Why Getting Down and Dirty in the Kitchen is Good for Your Mental Health

kid looking at a plate of cookies

Since the pandemic started, people have been whipping up all sorts of treats in their kitchens—from banana bread to cream puffs to cinnamon rolls. While all that baking is a great way to fill in time, it’s also an effective method to improve one’s mental state.

Here are four reasons why spending more time in the kitchen can do wonders to your psychological well-being, especially during this time of crisis:

It is a cathartic pursuit.

Believe it or not, baking is a form of self-expression. Just like any other art form, it is a way to communicate feelings and thoughts. With everything that has been happening globally, you need an outlet to release all those pent-up feelings, and baking is one of them.

Research suggests that taking on projects that challenge your creative expression is beneficial to your mental health. These artistic endeavors provide you a means for cathartic release, allowing you to get rid of the negative emotions inside of you—the stress, frustration, sadness.

That’s why people are clinging to baking right now. It helps them release all those unwanted feelings brought about by the pandemic. Instead of bringing out a canvas and picking up a paintbrush, they prefer pulling out a baking tray and whisking out a rolling pin to relieve their stress. So, if you want to banish the blues this quarantine, then start getting creative in the kitchen.

It gives a sense of control.

While you can always order custom cake designs online, baking your own gives a different feeling (well, that is, if you’re not in a rush).

The thing about baking is that it gives people a sense of control. Once they set foot in the kitchen, they call the shots. They have absolute control over everything—from the measure of ingredients to the number of toppings to the color of the pastries. One way or another, baking gives people a feeling of autonomy.

Studies show that the feeling of complete control can improve people’s emotional well-being. People who feel in control demonstrated higher levels of cheerfulness and alertness. Meanwhile, individuals who experience an absence of control exhibited higher levels of stress. That lack of autonomy can be detrimental to people’s mental health. That’s why baking has a way of boosting people’s mood and well-being. It provides people that feeling of power or that illusion of everything under their control, despite everything that’s happening in the outside world.

It is a meditative process.

Whipping up treats requires a high level of concentration. It takes incredible focus and attention to bake the perfect sourdough or chocolate chip cookie successfully. If you want to get everything right, you have to be particular with the measurements, pay attention to texture, be aware of the cooking time, etc.

When you’re baking, you practice mindfulness—just like when you’re doing yoga and other mentally soothing activities. Experts believe that the simple process of kneading dough is already a meditative experience. As you knead the dough, all your senses go to work—your sense of sight, smell, hearing, and touch. In the process, you eliminate other external distractions and focus on what you’re doing.

When you’re performing tasks that require mindful meditation, you feel a sense of peace and relaxation. Despite all the chaos happening in the world, baking gives people that calming effect. If you want to experience that same feeling of serenity, immersing yourself into baking would be helpful.

It promotes a feeling of fulfillment.

baking cakes

People’s growing obsession with baking has something to do with the sense of accomplishment they get from the tedious process. Creating baked goods is not an easy task; it requires a significant chunk of time and a whole lot of effort. But after you see your finished product, it gives you an inexplicable rush of positive emotions. It’s something you worked hard for, so naturally, you feel a great sense of pride.

Baking provides people a higher level of self-esteem, which is good for their mental health. The sense of fulfillment they receive from baking reinforces positive feelings such as pleasure, excitement, and pride. When people are more productive than usual, they feel happier and more energized throughout the day. When you perform something as fulfilling as baking, your mental health will undoubtedly take a turn for the best.

How do you start your baking journey?

You don’t need to have a culinary degree to start baking. You only need the fundamental tools and equipment to begin cooking up delicious delicacies for you and your family. If you’re starting out, you only need basic utensils such as measuring cups, whisk, spatulas, mixing bowls, baking pans, and baking sheets. If you’re willing to splurge a little and make your cooking journey easier, you can purchase a hand mixer to help you with heavy-duty work. On your first try, you should choose recipes that are suitable for beginners, such as chocolate cake, banana muffins, brownies, and lemon bars. To help you out on your quest to be a quarantine baker, you can subscribe to cooking channels such as Rosanna Pansino, Baking a Moment, and Man About Cake.

Make the most out of the quarantine period by getting down and dirty in your kitchen. You’ll not only end up creating scrumptious treats, but you’ll also end up improving your mental health.

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