8 Simple Ways to Boost Your Happiness in the Kitchen This Year, According to Wellness Experts
At the beginning of a new, hopeful year, we all strive to become better cooks — often promising to eat more fruits and veggies, work more efficiently, or get more organized. And hey: Those are great goals. But as we slowly slide into 2022, here at Kitchn we’ve been setting our sights on also making it a truly happier new year, too.
See, with another year of the pandemic lingering on, we think it’s time to propose a shift in focus from doing #allthethings to enjoying the things we do. For tips on how to accomplish this, we checked in with food-focused wellness experts, who shared eight simple ideas to boost happiness in the kitchen. Take a look, and get ready to be inspired for the new year!
1. Relax with a meal subscription service.
Cooking burnout: We’ve all been there. If coming up with yet another weekly meal plan seems like too much to bear, consider trying a meal subscription service for a few months. Uxshely Carcamo, a psychotherapist and nutritionist at The Food Therapy Clinic, says that letting someone else take the wheel when it comes to decision-making can feel like a breath of fresh air. Using a meal subscription service can also gently nudge you out of your food comfort zone, including cooking with fresh produce in new ways. “When it comes to optimizing our health and nutritional status, getting as much variety as we can is very helpful,” Carcamo says.
2. Concoct your own cleaning supplies.
Making the switch to DIY cleaning supplies and fresheners can feel empowering and even fun. Steve Schwartz, the founder and master tea blender at Art of Tea, suggests engaging your senses by steeping eucalyptus and naturally anti-fungal and anti-microbial lemon myrtle in hot water, then transferring it to a spray bottle. Spritz whenever you need to clean your kitchen or want a whiff of pleasant scents. Schwartz also points out that tea is a natural odor absorber. Older, dried loose-leaf tea leaves will neutralize stinky stuff in your refrigerator, similar to baking soda. By making your own cleaning supplies, you’ll not only feel good about saving money, but you’ll also be doing something eco-friendly.
3. Set achievable organizational goals.
There’s no need to overhaul your entire kitchen (unless you want to, of course). By narrowing your efforts to just one or two small “zones,” you’ll see almost-immediate results. And setting an easy goal will surely boost your sense of accomplishment. Kanchan Koya, a chef, author, and the founder of Spice Spice Baby, suggests starting with your spice collection. Koya says that multi-level shelves are ideal because they allow you to see all of your spices at once. “It’s soothing to the eye and makes cooking creative and easy!”
4. Add color with cheerful plants.
“After we put away the twinkle of Christmas, the house can look sad and bereft of color,” explains Naomi Kenealy, a multi-faceted healing professional who uses a combination of Ayurveda, nutrition, and massage to help her clients. She makes a point to add color with amaryllis bulbs and orchids. “We sometimes keep a few strands of twinkle lights just for fun,” she admits and adds that a few green plants — like hanging ferns — serve as a reminder that spring will return in due time.
Meg Doll, a registered holistic nutritionist and certified spiritual coach, is a big fan of plants, too. “I always have one in my kitchen,” she says, and notes that succulents are a low-maintenance option for those just starting out.
5. Get creative with a recipe app.
Kenealy is always searching the web for recipe inspiration. She keeps them all organized with a free app called Copy Me That. “When you find an amazing recipe in a blog or website, just click the browser extension button — it will automatically format the recipe and store it in your private recipe box,” she says. She uses her stash of new ideas to incorporate one new recipe per week. “This lends to creativity and stretches our exposure to new flavors.”
6. Incorporate pleasing scents.
“I love using a peppermint essential oil-based cleaner in my kitchen,” says Doll. “The smell makes me oh-so-happy when I’m cleaning.” In fact, research shows that aromatherapy can play a significant role in your mood and actually help ease stress. Another way to incorporate soothing, energizing, or comforting scents into your kitchen? A diffuser. You can even switch up your scents on a daily basis.
7. Do a little tidying every day.
Don’t worry: You don’t have to do a deep-clean every single night. But small steps, like straightening piles of paper or putting away the dishes at the end of the night, can help create a soothing environment — not to mention, workspace. “If our kitchen is a chaotic and messy place that we feel overwhelmed just being in, the likelihood of us spending time in there to cook is very low,” explains Carcamo.
8. Encourage company.
A kitchen full of (healthy, vaccinated) people you love is a kitchen that will make you happy. Carcamo suggests investing in bar stools for an island or counter, or even adding a few cozy chairs to encourage people to gather. “Turning the kitchen into a focal social point of your home is likely to increase the benefit you derive from that space and also the amount of time you want to spend cooking and relaxing in there, too,” she says.
What brings you happiness in your kitchen? Share your inspiration in the comments below.