Do you like baking for others? If you do, then you know that anything is a good excuse to whip up something nice today and toss it in the oven. Birthday cakes, brownies, muffins, pastries, and delicious sweets you accidentally discovered while daydreaming.
After reading this, you will have one more good excuse to bake something delicious that will be a treat for the eyes and the taste buds of those who happen to be lucky to be around. It turns out that there’s a lot more to baking than just spoiling the taste buds of those you love.
Perhaps you have already felt these benefits, but how aware are you that baking is a way to fight depression and stress? In an interview with HuffPost, psychologists explain three surprising things about the psychology behind baking for others.
Baking as a form of self-expression and communication
Communicating good feelings, beautiful and happy thoughts, and expressing your creativity, are the key to getting away from negative thoughts and stress.
Baking is all about these things. It allows people to express themselves creatively, and as Pincus explains, creative expression is closely connected to the overall wellbeing. Indeed, all forms of creative expression are a means of stress relief, and much more.
Baking is a form of communicating one’s feelings when words aren’t nearly enough. Whether it’s showing appreciation, thanks, or expressing your feelings, if you are short on words, Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, suggests that baking can help.
Julie Ohana, a licensed medical social worker and culinary art therapist, suggests the same, noting that many cultures indeed see food as an expression of love. Food is something everybody can relate to, and enjoy – especially when it’s made with the secret ingredient (love).
Baking as a form of mindfulness
Being here and now is essential to happiness and a stress-free day, among other things. Baking takes all of your senses to here and now.
The whole process of measuring, adding the needed ingredients in the right order, rolling out the dough, tasting and smelling, or in short, as Pincus puts it, “being present with what you’re creating,” is a form of mindfulness which leads to stress reduction.
It’s no wonder that cooking is used as therapy. This type of therapy known as behavioral activation is what Julie Ohana is using to help people out. As she puts it, baking does not only involve the step-by-step thinking and “following the specifics of here and now”, but it also involves looking at the broader picture.
This means that when you bake, you also think of the recipe and the dish as a whole, what purpose it’s going to serve, who you are going to share it with and when. It means that while baking, you manage to achieve the balance of the moment and how it fits in the bigger picture.
This kind of state, the mindfulness you are involved in, can eliminate the presence of sad thoughts and ruminating over them, or any other thoughts for that matter. The process of baking activates many positive psychological aspects.
For one, the productive process prevents you from ruminating over your thoughts, and rumination is the gateway to depression and sad thoughts; to spice things up, the result from baking gives you a tangible reward, which others will benefit from as well.
Baking as a form of altruism
Baking for others is in its core the act of giving. If the process itself contributes to the wonderful effects of mindfulness, and thus overall wellbeing, the reward is even greater when it’s combined with giving.
Pincus notes that not only does baking increase your wellbeing, but it also connects you with other people and gives you the pleasurable meaning in life of doing something good for the world. Creating something nice for others is in the essence a form of altruism.
Indeed, you sacrifice your time and attention to make others feel happy and satisfied, which is a selfless act. This happens when you bake not for the purpose of seeking attention or out-doing others, but when you share with people who you believe will appreciate it.
Of course, baking should be a pleasurable activity for whoever’s doing it. Otherwise, it will more or less lose its charm. Ohana notes: If baking stresses you out, it’s not something you should do. De-stressing is meant to be one of the benefits of baking.
SHARING IS CARING!