Health

The emotional benefits of baking

Is there anything better than the aroma of fresh banana bread baking in the oven? We certainly don’t think so, which made us wonder: are there any real emotional benefits to baking?

28 Jun 2019
“Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression,” Dr Donna Pincus

Sifting flour. Buttering a pan. Licking the bowl. Biting into a warm cookie straight from the oven... If the thought of baking makes you happy, we have good news. This age-old art has emotional benefits, and they’re backed up by science.

“Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression,” Dr Donna Pincus, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University in the US, told HuffPost. “There’s a lot of literature [showing a] connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s painting or making music [or baking], there’s stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.”

".....says that people who engage in regular creative projects, like baking, are generally much happier."

In addition, a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology says that people who engage in regular creative projects, like baking, are generally much happier. “There’s growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning,” Dr Tamlin Conner, a psychologist with the University of Otago in New Zealand and lead author on the study, said in a press release.

Overall, the findings of this study support the “emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning”.

Make your cake and eat it

John Whaite, winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012, agrees that there are emotional benefits to

baking. He was diagnosed with a mental health condition in 2005 and says baking helps him to manage his

disease.

“[Baking] can’t cure [my depression], but it helps,” he told the BBC. "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’m in control.

That's really important, as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control.”

Bianca Erasmus, who lives in Cape Town, finds that baking helps keep her calm during bouts of anxiety. “It's methodical because you have to follow all the steps. For me, it’s calming when I know exactly what to do. Making the same recipe over and over again makes this easier. New recipes make me anxious.” She says that routines help control her anxiety. “When I'm baking, rolling a ball of dough becomes a routine. It's therapeutic.”

Baking also satisfies the emotional need for purpose. “Baking for others can increase a feeling of wellbeing, contribute to stress relief and make you feel like you’ve done something good for the world, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people,” says Dr Pincus.

For Freesweet’s Deborah Good, baking is a nostalgic activity that reminds her of her grandmother and spending time with loved ones. “I also find it quite meditative. I like the process of removing yourself from your busy mind for a moment and concentrating on the manual labour of love,” she says.

Get your happy on

These three steps will help you find happiness in the kitchen:

Find your confidence – start with a simple recipe that you enjoy. Once you've mastered it and gained confidence, move on to a more challenging recipe.

Grow your own – whether you have a large garden or a kitchen windowsill, growing and picking fresh produce to add to your dishes will give you an even greater sense of achievement.

Be mindful – take your time and enjoy the smell, texture and taste of each ingredient. Being present in the moment is a great way to reduce stress.

Good to know:

Freesweet is a delicious, all-natural sugar replacement that can be used in a 1:1 ratio in recipes. That means you can make your cake without the extra kilojoules and enjoy it guilt-free. One more good reason to bake to your heart’s content!

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baking benefits anxiety emotions emotions wellbeing