— Mental Health Matters

Experts say baking for those you love is good for your well-being (so please bring us brownies)

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When you consider baking a sweet treat for someone else, you don’t really think how that act will be beneficial to you, too. Yet, turns out that baking for others can be good for your mental health. The Huffington Post spoke to a number of psychologists, who all explained the mental health benefits of baking for other people. So, keep those oven mitts handy because you’re gonna want to prep some baked goods.

Anyone who watches The Great British Bake Off (or The Great British Baking Show, as it’s known in America) understands the comforts of watching people bake. Otherwise, the TV series makes baking for others seem pretty stressful — at least when you’re competing for Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

However, mental health professionals were able to explain to the Huffington Post why baking — and in particular, baking for others — is good for the mind.

According to Donna Pincus, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, baking is a form of expression and a stress reducer.

“Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression,” Pincus said. “If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction.”

Julie Ohana, a licensed medical social worker and culinary art therapist, said:

“Baking is thinking step-by-step and following the specifics of the here and now, but it’s also thinking about recipes as a whole, the dish as a whole, what are going to do with it, who it’s going to, what time are you sharing it, so baking is a really good way of developing that balance of the moment and the bigger picture.”

Pincus echoed the idea of the “bigger picture” since she said, when you’re baking, “You’re not spending time ruminating over your thoughts.” Since “rumination leads to depression and sad thoughts,” baking helps you feel — and be! — productive. Pincus also said:

“And the nice thing about baking is that you have such a tangible reward at the end and that can feel very beneficial to others.”

Why exactly baking for other people also helps with your mental well-being is because it acts as a form of communication, said Susan Whitbourne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts. Whitbourne said:

“It can be helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings in words to show thanks, appreciation, or sympathy with baked goods.”

“In many cultures, in many countries, food really is an expression of love, and it’s actually beautiful because it’s something we really all relate to” Ohana said.

And Pincus added, “Baking for others can increase a feeling of well-being, contribute to stress relief, and make you feel like you’ve done something good for the world, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people.”

If you like baking and you’re looking to connect with somebody, then these therapists might suggest baking for that person. After all, as Ohana said, “I think offering food to somebody else is just as much a comfort to the person receiving as the person who’s serving and offering.” And that’s good enough of a reason as any for us to start preheating the oven.

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