Welcome, welcome, everybody, to The Work Of Becoming podcast! Today, I want to talk about mindfulness, and let me just start out by saying mindfulness is a buzzword online, and it’s a word that, I will be straight up honest, probably a year and a half or even two years ago I was like, “Oh, yeah, mindfulness.” Like, mindfulness reminded me of the British man on Headspace who tells you to calm down when you can’t really calm down. And I knew. I was like, “Oh, yeah, there are tons of studies. Mindfulness is really good for you. We should be mindful in our life.” It was a classic example of something that I knew I “should” be doing, or I knew could be helpful, but I wasn’t actually doing it.
I wasn’t doing it until recently when I was looking at some research that I was pulling for a Change Academy presentation, and I found a study on mindfulness through activity. So, it was about, not necessarily teaching people to sit still and be present with their own thoughts and emotions and sensations in their body (obviously, that’s really good for you too), but it was about how being mindful in our day-to-day lives can drastically reduce our stress levels, and that can actually have a tangible impact on our health, on our bodies, on how much energy we have in our day-to-day life.
And so, obviously, right now, I am running a business. I am a CEO for the first time ever. My life is luxurious in a lot of ways, but it is also stressful in a lot of ways. And so, I decided that I was going to experiment with mindfulness through cooking.
So, I like to cook, and I like to cook sometimes, I will say. So, I typically am the one who I come up with a meal plan for the week, I pull some recipes, I grocery shop, and Jon will happily take over any day of cooking I want him to cook, but generally, I’m the one who does the cooking. And sometimes at the end of the day I really dread it. I’m done with work, I’m exhausted, I just want to lay on the couch, and I will have resistance to cooking and I will have the desire to order food. Luckily, my mind management skills can pretty much handle that. I would say we order food maybe once or twice a month at this point and the rest we cook at home just because we got into that habit after we were saving money after our mortgage, and it stuck.
So, we don’t order a lot of food, so I cook a lot, and I was looking for something that would help make cooking into more of a ritual because I know, obviously, from behavior change research that if there’s something that you’re resisting, if you make it into more of a satisfying ritual, if you drive up that intrinsic motivation, that resistance is gonna decrease. And so, I thought to myself, I was like what if I make cooking into a mindfulness experiment?
So, the first day I did it, I did things a little differently than I normally do. Normally, I walk into the kitchen, I slam out all of my ingredients, I cook as fast as possible, and then there’s a huge pile of dishes, and this time I was like no. So, I pulled out my phone. I turned on some of Taylor Swift’s music (the Evermore album is the one I was listening to). So, I had kind of a mood going on. I poured myself a giant wine glass full of ice water because I don’t really drink that much. I drink maybe once a month, but I do like drinking out of giant wine glasses.
So, I pulled out my giant wine glass full of ice water. I had bought a cookbook holder that looked fancy and nice, and so, I opened my cookbook with my recipe that I was gonna make, and I started off by cleaning the kitchen, and I was vibing to Taylor Swift. I got everything ready, and then I took out each of my ingredients, and I started chopping. I was really focusing on smelling the smells, being in my body, the music was playing from my phone, but my phone was across the room in a corner (it was upside down; I couldn’t look at it), and it was really restorative after a couple minutes. I noticed myself really getting into the rhythm of chopping.
At one point, I was sauteing onions, and so, there were amazing smells coming off of that. I was kind of dancing in the kitchen to my little Taylor Swift vibe. I was sipping my ice water. I was just having a really good time, and my stress level dropped so drastically during that 30 minutes that I was cooking, and I had such an amazing time, and what I noticed is not only did I sleep better that night, but I was more productive the next day, I was more willing to cook the next day, and I actually felt like I digested the food a lot better because your sense of smell is part of your digestion, too.
So, what I want to remind you with this story is that if you’re a kind of person who brushes off, like, “Oh, yeah. Mindfulness. That’s a thing,” I want you to really ask yourself when was the last time you slowed down and you practiced appreciating noticing and really grounding yourself in the sensations of everyday life (the sights, the sounds, the smells). When was the last time you intentionally created a mindful experience for yourself? That doesn’t have to be cooking. You can go for a mindful walk. You can do a mindful workout. You can have a mindful coffee-sipping routine in the morning. I don’t know what it is for you, but if you’ve brushed it off before, I’m gonna tell you right now, you need to try it because, obviously, the research supports how transformative it is for stress levels, for overall deep health.
I will just say my personal anecdotal evidence is that even in the past week of doing mindful cooking, I have seen a massive change in my stress levels, my ability to cope, my resilience, and my general feelings of overall deep health in my life. Try it out. Let me know how it goes!