How many baking innovations and sourdough starters can come out of one pandemic quarantine? We'll find out. But if social media photographs are any indication, there is a whole lot of baking going on while we're in lockdown. And I am here for it. After all, there's a reason that stressed spelled backward is ... desserts.
The Health Benefits of Baking
Here are a few reasons psychologists say culinary therapy can be great for the mind and body.
1. It Allows For Creativity
“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," associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, Donna Pincus says to HuffPost.
Think of the creativity you can find in the kitchen: the colors, the flavors, the shapes, the ingredients. In addition, baking innately engages the frontal lobe of your brain - where you have to plan, think, organize, and solve problems.
2. It Can Be A Form of Altruism
Baking allows us to communicate when words won't do the trick. Think of the times you've delivered food to a new parent, or to someone suffering in a difficult time - sometimes there aren't words, and only food can communicate what you want to say to someone.
“When a task allows you to create something to nourish yourself and your loved ones, it can be a very powerful experience,” Julie Ohana, creator of CulinaryArtTherapy.com, tells Healthline.
Simply put, food, and the creation of food can be a creative expression of love. I can't tell you how many people have offered each other sourdough. starters on my community boards on Facebook, and each one of those micro-moments has warmed my heart.
3. It's Sensory
Touch, taste, smell, and sight - you can check off all the sensory boxes when you're in the kitchen. Touching soft, cool dough, experiencing the aromatic bliss of bread while it's baking, seeing it rise in the oven, and tasting the final product can all trigger positive memories and a feeling of wellness.
One study showed that culinary therapy actually helped people in hospice with their grieving process and in another study, teenagers who knew how to cook demonstrated fewer symptoms of depression, and a higher rate of positive emotional health.
4. It Can Initiate Mindfulness
The rhythmic nature of baking can push some people into a place of mindfulness. The concentration applied to kneading dough forces you to be present and in the moment. This mindfulness can be incredibly helpful for those who suffer from anxiety and depression. the evolution of a line-up messy ingredients to something you pop in the oven, via the mantra of push, fold, turn, push, fold, turn can be incredibly calming.
"For some people, making bread can be what creates a shift in awareness. You mix the ingredients, put your hand in the water to test the temperature, and feel the dough as you're kneading it. You use your senses. Meditation is sometimes referred to as 'coming to your senses,' and in making bread there's the same quality of waking up and giving your attention to something," says Zen priest, cook, and author of The Tassajara Bread Book, Edward Espe Brown.
5. Chemistry Is Magical
"Mixing inert substances together, and watching them rise can bring out the mystic, or the chemist, in all of us," says Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a clinical psychologist with a disaster stress management background and a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, San Antonio, in Delish.com.
There are also several brain processes at play when you bake and cook. You have to make an ingredient plan, factor in details, follow a list, and multitask. All of these cognitive exercises deploy your executive function - which also can also your emotional control.
6. It Fosters A Sense Of Accomplishment
A lot of us are sitting on an endless pile of to-dos right now without any tangible results, and from that, we carry a lot of stress. Baking offers an end result and something tangible (and tasty) to celebrate and enjoy.
Studies have shown that taking a pause to celebrate small accomplishments has significant benefits for our overall sense of wellbeing - including better coping strategies and improved physical health. Researchers say that "people who take time to reflect on - and celebrate - their successes are generally more optimistic, take better care of themselves, and tend to be less stressed."
Infusing Cannabis In Your Culinary Therapy
That said, have you ever baked, while high? It's pretty amazing. And baking WITH cannabis can be a great addition to your kitchen chemistry experiment. It's a culinary pairing as old as time — people have been enjoying cannabis-infused food and drinks as long ago as 1000 B.C.
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the benefits:
Cannabis has a potent combination of healing compounds that can reduce symptoms of pain, anxiety, and more.
Cannabis edibles can quell muscle spasms and chronic aches and pains, alleviate nausea and vomiting, improve your sleep, and help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Additionally, these products may significantly reduce pain and muscle spasms, relieve nausea and vomiting, enhance sleep quality, and improve depression and anxiety.
So blaze up, bake up, and turn on the playlist below. We can't wait to see what you come up with. (and don't forget to set a timer ... )