How Baking Improves Mental Health

Keep calm and eat cake! - photograph by mushko via pixabay

BY ANNA POLEYESTEWA

No matter the type of day someone’s having, the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies fills the house and puts a smile on anyone’s face. In addition to brightening a person’s day, baking may well have even more significant advantages. According to a Huffington Post article, among the many benefits to baking is that “baking, especially when it’s done for others, can be accompanied with a host of psychological benefits.”

Baking can also help with people who experience mental illness. According to Newsweek, “nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness each year.” There are many techniques to help someone who deals with mental illness. Some include breathing, counseling, self-talk, mindfulness activities, meditation, and then there are others that resort to baking. Sounds weird, but baking has many pros to helping people with mental illness. Baking to some may be stressful, but to others, it may be just what they need to turn the spinning thoughts off in their head.

In fact, baking can be beneficial for one’s mental health in many positive ways. Last year’s winner of The Great British Bake Off, John Whaite, “was diagnosed with manic depression eight years ago.” He explained “that baking is a way to turn manic, erratic negative energy into something constructive.”

One of the major problems with having a mental illness is how a person’s thoughts can take over and prevent them from living life to the fullest. Whaite describes that “when [he’s] in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour or butter [he] needs for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs – [he’s] in control. That’s really important as a key element of [his] condition is a feeling of no control.”

Donna Pincus, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, says that “being mindful – such as when you bake – can mean you’re not spending time ruminating over your thoughts.” This rumination then “leads to depression and sad thoughts.” If you’re doing something productive, those thoughts hopefully won’t occur.

High school students definitely feel a lot of stress, which can be reduced by baking. Blaire Lentz, the Family and Consumer Science teacher at Canton High School, says that she has definitely heard students say they take Culinary and Bake Shoppe classes because it is a way for them to de-stress from their day.

Noe Powell, a senior at Canton High School, says that she loves to bake because she “likes to see the whole process of looking up something to bake and then making it and especially seeing how it turns out.”

Powell is currently taking a Bake Shoppe class at Canton High. She explains that taking Bake Shoppe does help her de-stress from her academic classes, but overall, it really depends on the food she is asked to prepare. She is one of the many students who take Culinary and Bake Shoppe classes, which shows how popular and helpful those classes are to students.

Lentz herself feels happy while she’s in the kitchen, but if she’s baking treats for the holidays, it can be a stresser. She normally doesn’t bake when she’s upset as it will cause her to eat all the treats she just made, but she knows a lot of people do bake to help those negative feelings go away.

Some people may think baking is hard, confusing, and hectic, but really, baking has a lot of benefits, especially when it comes to talking about mental health.