8 Tiny Ways to Brighten Your Outlook on Life Through Cooking

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Jayme Burrows/Stocksy)

When I’m in a bad mood, I do one of two things: I either clean obsessively (I’m talking triple-vacuuming the rugs and dusting behind the appliances) or I get in the kitchen and make something (often while sipping a glass of wine). I’m going to chalk up the first to my German upbringing and I wouldn’t impose that on anyone, but I think the act of cooking is one of the most therapeutic things you can do. It can brighten your day — and your life! Here’s how.

1. Take pleasure in the prep work.

The first thing many of us do when we make something, whether it’s a batch of cookies or coq au vin, is the prep work: We gather ingredients, chop and slice as needed, measure carefully (or sometimes not so carefully), and then we’re ready to cook. But have you ever stopped to notice the difference in how you feel before you prep and after, once everything is all ready to go? Or even halfway through? Maybe your heart beat slows down, maybe your head stops whizzing with thoughts? Maybe it’s the glass of wine that’s responsible, but I think one of cooking’s (and life’s) less appreciated pleasures is in the prep work.

2. Accept that mistakes happen.

Every cook knows that mistakes happen. All the time. Did you forget to turn your oven on? Did you use salt instead of sugar or vice versa? Did you lose track of time while your chicken was roasting and burn it to a crisp? It is not the end of the world.

Also, only a monster would complain about a meal/dish that was made with love. This past Christmas, my mom was feeling frustrated that the potatoes were a little overcooked and the filet was a little undercooked. But what I remember is that my mom put food on the table for the entire family. As for the potatoes? My mom always makes the best potatoes.

3. Know that you can always start over again.

Some mistakes can be reversed. Some (like using salt instead of sugar) cannot. But here’s the thing: You can always start over.

4. Find friends in unexpected places.

Do you ever follow a recipe — whether it’s from a cookbook or a blog or a magazine — and feel like you have a friend in the kitchen? You do! (A real person wrote that recipe and would be delighted to find out that you cooked it!) And you have even more friends who will like the photo of whatever you make on Instagram. They might even love you more if it’s a total fail — because they’ve been there, too.

5. Cook with a friend IRL!

Oh and, news flash: You have actual friends who will definitely come over and either cook with you, or keep you company while you cook and then praise you for your kitchen skills.

6. Find the beauty in everything.

Have you ever eaten an ugly tomato? They migh not look like the textbook tomato, but they can be just as delicious — or way more so! — than picture-perfect ones. The same goes for that cake that collapsed or the casserole that’s, well, definitely not Insta-worthy.

7. Turn the music up!

I don’t know why this is, but I mostly listen to music while I’m cooking. During the other parts of my day, it distracts me from my work — or I just zone it out so I’m not able to appreciate it. But when I’m cooking, I’m doing something more manual, so I can fully appreciate my “Karaoke Dreams” playlist on Spotify. And it really does put me in the best mood.

8. Try something new.

In the kitchen, it’s easy to try something new. All you need to do is add a new spice to your can’t-mess-it-up chicken recipe and — there you go! You’ve branched out! And even if you decide, no, turmeric does not belong in that dish, well, you tried it, didn’t you?

Do you have any little things you do to brighten your outlook like through cooking? Share them in the comments below!