A new report in the Wall Street Journal explores the development that therapists and mental health professionals in clinics across America have been instituting cooking and baking classes as a means to help people who suffer with depression.
In their report, "A Road to Mental Health Through the Kitchen," the WSJ reveals that going into the kitchen can help patients with their anxiety and depression because it helps them to learn "healthy cooking and eating skills" while also enforcing focus on a singular activity that gets their minds off of their thoughts and feelings.
Via the WSJ:
A Bethlehem, Conn., treatment center for teens uses cooking lessons to help treat mental illness and addiction. The head chef at the clinic, Newport Academy, runs the courses, teaching teens how to make healthier versions of their favorite foods, such as burgers or macaroni and cheese. The chef, Patricia D'Alessio, demonstrates techniques for tasks like chopping vegetables or making meat patties and has the teens follow along with their own ingredients.
The two-hour classes "got them to focus on something other than stressful emotions, or what was going on in their day," Ms. D'Alessio says. "It redirects their thought process to focus them on the process of cooking."
Psychologists call this type of therapy "behavioral activation," and its popularity seems natural as it encourages goal-oriented activity, the WSJ reports. It also encourages patients to not think about therapy while they are currently actively helping themselves (often without knowing it). There have been few studies done on the impact cooking and baking may have on our brains, but many characters in Jeanne Whalen's story were loving it!! (Same.)
The report goes on to explain that while cooking and baking are great activities in aiding depression, there are certain precautions that need to be taken in case all the renewed interest in food turns into a weight problem:
Therapists say anyone developing a regular cooking habit is wise to stick to healthy recipes, particularly since depression and other mood disorders can cause weight gain. Catana Brown, an occupational therapist in Glendale, Ariz., says she and others in the profession emphasize healthy recipes and portion control when using cooking as a therapy tool.
Healthy cooking and eating in groups in encouraged because being around others "can boost social skills and confidence," according to Helen Tafoya, the clinical manager of a psychosocial rehabilitation program at the University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center in Albuquerque.
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