There’s more to baking than tasty calories and impressive InstagramsIn the words of *The Great British Bake Off* 2015 winner, Nadiya Hussain, “Food is so much more than sustenance. Food is love.” And she’s spot on.
Activities such as baking, painting and knitting are known as “projection activities”, and are often used in therapy as a way to channel negative emotions into constructive projects.
These activities can have huge benefits for our mental health. Researchers in New Zealand studied 659 students before and after they did some baking, knitting or painting. Results showed the students overwhelmingly felt calmer and happier afterwards, and some even reported having more energy.
But you don't have to be a baking connoisseur to reap the benefits. Whether you're hand-baking macarons or simply mixing together a Betty Crocker pack, here are just five of the ways that baking can have a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing.
1. Self Expression
We live in a fast-paced world, and it's easy to feel as though parts of ourselves are being lost amongst all the information that we're constantly bombarded with. Taking a break from the outside world and focusing on expressing yourself can be great for your wellbeing and happiness.
Do you identity with rainbow cakes? Perhaps a devil’s chocolate cake? Or maybe a classic, reliable Victoria sponge?
2. Share the Love
Can’t quite find the words to describe the way you feel? In many global cultures, the giving and receiving of food is used as a way to express feelings when words just aren’t enough. It can also be a nice way to express your love and appreciation for someone close to you. And being on the receiving end is always nice too!
The act of selflessly doing something for another person has proven positive effects on our wellbeing. It can feel amazing to watch people enjoying something you made for them. In the same way that making things to express yourself can feel great, baking something for someone else is a nice way to channel your creativity and is an extra special touch for the receiver.
Contestant's leaving the GBBO tent are known for their poignant final words. In 2016, when Val's time in the tent came to an end, she left us with a lesson on love and baking:
"When you bake, you always bake for a reason. And you're giving it to people, so you make it the best you can, and you make it with love. And whenever I make anything, I stir love into it, I knead love into it. So whenever I present it, it's special."
Sometimes a bit of escapism is what we need to get away from the stress and pressure of the real world, and a bit of heavy kneading can do wonders after a difficult day. Baking can take a lot of concentration to get right, but it can also offer a pleasant distraction. Setting aside an hour or two to make something delicious can be a great way to put your worries to one side.
5. SatisfactionThere’s nothing like the satisfaction that comes with creating something wonderful. When you’re done with all that measuring, kneading, greasing and baking, you get to sit down with a cup of tea and a fresh bit of baked goodness you can be proud of.