Baking Therapy: Baking for Your Mental Health
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 15 incredibly long months ago, everyone started baking. In the first few months, it was a challenge to find yeast or bread flour at a store. Baking is a natural instinct in times of stress. But why?
Well as it turns out, much like gardening, baking and mental health have a very close relationship. Baking can have a multitude of benefits for you, and it’s not hard to try out either. And of course, the same can apply to cooking, but today I’m just going to focus on baking.
If you’re interested in the matter, baking can also have an interesting intersection with female empowerment, as this article talks about.
And of course, if you’re a purveyor of dad jokes, you would know that stressed spelled backward is desserts. It’s cheesy, yes, but also holds a lot of valuable truth. So without further ado, let’s take a look at how baking can help your mental health and, yes, help you manage stress.
Mindfulness, if you don’t know, is the state of being mindful of yourself, your feelings, and the world around you. It is part of being connected, and is a great way to boost your mental health and remind yourself to be aware of your feelings.
And with baking, you almost have to be mindful. Baking is a careful, precise art, and if you’re not paying attention, you could end up replacing the sugar with salt— which would not taste good. So baking gives you a reason, and a necessity, to practice mindfulness.
2. Memory and scents
Our olfactory senses, or the ones that detect smells, are among the strongest we have, and have an especially strong tie to memory. Smells can bring up a memory more vividly than any other sense. And baking therapy, as you may guess, has a lot of smells.
Some of these scents, like cinnamon and vanilla, have a naturally calming effect. Many, many others have the potential to evoke memories that may be pleasant. If you have good memories of baking, especially with family members, then the scents involved can remind you of that, and help lighten your mood.
3. Reduced stress
One of the biggest benefits of baking is reduced stress. The term “stress baking” exists for a reason: when we are stressed, we want to bake, and then our stress is lessened, even if just a little bit. Or, as this wonderful article puts it: “And by the end, you've got a little less stress and a dozen more cupcakes.”
Using baking as therapy can reduce stress in a couple of ways. First, the act of mindfulness. Mindfulness, among its many other benefits, can help to reduce stress. And when you’re baking, you get the simple act of creating something, and having something to show for it. This can also help reduce stress, and improve overall mood.
As I already said, the act of creating can be very beneficial to you. It gives you the opportunity to fulfill your desire to create, something that seems to be innate for all of humanity. And by the end, you have something to show for it, a physical marker of all the hard work you put in.
Plus, you get to create your own food. Similarly to gardening, where you are growing your own food, you get to put love and effort into the food you are going to eat. This not only feels good, but the food usually tastes better, too.
5. Teaching patience
Patience is a hard thing to learn, and we all know there are people who could benefit from learning it. Luckily, baking is a great way to learn patience, and to learn that all things happen when they are ready.
When baking, you can’t rush. The chemistry has to be given time to work, and it will only do so when ready. If you try to rush, you won’t get good results. So baking forces you to practice patience and acceptance— which, in turn, can help you work that mindset and practice into your own life.
6. Personal growth
Much like many other therapeutic activities, baking therapy can be used as a way to further your own personal or spiritual growth. You can use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, grounding, and patience.
Of course, you can take it further as well. Bake foods that are important to you, or that are part of your celebration for whatever holidays you celebrate. I often bake foods specifically for many Pagan holidays, and it can be a great way to get in touch with your spiritual self, whatever your belief system.
Currently, many of us are still isolated, and possibly isolating ourselves more than we need to. But we are creatures bred for connection, so it would be good for us to find that again. And one way we can do that is through baking.
Baking therapy is a great opportunity to connect with other people. Whether it’s kids, family members, friends, or romantic partners, baking is an activity everyone can enjoy together. And you might even be able to teach each other some things.
I bake homemade pizza every Wednesday for our household, and nearly every time one of my family members helps. It gives us a chance to connect, and is good for the mental health of everyone involved.
Last, and certainly not least, baking is fun! It gives you an outlet to express yourself, and to do an activity that you enjoy. And when is fun not good for your mental health? Plus, it brings out a bit of the chemist or mystic in all of us, as we watch the chemicals interact and the dough or batter change into something new.
Baking for yourself
Of course, like many other activities that are helpful, it’s all about you. You can do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and with whomever you want. Baking allows a lot of personalization and customization, and is easy to work into any lifestyle or schedule.
So if you want to try something out to improve your mental health and overall wellness, consider baking. And I’ll leave you with this thought from that same article: “So is baking therapy the next art therapy?”
Do you love baking? Want to talk about it, or ask questions? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know by leaving a comment below or tagging us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram).