Baking is apparently much more than it seems. Breaking barriers from the kitchen table to clinical therapy, baking has a host of psychological benefits according to studies. Experts revealed that baking is the new coping mechanism to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental related issues.
So, how does making sweet treats such as cakes, pastries, cookies, and buns could crawl its way to improving your mental health instead?
We’ll explain how.
1. Encourage Self-Expression and Communication
Baking allows you to showcase creativity with a pinch of personality into your creation. In a way, it is a form of productive self-expression. Boston University’s Psychological and Brain Science Assoc. Prof Donna Pincus affirms that baking has the benefit of allowing creative expression.
“There is a stress relief that people get from having some kind of outlet and a way to express themselves,” Pincus added. There are many stress-related mental and physical problems, therefore, finding a healthy way to cope with stress is extremely crucial.
Communication is another way of how baking helps to reduce stress. People can actually convey their feelings and thoughts to others through baking.
“It can be helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings in words to show thankfulness, appreciation, sympathy, or asking forgiveness with baked goods,” as pointed out by Susan Whitbourne, a psychology lecturer from the University of Massachusetts.
A licensed clinical social worker and culinary art therapist, Julie Ohana shared, “in many cultures, in many countries, food really is an expression of love and it is actually beautiful because it is something that we all relate too”.
2. Reinforce Altruism and Selflessness
The act of giving is a form of expressing selflessness and care for others. Baking for others is then a great way to give. The sense of satisfaction when people enjoy your baked goods is the very reason why many people opt to bake for others whenever there are feeling low.
At the same time, baking promotes altruism and indirectly reduces stress when you are doing something for others instead of focusing too much on your own problems. Ohana supports that offering food to somebody else is just as much of a comfort to the person receiving as the person who’s serving.
People share an emotional connection through baking. Not only the taker gains, but the giver also benefits.
“Baking for others can increase the feeling of wellbeing, contribute to stress relief and can give you the sense of accomplishment for having done something good, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people,” Pincus suggests.
“There is a symbolic value in baking for others because food has both physical and emotional significance. The most benefits would accrue when you bake not to seek attention or to outdo others, but when you just want to share the food with people you believe will appreciate it,” Whitbourne solidifies.
3. Improve Focus and Mindfulness
“When I’m in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour, or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs – I am in control,” says baker John Waite, The Great British Bake Off winner. Waite is known to publish a book on how baking helps him to combat depression is a good example.
Anyone can see that the amount of focus and attention that goes into baking is no joke. Therefore, by focusing on baking you can reduce your stress by shifting your thoughts away from them. Many psychologists have included baking into their therapy programs and classifying it as “behavioral activation”.
Additionally, it naturally encourages goal-oriented activity. It helps patients to not think about therapy while they are actively helping themselves, often without realizing it, as reported by Wall Street Journal.
Mindfulness is a state of paying attention to yourself in the moment and not being in the past or the future according to Philip Muskin, the secretary of the American Psychiatry Association. The attraction of baking is in how one can invest hours of time into it and ending up flourishing instead of worn out.
Pincus continues that when you are being mindful, it can mean “you’re not spending time ruminating over your thoughts, we know that rumination leads to depression and sad thoughts, if you’re doing something productive. And the nice thing about baking is that you have such a tangible reward at the end and that can feel very beneficial to others.”
4. Act as A Console
The busy and vigorous lifestyle that our generation is leading now is high in pressure – making it a major source of stress. People spend long hours at work and a little fun with flour and sugar, for instance, can provide the comfort that they need.
“People are afraid to spend money, and they are feeling down. Baking is cheap, it is easy and it is visceral,” stated Kat Kinsman, a food journalist in her book on her struggle with anxiety.
“We are at a time when people who aren’t used to any self-care practices are having to develop them for the first time in their lives’” she added.
Bake For Thought
Even if you have to experience burned cookies or bad cakes at first, you’ll grow to love baking once you’ve got the knacks for it. Now, start baking whenever you are overwhelmed or stressed out and see how your mood changes.
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