Mental health benefits of baking

Mom with daughter on kitchen.

Deep breathing exercises, gentle stretching, and meditation can all help you feel calmer and more centered. An often-overlooked way to improve your mood and reduce stress is baking.

WellTuned spoke with Tenesha Douglas-Thomas, a behavioral health manager with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, to learn about the mental health benefits of baking.

“I have been baking for years as a way to be creative and distract me from negative emotions and thoughts,” Douglas-Thomas says. “The baking process allows me to become engaged in what I’m doing and what I’d like to achieve. Also, it’s fun to anticipate the baked treat at the end.”

Mental health benefits of baking

Tenesha Douglas-Thomas: Baking is not just a means to a delicious end. The process of baking can help you feel calmer and more serene.

Lets you indulge your creative side

You don’t have to create your own recipe to enjoy the creative aspects of baking. You’re creating something from ingredients, and that counts as creating! There’s no pressure to measure up to someone else’s creation, either.

However, some people enjoy tinkering around in the kitchen. If you’re one of them, go for it. Enjoy experimenting with tastes and textures to come up with something new. Or pick a recipe that you’ve always wanted to try and give it your own spin.

Gives you a break from your stress

Unless you’re baking on a deadline, baking can be a relaxing break from all the stress of your daily life. You can put your worries on hold and enjoy the sensation of mixing a bowl of fragrant batter. Or working out some frustration by kneading a ball of dough. Or smelling the calming aromas of cinnamon or vanilla. Use all your senses.

Baking is a way to practice mindfulness. You’re focused on the task at hand and living in the moment. Remind yourself to focus on measuring the ingredients and following the steps in the recipe. If worries or frustrations start to creep back in, take a deep breath and bring your attention back to the bread, cookies, or cake in front of you.

WellTuned: 9 strategies for managing stress

Enables you to share your emotions

Baking is a great way to express yourself and your feelings for others. You can show how much you care about someone when you share the fruits of your labor with them. You can say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” with a tray of cookies or muffins. You may enjoy the process even more by visualizing the final product and the reaction you’ll get from the happy recipient.

Lets you enjoy happy memories

You may have a favorite recipe from a relative or loved one. Preparing it can give you the chance to relive memories.

Tips for successful baking

Tenesha Douglas-Thomas: Like any activity, baking can be challenging. I urge people to focus on the positives like the accomplishment of creating something from scratch or the smell and taste of a home-baked treat and avoid negativity with trying to be perfect.

Enjoy the process

Try to enjoy the process of baking and don’t worry about the results. That is, don’t get discouraged if your cake resembles the leaning tower of Pisa. The goal is to let go of negative thoughts and emotions. Perfectionism is not allowed!

Make a healthier treat

Baking often involves a lot of refined sugar, white flour, and fat. You can always change the ingredients to make it a little healthier. For example, you can use whole wheat flour in place of up to half of the regular white flour in a recipe.

You can also:

There’s a physical benefit to baking that you might not realize: baking is a great way to get a little extra standing in. Most people spend too much time sitting, so moving around in your kitchen can be an easy way to reduce your time sitting.

WellTuned: Try this Tennessee pumpkin bread recipe

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.