The Therapeutic Benefits of Baking
We love baking here at MOB Kitchen. Whether we’re getting stuck into a fudgy traybake, a sticky pecan pie, or a stunning sourdough loaf, there’s something undeniably hypnotic and relaxing about making a load of baked goods from scratch. It’s an almost ceremonial act that allows you to put away your phone for a few hours and focus on a task that’s entirely unrelated to your work emails or group chats. And, well, yes, it obviously does help that you usually get to eat a warm and delicious end-product at the end of it.
If you’ve yet to dip your toe into the unplumbed depths of biscuits and brownies because you think it’s all too difficult or sounds a bit too stressful, we’re here to show you otherwise. Why? Because we’re good like that, and we want to spread the joy of baking as far and wide as possible. So, if you were wondering about whether or not to become one of those people that brings cakes to house parties (everyone likes those people), here are some of the therapeutic benefits that you can gain from baking…
It can help mitigate stress
Baking can be a pretty physical task depending on what you’re making and whisking the devil out of a cake batter on a worktop can, as a result, be an effective way of getting out some of the tension or frustration you might be feeling. Tension and frustration that might have been caused by, say, a global pandemic. The Coronavirus created a spike in stress baking all over the country, and that's because baking can genuinely help reduce some of that stress you might be experiencing. So, the next time you’re about to whip up a rustic boule, we’d recommend kneading your bread as you would a stress ball. A delicious stress ball that you get to eat afterwards no less.
It’s a chance to practice mindfulness
Making two dozen fairy cakes when you’re feeling low might not solve all of your worries but one of the benefits we’ve found in baking is how easily accessible it is as a form of self-care. All you really need are a few simple ingredients to get cracking and it’s that ease-of-use that makes it worth a shot. It’s not going to fix everything but having a task, separate from the world around you or your own personal trials and tribulations, that you can focus on for at least half an hour is a welcome distraction. Mindfulness-based therapies have been proven to reduce anxiety and the act of baking is a nice opportunity to practice some mindfulness techniques in your own company without any outside interference.
It can help with confidence
Yes, we wish someone had told us this at secondary school but baking can help give you confidence. A 2004 study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy found that regular baking sessions led to improved self-esteem of a test group, primarily as a result of increased concentration, coordination, and confidence. Being able to make a batch of freshly baked cookies at a moment’s notice? That’s pretty rad.
It stimulates all of your senses
Sight, sound, touch, taste, and scent are all the senses you’ve got, and all of them are pretty powerfully invoked when baking. By stimulating all these different sensory parts of your brain, as you whir together a rich double-decker chocolate cake or something similarly delicious, you’re more likely to release a load of feel-good chemicals and endorphins. Just as the scent of a sandalwood candle can help you relax and unwind after a long day of looking at a screen, the smell of a freshly baked cake can initiate a similar sense of zen within you. The smell of vanilla bean is actually capable of increasing feelings of joy and relaxation. Who knew?
It’s an opportunity for self-expression
Just like art, baking brings with it a lot of chances for you to creatively express yourself and a load of clever science folk have proven that creatively expressing yourself is a great way to feel better about the world. This study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, suggests that people who frequently take a turn at small, creative projects report feeling more relaxed and happier in their everyday lives. Sure, following a recipe is recommended when baking but being able to go a little off-piste and coming up with your own creations is part of the joy of baking. It might sound a bit hippy dippy but getting to express yourself in the kitchen – even if it is through the medium of icing on fairy cakes – is also a great way of getting in tune with your own feelings and finding something out about yourself. If you keep “accidentally” making heart-shaped cakes, for instance, you probably need to get the guts to text your crush.
Giving is really nice
One of our favourite things about baking in the MOB Kitchen is that we get to share those delicious creations with everyone around us. Being generous and giving to others is an excellent way of feeling better yourself and can even result in something known as a “giver’s glow” or “helper’s high”. Which is totally legal and totally addictive.
You get to eat something delicious
Food can be a great way of comforting yourself when you’re not feeling your best and there’s not much that’s more comforting than a batch of freshly baked breads, cakes, and pastries is there? Eating to completely escape from your feelings isn’t recommended and if you do find yourself doing that often, you should probably speak to a medical professional. Food should be something you appreciate and connect with on an emotional level and you shouldn’t be using it as a tool to drown out your internal feelings and emotions. That being said, food can still be an effective salve when you’re feeling low. Baking a batch of cookies at the end of a long week isn’t just a great idea because of the therapeutic process of turning those ingredients into a batch of biscuits but it’s also a great idea because, at the end of it, you get to eat cookies.