopped on the cooking train yet. Giving them hot meals may seem like a small token to you, but can prove to be an invaluable gesture to them.
You can take home-baked biscuits to a local meeting, or provide meals to homeless shelters. You can even host your own “Come Dine With Me” with your recovery friends! Compete for the title of best amateur chef with your pals, and enjoy sober socialising and friendly competition.
A Final Note on Cooking in Recovery
If you’re a visual learner and are interested in following simple recipes on YouTube, check out the following Youtube channels to help you get started on your culinary journey:
- Tasty Recipes
- Basics with Babish
- The Stay at Home Chef
- Joy of Baking
- How to Cook That
- Frugal Fit Mom
- The Easy Vegan
Some people learn to cook by reading and then experimenting. There are so many unique cookbooks available online, in shops, and in thrift stores.
If you’re more into hands-on learning, reach out to a friend or family member who knows their way around a kitchen, and ask if they can teach you how to make a meal you enjoy.
If cooking isn't delivering what you need in terms of its benefits, consider taking a specialised cooking class for a particular type of cuisine you favour, or a particular style of cooking that you have yet to explore.
You are also always welcome to share recipes within the Recoverlution platform. Recoverlution’s nutritionist Melissa Kuman offers a wealth of experience and delivers cooking tips and classes based on the best nutrition within our Wellness hub.
- How Cooking Can Serve As Therapy - https://www.southernliving.com/healthy-living/mind-body/cooking-therapy-mental-health
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder Was Helped By Cooking Therapy - https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/how-cooking-became-the-perfect-recipe-for-my-spiralling-anxiety/2020/03/20/a56d068a-4832-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html
- Cooking Therapy Benefits for Stress, Mental Health, and More - https://draxe.com/health/cooking-therapy/
- Kitchen Therapy: Cooking Up Mental Well-Being - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201505/kitchen-therapy-cooking-mental-well-being
- From Cooking to Counseling - https://www.thechicagoschool.edu/insight/from-the-magazine/michael-kocet-culinary-therapy/
- The Benefits of Cooking in Recovery - https://americantreatmentnetwork.com/the-benefits-of-cooking-in-recovery/
- Culinary Arts Benefit Clients During Active & Post Rehab Process - https://www.redoakrecovery.com/addiction-blog/culinary-arts-benefit-clients-during-active-post-rehab-process/