Life has been very busy for me over the past month so last weekend I decided to practice what I preach and take a day off to relax at home. I ended up doing some baking with my husband which I really enjoyed and this got me thinking about the benefits of baking for our mental wellbeing.
Isn’t it interesting that flour was one of the first things to sell out when we went into lockdown last year? It seems people instinctively knew that baking was going to help get them through that difficult time. I know that the deliveries of home baked goodies from my in-laws were a great help to me!
We know that a sense of achievement is vital to preventing and relieving depression and baking is perfect for this. Regardless of how the end-product turns out, it’s a sense of achievement to know that no matter what is going on in our lives we can gather the ingredients together, follow the recipe and bake.
As fellow CBT Therapist, Caroline Harrison, and baker Manuel Monade explain in their new book Breaditation: De-Stress by Making Bread; baking can be a meditative experience. Next time you are baking ground yourself in the experience of all the sights, sensations, smells, sounds, and most of all tastes! When you are focusing on all these wonderful experiences it takes your attention away from those dark thoughts and worries which have been playing on your mind.
Baking helps to combat loneliness if we bake with someone and/or if we share our creations with our friends, family, colleagues, or neighbours. We can also use baking as a way to get involved in our local community and raise money for charity through events such as the Macmillan Coffee Morning held every September.
One project which has totally got on board with the social and mental health benefits of baking is the Men’s Pie Club which is based in the North East of England. They organise weekly pie making sessions for men – no prior experience required. As they say ‘…life isn’t easy, but making pies is’. What a fabulous way to learn a new skill, get out the house and meet some new people.
The Great British Bake Off continues to be a big TV hit and contestants have often shared their personal experiences with mental health problems and can serve as an inspiration to us all. Nadiya Hussain was crowned Bake Off champion in 2015 and has been very open about her struggles with anxiety even going on to making a moving documentary called ‘Anxiety and Me’ with the BBC in 2019. Candice Brown, winner of the show in 2016 has also spoken about her problems with depression, anxiety and ADHD and says that ‘baking provides some sort of escape’.
“Baking is the thing that allows you to focus, because you’ve got someone telling you exactly what you need to do and when you’re doing it. And at the end of it you get cake.”Nadiya Hussain
This is the perfect time of year to get baking with festive treats such as parkin, mince pies and fruit cakes. Share your bakes with me on social media and let me know how it affected your mood!
If this blog has stirred your appetite for all things baking and mental wellbeing explore these links for more information and inspiration …