Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happiness in a Time of Recession (Part 2 - Cooking)

With the election results in the USA coming in live on TV it is difficult to concentrate .... but whatever happens today, there is no easy answer to the economic woes we are going to face across the globe - the recession, or at best an economic slowdown, is going to be with us for awhile.

That true of the economy ... but as individuals we do have things we can do to defend ourselves against bad news. We must find ways to maintain our ourselves and our sense of hope .... to pursue happiness!

A recession means that we all have to exercise personal economic restraint, which may ironically have a positive influence on our search for happiness. Many of the distractions and choices we face reduce drastically when we do not have as much money to spend. This takes us back to a simpler lifestyle in which we can rediscover, and take pleasure from, the simple things in life - those simple flow activities that we so often overlook.

Not surprisingly, a lot of these simple things go back to our basic human needs - the foundations of Maslow's Pyramid. Last time I blogged about gardening and the flow to be found in cultivating even the most modest plant. Something that is even more fundamental to our survival is of course preparing and cooking meals - for ourselves, our family or our friends.

In today's fast paced lifestyle we are so easily seduced by the quick meal, whether it is a take-away or cooked at home. Yet, almost paradoxically, there is a growing industry pumping out books and television programming that celebrates the joys of preparing food. I can see how these two things can actually go together - the less we cook everyday meals the more likely it is that we want to do something more exotic on the occasions that we do cook.

So I would suggest that now, when we need to control our spending on restaurant or take-away food, is the time to breakout the cookbooks and hit the kitchen. There is something therapeutic about having tears stream down your face as you slice onions .... as I did last night. Nothing like a good cry to purify one's soul.

It has been awhile since I did any serious cooking so I made a point of focusing on the activity itself .... be mindful as they say. Certainly makes it more likely the dishes work out and I think I really nailed the somewhat complex menu that I server the family. So I achieved some major personal satisfaction, especially as we all enjoyed the shared meal.

As a result, I think cooking is hard to beat as a simple, easy way of achieving flow .... and has the added benefit that you get to share the results with those you love.