Do you find yourself in the kitchen during times of stress or when overwhelmed? Maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Sinking your hands into some cooking is a great way to gain emotional resilience and well-being.
Did you know that our brains are designed to feel satisfaction and joy when both physical effort and challenging thought process come together. In other words, you’ll be happier when you prepare something.
Engaging the effort-driven rewards circuit
You’ve probably felt this feeling before when you put together a piece of IKEA furniture on your own, when you finally mastered that complicated step in your cardio dance class, or when you’ve spent hours preparing a meal to find that it is indeed delicious.
As the areas of the brain that control movement, emotion and thinking are interconnected, doing activities that involve a number of these components fully engages the effort-driven rewards circuit. According to Kelly Lambert, Ph.D., the lack of this effort-reward system in our modern age leads to feelings of dissatisfaction and depression. In her book, Lifting Depression, she states, “Growing, harvesting, hunting, and preparing food have been replaced by driving through pickup windows, sitting down in restaurants, and ‘nuking’ prepared meals.” Therefore, reintroducing simple tasks like cooking and creating (i.e. crafts, gardening, woodworking, art) can make us less stressed, happier and more fulfilled.
Finding peace and happiness in the kitchen
Creating things that are tangible – things you can see, touch and enjoy – lends pleasure and meaning to those who create it. Scientific research confirms that when humans reshape their environments with their hands, it results in dramatic changes in the brain’s landscape. So next time, rather than pushing a button to order your meal, why not try cooking?
Cooking or baking will stimulate your brain and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It will also help you prepare for the week ahead (hello, meal prep!) and ensure you stick to your goals and stress less.
Spend your Sunday meal prepping
Stimulate your brain with a meal prep session. It doesn’t matter what day you do most of your prep, all that matters is that you do it. We like Sundays because it’s a great #SelfCareSunday activity that calms you down before a busy week begins.
We recommend keeping 3-4 days worth of prepared meals in the refrigerator each week. Here are our fav picks for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert too. Search for them in the 8fit app and add them to your weekly meal plan.
Breakfast is one of the easiest (and cheapest) meals to prepare, but we often find ourselves grabbing something unhealthy on our way to work or school. Spend a little time preparing overnight oats or 8fit’s Breakfast Egg Muffins on Sundays, so Monday you can wake up, grab them and go.
Prepping lunch and dinner in bigger batches might prevent you from stopping at the drive through window or hot bar on the way home. Find some of our favorites below. Vegetarians can swap chicken and beef for tofu or roasted chickpeas.
- Stuffed Zucchini with Beef
- Spicy Roasted Pumpkin with Chicken
- One-Pan Roasted Chicken, Sweet Potato and Broccoli
- Garlic Chicken with Beet Mash and Wilted Spinach
Preparing snacks ahead of time will prevent you from reaching for something unhealthy. In addition to prepping some of the snacks below, make sure you always have fruit on hand and chop your veggies ahead of time.
- Paleo Carrot Cake Energy Balls
- Hazelnut Mousse
- Almond Crusted Zucchini Sticks
Sometimes, there’s nothing more satisfying than baking some sweet treats. Here are 3 of our favorite healthy cookie recipes. Make a big batch to enjoy in moderation during the week or cook them on Sunday and savor with loved ones.
Add these meals to your 8fit app and share the final products with us on social media!