Whether you're nibbling a slice of zucchini bread or an extra-chewy chocolate chip cookie, it’s always fun to be the taste tester for a friend or relative who loves to bake. And, while eating products created with love (and sugar) probably makes you feel good, the baker is reaping some psychological benefits, too.
Studies have shown that creative activities like baking and knitting contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Boston University associate professor of psychological and brain sciences Donna Pincus told HuffPost that there’s “a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.”
Baking is also a great way to practice mindfulness, because it requires you to focus on following very straightforward directions in a specific order. In other words, most of the decisions have already been made for you, allowing you to concentrate on the details while nudging your mind away from the stressors and anxieties of your life outside the kitchen. Julie Ohana, a licensed clinical social worker and culinary art therapist, explained to HuffPost that baking is therapeutic because it helps you practice the “balance of the moment and the bigger picture.” While you’re measuring and mixing ingredients, you’re probably visualizing how they’ll all come together to create a fulfilling final product, and deciding how and when you’ll share it with others.
Sharing your desserts—altruistically rather than for attention or competition—is another mood-booster, making you “feel like you’ve done something good for the world, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people,” Pincus said. It can also function as a mode of communication. Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, told HuffPost that “it can be helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings in words to show thanks, appreciation, or sympathy with baked goods.”
If baking just isn’t for you, that’s OK, too—try one of these other stress-reducing tactics instead.