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Can cooking and baking serve as a healing tool?

There are many tips to lower everyday stress and anxiety, but have you tried baking your own bread? Experimenting in the kitchen can have many psychological benefits.

Can cooking and baking serve as a healing tool?

There are many tips to lower everyday stress and anxiety, but have you tried baking your own bread? Experimenting in the kitchen can have many psychological benefits.

Autumn is the time of the year when I am sadly looking back to summer, full of life and outdoor activities. But this year, it wasn’t so much the case because I started baking and cooking everything I could think of, and it brought me such enormous delight. All this mixing, weighing, the sound of running KitchenAid have truly calming power. I would never believe how entertaining it could be staring at a bowl of mixing dough and watching the dough become solid matter with the help of the mixer’s repeating moves.

Now in the middle of the pandemic, with the benefit of working from home, I figured that nothing starts my day better than morning filled with the preparation of delicious lunch or baking pastry. Especially now, with ever-rising anxiety around society, when it sometimes seems like there’s no escape from bad news and stresses from everyday life. But there are still little things that can make us feel good and grounded, including having sticky dough under your fingernails, splashes of sauce on your shirt and smelling like a whole multicourse dinner.

It can have a meditative quality

We are often consumed by our thoughts, with minds wandering far away from what’s happening at the moment. But as more and more people are looking for deeper values in life and leaving their corporate careers behind, they turn more to manual jobs, hobbies and crafts. Because working on something with our hands is a very calm and rewarding activity. According to a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, doing little projects often makes us joyful and enthusiastic.

It also has the power of getting your attention away from yourself and constant rumination. All thoughts will gradually slow down and turn down their volume. Focusing on the recipe method and carefully weighing the ingredients will certainly use most of your operational capacity. And the newer the recipe, the more you’ll be engaged. There is almost zero space to focus on negative thoughts, and you can even enter a state of flow when you’re fully immersed in the activity and the time stops existing.

You can nurture others while practicing self-care

Cooking and baking are some of the easiest ways to do something nice for your family and show them some love. Why do you think people bring desserts to special occasions or as a welcome gift? It’s not just a way to honor the host, but it also instantly creates a bond between you. People with depression often feel disconnected from their surroundings, and baking as a form of therapy provides a possibility of reinforcing that connection again. They can feel a sense of belonging and that others care about them.

So spending time creating a delicious meal means you care about others and about yourself, mentally and even physically. Many home chefs would agree to count it as a light exercise. Running back and forth between mixer and oven isn’t as easy as you can think, and it can be pretty tiring. Someone might even sweat a bit. But the bonus for your effort is more calories burnt than you get from scrolling through Instagram posts. I don’t say that you actually lose weight, but any type of movement on your feet is beneficial when we mostly sit all day.

Photo by Anshu A / Unsplash

Boost your mood from learning a new recipe

Experimenting in the kitchen can be an excellent way to try something new and make an ordinary day special. All it takes is choosing an interesting recipe, buying ingredients, and you have everything you need. It’s not necessary to drive anywhere or invest a lot of money. You just need your brain and a pair of hands.

I didn’t think much about baking when I was younger, but now sometimes, I have this urge to go and create something extraordinary in the kitchen. I am even more delighted to work on a difficult recipe that requires a special process or takes several hours. The bigger challenge, the happier I am. That’s because every pleasurable activity switches on the brain’s reward system. The rush of dopamine translates to pure happiness when you see your majestic creation, so why not get your happy mood fix from making some sweet pie.

Get your hands dirty

How often do you create something without using a computer or phone? I mean actual creation when you develop a physical product with hands. It’s no coincidence that different forms of manual work are used as psychological therapy. Because crafting has its benefits for all, regardless of their age or skills. These days we’re really not used to creating things, and when we do, it’s usually just virtually, inside computers, phones and tablets. We rarely hold the results of this work in our hands, so we miss out on an important mental reward from the finished product. But baking is an activity with a clearly set beginning and end. Therefore the brain doesn’t have a problem noticing a successful achievement.

And reminds us to strive for progress, not perfection. As a perfectionist myself, I have a hard time accepting something that is not perfect according to my rules. So baking bread is a great reminder that a finished result is enough, even if it doesn’t look like a food magazine cover.

That’s why there’s no wonder that in the middle of the pandemic, the popularity of baking loaves of bread, cakes, muffins and other goodies skyrocketed, and many people found their new passion. As a result, all social media are now flooded with home attempts of perfect bakery products. Like this guy on 9gag, who shared his baking journey.


We’re spending most of the daytime inside our heads without being aware of it. However, crafting allows us to step out of this bubble and focus on the outside world. To use our senses fully. The ego that constantly wants attention will be sidetracked for a moment because you’re doing something you want to do without conditions. It’s not your duty, your job, and nobody’s forcing you. You bake for the sake of baking, and even if it would be the worst pie you ever tasted, nothing terrible happens. So go ahead and bake that bread.