“If you’re feeling a little bit down, a bit of kneading helps.” says Mary Berry. And it’s true. Spending time in the kitchen to bake sweet treats can help you through a tough day and help improve your mental health.

Think back to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. When you logged on to social media, you would see account after account posting their banana breads, towering layer cakes, or their fresh-out-the-oven sourdough breads. Yes, this might have been a way to use up over-ripe bananas whilst passing time indoors during lockdown, but for many baking became a way to channel negative feelings and anxieties into something fun, constructive, and achievable.

Baking and its ability to positively affect mental health is continually being highlighted, from the founders of London’s Luminary Bakery social enterprise supporting and providing opportunities to disadvantaged women, to GBBO’s Nadia Hussain being completely open and honest about her own struggles with mental health in a BBC documentary.

So, what is it about baking that helps your mental health? Here are 5 ways…

Creativity

Each stage of baking is creative, from the choice of cake, bread, or pastry, to the way it is decorated and presented. You might choose a light and uplifting lemon cake complete with cheery icing or a savoury loaf that’s simple in flavour and design but baked with precision. You can experiment with flavour, textures, colours, and shapes – there really is a bake for every mood.

Sensory

Baking can become a sensory experience as you experiment with various smells, flavours, and textures. The scent of the ingredients, such as the sweet fragrance of vanilla extract, may evoke memories or feelings of comfort, or the richness of chocolate may feel like a treat and a bit of a pick-me-up. For some, it may be the combination of a flaky pastry with juicy fruits that pleases the senses, or the feeling of pounding dough as you prepare it for proving – just like Mary said.

Concentration & Precision

Some of us aren’t blessed with the knack for ‘winging it’ – I know I’m not! When baking, to get the right consistency, rise, and flavour, sometimes you have to follow the recipe. It takes precision and concentration to measure out the ingredients and to follow the various stages, and patience to allow the time for baking, cooling, and decorating. For some, this ritual becomes a welcome distraction from what they were feeling, bringing them into the moment to think about what they are doing, seeing, and smelling.

Connection to People

This is a wonderful quote from Val Stones, a contestant on the 2016 series of Great British Bake Off: “When you bake, you always bake for a reason. And you’re giving it to people, so you make it the best you can, and you make it with love. And whenever I make anything, I stir love into it, I knead love into it. So, whenever I present it, it’s special.” Baking has the power to connect friends, family, neighbours, and communities. It can be a selfless act that impacts the environment – your home and the people within it. It also brings people together on social media, sharing photos to a like-minded community to join conversations and share interests.

Achievement

Once your bake is completed, you can feel real satisfaction (hopefully, if it has all gone to plan!) Having something that you have created from scratch with your own hands, can encourage a sense of achievement, which goes a long way in enhancing our moods and our mental health – particularly at a time such as Covid-19 when, for many of us, all we could do is stay at home.

We’re Here To Help

If you need help please get in touch with us, or pass our details onto someone you know is struggling. You can email [email protected] or call 01472 241794. We have offices based in Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Hull and Louth. We can offer face to face 1-2-1, couple therapy and provide online sessions for everything we do.

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