Ah, apple cider that tastes like a Hallmark movie, flannels that make me a walking LL.Bean advertisement, and crisp air that gives me goosebumps….everything that puts me in the mood to bake.
When I put on my vest this morning–yes I know I’m a walking cliché–I asked myself, “Why is baking a tradition saved for the fall and winter?” This then led me to, “Why did we bake so much bread in 2020? Will that happen again?”
Both of these questions have easy answers:
- When it’s warm outside, no one wants to be with a hot oven
- We were quarantined and needed something to do
As I sipped my pumpkin spice latte, I decided there had to be a deeper reason behind our “seasonal” and pandemic baking.
After reading a myriad of articles and studies, I discovered that baking is a great stress reliever for a variety of reasons. Baking can induce feelings of concentration and control, creativity and confidence, and community and caring! To find out why, check out below.
Concentration and Control
Concentration and control are catalysts for stress relief. Often anxiety can be born from being overwhelmed and a loss of control. Baking naturally creates concentration and control from its exact science.
When baking, one must follow directions, measure ingredients, stir for a certain amount of time, and more. The baking process can be meditative because the baker is focusing solely on the task at hand–making a delicious dish.
Paying attention to what is happening in the now is an act called mindfulness. To learn more about this, check out my article about crafting and mental health where I spoke with Dr. Kathryn M. Westcott, Ph.D., Charles A. Dana, Professor of Psychology at Juniata College. Dr. Westcott discusses Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s term “flow” in a crafting concept but I believe it can easily be applied to baking.
Creativity and Confidence
Baking is not just a profession or hobby, it is also a craft. It is a space where people can explore their unique creativity. The best part about baking is creativity can come in several forms. Sometimes creativity is cupcakes decorated with swirly buttercream, a special design delicately carved onto the top of a loaf of sourdough, or the bold flavors of a biscotti.
When a person exposes and expresses their creativity, feelings of accomplishment and relief can be reflected in confidence from their success. I know when I finally get that buttercream rose exactly how I want it to look, I experience a rush of self-confidence and energy.
This striking combination of creativity and confidence is quite the force for improving mental health.
Community and Caring
Community and caring is a big part of baking. Whether it’s reaching out to fellow bakers for unheard-of tips, sharing recipes, or passing out your latest creation, baking forms lovely communities.
Uplifting one another and having support is a large part of the human experience. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, all around the world people were on lockdown to keep others safe.
We were shut out from our communities, families gathered over Zoom for holiday dinners and bundled up during the colder months to spend more time outdoors to at least see loved ones.
Because we could not have our normal in-person communities like gym classes, church celebrations, book clubs, and more, we turned to virtual settings and individual interests that can become communal.
People began baking bread. Yeast was hard to find and flour was a rare commodity for weeks during the United States’ lockdown. Some kneaded dough for the first time, finding comfort in something new, whilst others turned to traditions for comfort and pulled out old family recipes.
Bakers, new and old, began sharing their creations on social media. Some people even began their own business.
Just like that, when humans needed community the most, bread came to the rescue.
During my light research, I found that baking is a real method of therapy! There is a company that literally caters to “culinary art therapy”. According to the company–Culinary Art Therapy–“cooking is used as a form of communication and expression”.
Check out the company HERE to learn more about the company, the benefits of culinary art therapy, and maybe even book a session.
With fall here, I’m ready to explore more baking recipes and stretch my creativity. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging so I may make some tasty pandemic bread too. Did you participate in the great pandemic bake off? If so, what was your favorite to make?
I hope everyone is having a lovely fall and has the chance to enjoy some therapeutic baking!