They say baking soothes the soul. How can it not?
There is something so reassuring about the ritual – quietly weighing out ingredients, whisking, beating, folding and kneading. It is not just indulging in the end results – the cake, the biscuits, the scones – that helps to brighten up a blue day, but the therapeutic process itself.
“There’s no scientific research to explain why or how baking helps to make you feel better, and it’s certainly not a cure for depression. But it is therapeutic, and it helps many people,” says Emma Thomas, a UK freelance creative who has never been able to bake but is fascinated by the medium of cake. This perceived connection between baking and good mental health has sparked an initiative that saw several pop-up bakeries coined “the Depressed Cake Shop” opened at venues in London, Glasgow, Derby, Cardiff and North Yorkshire, with the proceeds going to mental health charities. “Baking is creative, and instantly rewarding. I’ve realised that cake gets people talking, and the Depressed Cake Shop hopes to get people discussing mental illness and supporting mental health charities.” Eventually, Thomas hopes to set up a series of baking therapy sessions and support networks across the UK.
How can baking help?
Everyone can benefit from getting their hands dirty in the kitchen, especially older people. While there is no scientific evidence backing these claims, those who regularly bake can attest to these points:
Soothing the mind. Baking is an activity that takes all of your attention. This means that you can release other issues that you may be worrying about and allow your mind to relax. This is also a chance to meditate on specific issues so that you can let their mind work through them.
Stimulating the senses. Stimulating of the senses is a powerful way to stimulate the mind and keep it active and engaged. Baking stimulates all five of the senses, from feeling the weight and texture of the ingredients to smelling the products baking to tasting the final product.
Cognitive processing. Baking requires several mental processes. This includes reading the recipe, following the instructions, finding the ingredients, measuring them out, and selecting the appropriate processes to handle each step of the recipe. This keeps the mind engaged and strengthens these skills.
Stimulating memory skills. Memory decline is common among older adults but encouraging them to use their memory skills regularly can preserve them for longer. Baking is the ideal opportunity to talk about memories that you have of the treats that you used to bake together or that they used to bake with their parents. This strengthens their memory skills and supports your relationship.
Building relationships. Baking is a great way to build bonds with a family member or friend. Baking is a great activity to do with children also. The process of creating something together then being able to enjoy it once it has cooked is a really positive thing.
Time to get into the kitchen!