Baking and mental health

Two people baking.

The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens which means baking season is in full swing! Whether you consider yourself a beginner or a star baker, why not put your own skills to the test?

We all know that a little time in the kitchen with the right ingredients can result in some absolutely delicious results, but did you also know that baking can provide numerous mental health benefits too?

Baking is a very focused activity. Think about the tasks baking a cake involves, from measuring ingredients exactly to taking cakes out of the oven at the right time to colouring icing to the correct shade, it’s important to concentrate on the task in hand and have your mind focused on the job. It requires you to slow down and give it your full attention. Working through step by step, you are in control, and for someone who may be suffering with low mood or depression this is very important.

John Whaite, winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012, was diagnosed with manic depression in 2005. He speaks about the baking process in an incredibly positive way.

“When I’m in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact amount of eggs- I am in control. That’s really important as a key element of the condition is a feeling of no control.”

Here are 4 reasons why baking can be great for your mental health:

1. Stress relief

Baking can be very calming. Movements like kneading dough or beating cake mix have been shown to reduce anxiety and reduce the chance of depression. I think we can all relate to the feeling of release after a tough meeting or a difficult phone call. Sometimes it can help to channel that frustration into something that will turn out delicious!

2. Improves appetite

Loss of appetite or loss of interest in food are common symptoms of low mood. The act of baking stimulates all five senses and can help you to enjoy your food more. The feel of the flour, the smell of fresh bakes, piping of the frosting, the sound of the spoon scraping the bowl, the taste of cake batter licked from your fingers; all help to stimulate the senses and build up a healthy appetite.

3. Uses creativity

Exercising your creative muscles is a proven way to improve mood and reduce the risk of depression. Maybe you can paint, play music or you’re an ace potter… but, if like many people, you struggle to find a creative outlet, then baking is a great shout. It’s easy and accessible for pretty much anyone (especially if you use a baking kit).

4. Creates happiness

Not only does research show that certain foods increase our ‘pleasure’ neurotransmitters like dopamine which creates a real tangible feeling of happiness, but the satisfaction of completing a task and reaping the benefits of doing so is also immensely pleasurable.

Another great thing about baking is that it can be enjoyed by all ages. For children, it can help with fine motor skills and using their hands in a coordinated way. It can improve hand-eye coordination and provide activities which can enhance hand strengthening, which is essential as they are developing their handwriting. It can also improve their spatial awareness and their planning. Following a recipe can help their reading, listening and sequencing skills, as well as helping to develop math skills by the action of weighing and assessing time.

With all these benefits it’s no wonder you hear people saying that baking nourishes the mind and the body.

So, whether you need a little pick-me-up, want to spend some quality time with those important to you or just need something to distract you’re mind for a little while, get your apron on and unleash your inner Mary Berry!

We’d love to see your baking creations. Email them through to media@steponecharity.co.uk or tag us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for a feature on our pages!

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