“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” ~ Luciano Pavarotti
I am a baker.
I’m usually the first one to volunteer to bake the cake for someone’s birthday, or labor for hours in my kitchen over some specialty cookies to celebrate a holiday—any holiday. Or whip up a pan of brownies for my coworkers just because I know how much they love chocolate.
What I’ve discovered along my culinary journey is that there’s more to baking than making something sweet to eat. I have noticed that baking, especially when it’s done for others, can have mindful benefits for the baker.
Here are a few reasons why baking for others can be so good for our mental health:
Baking is a practice in mindfulness.
Activities that require our whole attention—especially if it’s simple and repetitive—can have a calming, tranquil effect. When I’m measuring, weighing, whisking, beating, and folding in the needed ingredients in just the right order, it creates space in my mind. At the same time, it eases any stress, anxiety, and negativity I’m feeling. Baking for me provides that critical step-by-step thinking which demonstrates a balance of living in this moment right now and seeing how this moment fits into the big picture. It’s reassuring—the same outcome can be expected each time we follow the recipe.
Nourishing activities make us feel good.
When we bake, we are nourishing ourselves. Any type of food preparation can provide this result. And having an intentional awareness to the healthy ingredients and love that go into every bite provides comfort to our souls. Ultimately, at the center of baking for others is the act of giving. While the process of baking can contribute to an overall sense of nourishment and well-being, giving enhances this feeling even more.
Baking can bring out your creative side.
Many studies have shown a strong connection between creative expression and overall happiness and satisfaction. There’s always a basic recipe, but there’s also different ways to make it. Experimenting with recipes, like adding a streusel crumb topping to my blueberry muffins, can be a fulfilling and tasty adventure. To see the result of our hard work and to know it brings happiness to not just us but others, is a satisfaction that we just don’t get with too many things.
Baking can do the talking for you.
When it’s difficult to find the right words, baking can explain everything we need to express: from appreciation, to love, to sympathy. Sometimes there just aren’t any words. Only food can communicate what we’re attempting to say. Food can be a genuine and sincere expression of love and care. And it’s wonderful because it’s something we all relate to—we all eat. There is a distinctive and meaningful value in baking for others because food has both physical and emotional significance.
Baking is a feast for the senses.
Think about it. Baking can be a slow, sensual, and leisurely process that delights our faculties. The soft, silky feel of the flour. The whirl of the blender. The hum of the mixer. The heavenly scents when the ingredients come to life in that warm oven. All these experiences spark our senses, which increase those feel good endorphins, making the receptors in our brain ridiculously happy.
Baking can be a form of selflessness.
Not only can baking increase our well-being, it can also connect us with others. It provides me that pleasurable meaning in life of doing a little something that’s good for someone, which means it’s good for the world. I have found that creating something nice for others—particularly through baking—when it’s not done for the purpose of seeking attention or outdoing others, is a beautiful, sugar-filled form of philanthropy.
Baking provides comfort to the one receiving and the one offering. It is something done completely out of love that we can share with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. And it makes me feel like a culinary sorceress—dispensing happiness, one cookie at a time.
I’ll bake to that!