5 reasons why baking is good for your mental health
It’s National Baking Week – and The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens– so here’s why you should have the oven and the TV on.
The UK has a major problem – we’re really lonely. In fact, according to the Campaign To End Loneliness, nine million people in the UK identify as feeling often, or always, lonely.
However, as it’s National Baking Week, the news that Theresa May’s first Government loneliness strategy will see GPs able to ‘prescribe’ social and community activities to beat feelings of isolation, it’s apt those include cooking classes.
Therapy can come in many forms – and one of them is, for sure, sponge-based. Here’s why…
1. Baking is mindful
From the measuring out of ingredients to perfecting that swirl in the icing, making a cake is a very focused activity. It only takes one look at the Great British Bake Off contestants when they get in the zone to know that.
Decoration takes concentration and a steady hand, and the science and precision involved with baking a cake brings about a similar heightened-attention. When you’re measuring out flour, watching the scales go gently to the exact amount, you’re right in that moment. When you’re making sure the oven is just the perfect temperature, and when you’re piping some icing onto the finished creation, you’ll find your mind is totally focused on that task.
Also, when your hands are covered in flour and butter, there’s no chance of grabbing your phone and scrolling endlessly, mindlessly, in a social media hole. And even when you’re eating a slice, if you do so slowly and calmly, it can be a mindful experience, too.
2. The joy of trying – and sharing
Handing over food, specifically cake, can give you a real sense of pride and happiness, as you know you’re feeding and (hopefully) pleasing those you love. If you’ve baked a cake for a special occasion, or someone’s particular favourite, there’s an added glow there, too.
Trying a particular bake for the first time can be daunting, but when it comes out of the oven, the feeling of success is hard to beat. And roping in family members to help means learning something new together, and all getting to scoff it afterwards to boot.
3. It can help tackle depression
Novelist Marian Keyes released her book Saved by Cake she talked at length about how baking helped her through some darker times, when she couldn’t even bring herself to get out of bed. While former Bake Off winner John Whaite has said baking helped him through his own depression, and initiative Depressed Cake Shop aims to open up mental health discussions through cake.
4. It gets you moving
Bashing pastry with a rolling pin, making breadcrumbs from butter and flour, keeping your arm steady as you ice… baking is more physical than you might realise. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, and while baking isn’t quite the same as a half-hour jog, it’s not like sitting on the sofa, either. When you’re suffering with low self-esteem or depression, getting into the kitchen and using your muscles can really help. It gives you a sense of routine, too, as well as purpose and focus.
5. It’s about friendship
Poor Ruby. When her vegan cake went toppling over, it was genuinely heratbreaking. As her fellow bakers came to the rescue, one thing was clear: Baking is often about friendship – and the support of friends is good for your mental health. Knowing you might have messed up but everyone is there for you is incredibly reassuring, and a slice of cake and a cup of tea doesn’t hurt either.