It turns out, if you enjoy baking for other people, the recipients aren’t the only ones to benefit. Science now explains why we feel so good when we bake and give our results away. Baking allows for creativity. Creative expression is helpful for stress relief. According to Donna Pincus, an associate professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University “Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression. There’s a lot of literature for connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. 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.”
How Baking Reduces Stress
There are several reasons that baking for others is thought to reduce stress. One of the major factors is that serving others is one of the best ways to take the focus off yourself. By helping someone else, we, in turn, are better. Culturally, it’s common to bake for a family that has experienced a sickness or death. At times when it’s difficult to come up with the right words, offering a home-baked treat speaks volumes.
Activities that stimulate the senses help release good endorphins. Sara Barthol, and Stacie Cox, both counselors, felt that baking offers so many benefits, they began a pie therapy class. The Pie Therapy class came about after Barhtol and Cox took a pie-baking class together, and saw benefits from trying something new.
Cake Angels, a British baking company, conducted a survey and found that one in three people surveyed said they felt more stressed than they had in the five previous years. Eighty percent of those surveyed revealed that they had started baking to help relieve this pressure.
Also, baking (and cooking) requires focus and simple, repetitive skills, some of the same qualities found in meditative practices. This helps to take our minds away from worldly problems and focus on the task in front of us. Then, we don’t dwell on them and let them churn inside, one of the key marks of depression.
Sometimes, when a friend or neighbor is facing loss or tragedy knowing what to say is difficult, and typically there is little we can do to change the situation. But giving baked goods, made with love, to someone who is suffering is a way to express your feelings, and show love and concern. At a most basic human level, baking connects us to others.