It's one of those days. You're just feeling off and you can't shake it no matter how many reasons you have to cheer up. It's sunny, your life is going great─or so you tell yourself. After all, you should feel better since nothing bad has happened. Right? No. That's not how the human experience works.
What you're experiencing at this moment is natural, despite what society may tell you. It's perfectly normal to feel down. In fact, you need negative feelings to be healthy. And fork you to anyone who says otherwise. Life isn't just about acting on social media like you're #blessed so you seem as perfect to everyone else, no matter what society says.
The one unanimous thing about the societies we've cultivated around the world is the pressure to be happy. They even have the gall to tell us what we should be happy about and how we should make ourselves feel better. Though, I will admit that some of pieces of advice are helpful.
What people don't realize is that a lot of things we skip to be more efficient during our daily grind are what make us feel better. Meditation is not up everyone's alley, sorry not sorry Mayo Clinic. Why do you think art and music are common outlets for people?
Of course, there are things like working out—exercise is shown to help make you feel better—or dressing better with the whole look good, feel good thing. These methods are encouraged by society, since we're shallow creatures and want everyone to look pretty according to our standards. It's programmed in us from the moment we interact with others. We're raised in it.
However, Michael Pollan mentioned in his Netflix documentary, Cooked, we—the only species to actively cook—don't cook anymore. Just in the United States, 28% of Americans can't cook. I know, shocking. Who would've thought with all those college kids who can't even add water to their Easy Mac so they don't set off the fire alarm in the dorms (four years later, and I'm still bitter)?
Sit Down, You're About to Get Scienced
As a culture, we're obsessed with food (otherwise would you really be reading this?), but we skip the act of cooking because we don't have time. It's all about getting ahead of each other and making that next big step. Here's the kicker: cooking and baking can help you feel better.
According to a new study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, people who frequently do small, creative projects feel more relaxed and happier in their everyday lives. Researchers followed 658 people and found out that doing everyday tasks like cooking and baking made the group feel more enthusiastic about things the next day.
However, this study isn't the first time researchers have drawn a line connecting making food with positive feelings. In the past few years alone, psychologists have started exploring culinary therapy, which has become a therapy technique du jour since it can treat a variety of conditions.
This is due to the different factors and positive emotions that cooking and baking conjure up. Making food lets you to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what you made. In addition, eating itself is pleasing to anyone. There's a reason comfort food is so present in our society. I can't tell you how many times I've reached for a carton of ice cream when I'm upset because I know it'll cheer me up.
As a result, cooking and baking are commonly used to help people who experience depression and anxiety. It's similar to how crafting can help you feel better. The repetitive motions that come from cooking techniques (such as knife skills) can help activate your brain's reward centers and release dopamine, giving cooking a meditative-like quality.
If you have any form of anxiety disorder, sometimes cooking can help you overcome it for a little, especially as it can be a social activity as well. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of therapy. If you're terrible at cooking (as in burn canned soup kind of terrible), this may not help and may just cause undue stress.
Cooking gives you control. When I cook, I have total control. I choose what goes into my dish. Every egg, every speck of flour. What I'm doing is my choice and it gives a sense of calm that I can't get anywhere else (meditation really isn't my style).
From the simplest recipes to more difficult ones like macarons, if something goes wrong it's because I did it. And if I make a perfect dish there's a still a sense of accomplishment even if I've made it a million times. As time has gone on—even through my worst times—cooking and baking have made me feel better.
It's easy when people observe me. The weeks where I cook or bake more often I feel better and am more cheerful overall. If I go too long without cooking or baking, it becomes obvious to others that I'm stressed or sad. In the past few years, more studies and articles have been published about how cooking has helped people. As these experiences reach more people, more and more of them come back to the kitchen.