Of course we all know about the pleasure of eating cake but, as it turns out, we haven’t been paying enough attention to the benefits of baking up our own creations.
Measuring, sieving, mixing and kneading… apparently all the efforts of preparation have a much more profound effect on our mental health than simply popping out to the bakery.
Speaking to a series of psychologists, the Huffington Post has suggested that baking can be just as good for our psychological well-being as meditation is for yogis.
And the reason behind the claim is simple. When we meditate, we allow ourselves a quiet moment of reflection and focus which leads to stress relief; a process that can also be associated with baking.
As associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University Donna Pincus explains:
“Baking actually requires a lot of full attention. You have to measure, focus physically on rolling out dough. If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction.”
So much so, in fact, that there’s even a whole branch of healing dedicated to culinary art therapy, the effects of which can be significant. As the Huffington Post reminds us, John Whaite, the winner of the 2012 edition of The Great British Bake Off, claims that baking helped him overcome depression.
Healing with cake
But it’s not just the idea of focusing on the here and now that makes the activity so therapeutic. In hard times, food can serve as a form of communication and support while the idea of making something yourself gives you a sense of achievement. As Pincus explains:
“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.”
As creating a tangible product you know will give others pleasure is always going to be a positive experience, baking can also be a way of practising altruism. As culinary art therapist Susan Whitbourne notes:
“I think offering food to somebody else is just as much a comfort to the person receiving as the person who’s serving and offering.”
So there you have it, now you don’t have to wait until somebody’s birthday for an excuse to whip up that chocolate cake. Happy baking!