education

Why You Should Bake: The Benefits of the Great Quarantine Bake-Off

On your mark… get set… bake!

Ever since lockdown due to COVID-19 began, people in countries all across the world have started to pick up new hobbies. For some people, this may mean doing the Renegade dance on TikTok. For others, baking and cooking are the ultimate pastimes.

Whether you love being in the kitchen or not, baking has been proven to be a real way to reduce anxiety, and in this day and age, any way to reduce anxiety is a must-try. 

The Science Behind Baking

Scientifically and psychologically, baking can reduce stress in many ways:

Baking is a Form of Creative Expression

We’ve heard many people say that painting and drawing are ways to reduce anxiety. They both allow you to focus on one thing and clear your mind. In the same way, baking is just another form of creative expression.

Donna Pincus, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, says that “Whether it’s painting or it’s making music [or baking], there is a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.” Creating art and unleashing your creative side releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that affects how we feel pleasure. Being creative when baking releases this chemical and can instantly brighten up your mood.

We Feel Better Doing Things for Other People

Whenever you give your friend a gift or help someone in need, you instantly feel better knowing you made someone else feel happy. Baking for other people has the same effect. Baking acts as a way for us to communicate our feelings to others and is another way to show we care for someone. Doing things for others boosts our self-confidence and gives us a way to care for the people around us without having to say a word.

When we give to others, we get what’s called a “helper’s high” – our energy boosts, we feel calmer, and in the long run, we’re less likely to struggle with depression.

Baking Increases Mindfulness and Helps You Feel in Control

According to Columbia University psychiatry professor Philip Muskin, “Mindfulness means paying attention to yourself in the moment and not being in the past or the future, but really being there.” In these times, it feels like everything is out of our control. Baking, on the other hand, gives you control over your actions and can help you feel more in tune with your surroundings. It’s much different than cooking as it involves a series of detailed steps.

Focusing on small tasks, such as leveling the flour or cracking an egg, and staying in the moment drives outside stressors away. Making baking a hobby can increase this sense of mindfulness and can push away symptoms of depression, as well. In one study, adolescents who took up baking had a greater sense of mental wellbeing and exhibited fewer symptoms of depression compared to adolescents with fewer skills in the kitchen. 

Now that you know the mental health benefits of baking, get out your apron and whisk and get to it! Not only can baking reduce stress, but it also doesn’t hurt that it produces some yummy treats, as well. If you practice your baking skills enough during this lockdown and focus on mindfulness, you’ll turn into a true Star Baker in no time. Here are some recipes you can test out:

Recipes You Can Try

Here are some popular, simple recipes that can help distract you from any stress

Banana Bread

Have some old bananas lying around from your last grocery trip? Try making banana bread! (Courtesy of allrecipes.com)

For 12 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter

¾ cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 ⅓ cups mashed bananas

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a different bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and bananas with the cream mixture until well blended. Combine banana mixture into the flour mixture and lightly stir until moist. Pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the loaf in the oven for 60 to 65 minutes. Check the center with a toothpick or fork; if it comes out clean, the bread is done. Let bread cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Berry Crumble

Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help repair cells and have been proven to assist people with stress and anxiety. This tasty recipe is full of berries and is perfect for sharing with the people you love. (Courtesy of allrecipes.com)

6 servings

Ingredients: 

½  cup all-purpose flour

½  cup light brown sugar

½  cup granulated sugar

½  teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½  cup oats

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

4 cups mixed berries

½  cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Equipment: 6 (6-ounce) ramekins

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, salt, and oats. Using a pastry blender, a fork or your hands cut in butter. Keep cold until ready to use.
  3. In a large bowl combine berries, 1/2 cup sugar, and cornstarch; toss to coat. Evenly divide the fruit mixture between the 6 ramekins. Top with crumble topping. Bake until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 35 minutes. Serve warm.

Works Cited

“7 Foods to Improve Your Mental Health and Wellness.” Australian & New Zealand Mental Health, 12 Mar. 2020, anzmh.asn.au/2018/04/19/foods-mental-health-wellness/.

Author, Guest. “Creativity and Recovery: The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy.” Resources To Recover, 12 Mar. 2019, http://www.rtor.org/2018/07/10/benefits-of-art-therapy/.

“Banana Banana Bread.” Allrecipes, http://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/20144/banana-banana-bread/.

Food Network. “Berry Crumble.” Food Network, Food Network, 22 June 2016, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/berry-crumble-recipe-1956402.

Gautam, Medhavi, et al. “Role of Antioxidants in Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, July 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3512361/.

Mull, Amanda. “The Rise of Anxiety Baking.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 Dec. 2018, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/12/baking-anxiety-millennials/578404/.

Thomson, Julie R. “Psychologists Explain Why It Feels So Good To Bake For Other People.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 25 July 2017, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/baking-for-others-psychology_n_58dd0b85e4b0e6ac7092aaf8.

Utter, Jennifer, et al. “Adolescent Cooking Abilities and Behaviors: Associations With Nutrition and Emotional Well-Being.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2016, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26411900.

“What We Get When We Give.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 19 Feb. 2010, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/raising-happiness/201002/what-we-get-when-we-give.

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All rights reserved. This essay or any portion thereof
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