How Hobbies Can Improve Mental Health

The Ramen Girl did more for me than make me appreciate that 'real' ramen's better than instant noodles ;)

This film is about a naive but charming American girl called Abby, who travels to Japan to be with her expat boyfriend. Everything is peachy for Abby, until her boyfriend ditches her. Falling apart, she finds solace in the neighbourhood ramen house, and finally convinces the moody old chef to take her on as an apprentice.

Though Abby is a downright klutz at first, she eventually catches on to every cooking skill she is taught. Yet...

Mother: “Her broth is bland.”
Sensei: “I wonder why. She’s mastered the technique perfectly.”
Mother: “Sometimes too much technical training can get in the way. You cook with your head. Your head is full of noise. You must learn to cook from the quieter place deep inside of you. Each bowl of ramen you prepare is a gift to your customer. The food that you serve your customer becomes a part of them. It contains your spirit. That’s why your ramen must be an expression of pure love. A gift from your heart.”
Abby: “I don’t know anything about love. Every time I feel it, it’s gone. It disappears. And all I have left is pain and sadness.”
Mother: “Begin by putting your tears into your broth.”

Abby learns that, in order to both overcome the sorrow she felt when her love left her, and to perfect the art of making ramen, she must put her heart into it. There's even a science behind this!

Kelly Lambert, the neuroscientist who wrote “Lifting Depression,” asserts that…

Activity that “… produces a result you can see, feel, and touch, such as knitting a sweater or tending a garden” [and cooking!] causes physiological changes in the brain that promote a sense of well-being, and that such activity “reduces stress and anxiety and, most important, builds resilience against the onset of depression.”

The Ramen Girl teaches us that finding and working at a passion really can improve our mental health.

What is your passion?

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