Can baking make you happier?

In this post, we will be exploring the connection between baking and happiness, as well as speaking to The Depressed Cake Shop about how this hobby can positively impact mental health. 

Taking care of our mental well-being has never been more important. There are a variety of treatments available to help manage depression and other mental illnesses, and it’s essential that you speak with a medical professional to find the best treatment method for you.

The impact of baking on well-being

It turns out that taking fresh ingredients and following a recipe to create something tangible and delicious helps many people manage their mental health. It can be incredibly therapeutic alongside other medical-based solutions. We spoke to Valerie Van Galder from the Depressed Cake Shop to find out how experimenting in the kitchen, particularly through baking, has helped her:

“I have always been very “crafty” and “artsy” and I learned as an adult that my lifelong impulse to be creative was a strategy to manage my anxiety and undiagnosed ADHD. 

I had left my career running a marketing department at a film studio in 2009 when my father had a psychotic break following my mother’s death, and caring for him began to impact my own mental health. “

As I had since childhood, I turned to knitting, sewing and painting to quiet my worried mind.”

In 2011 cake pops had become popular and over Christmas, I decided to give them a try.”

It was impossible! 

As luck would have it I read about a cake pop class at a local cake shop and after one afternoon I was hooked. I just kept taking cake-decorating classes and learning new techniques.

Every minute I spent baking and decorating was so joyful, a feeling I was having a hard time accessing due to my father’s continuing health crisis.”

It turns out that Val isn’t the only one that bakes to improve her mental well-being. So many people were turning to baking when they are feeling low or struggling that The Depressed Cake Shop began popping up everywhere:

“At last count, over 200 shops have popped up and hundreds and hundreds of dollars and priceless awareness has been raised for local charities around the world. The impact has been astonishing.”

The rise of baking during Covid-19

“After a rough couple of years COVID hit and my baking skills were a literal lifesaver. I baked and baked and invited my neighbours to come to my garden and get something hot to eat.  My baking is a way of connecting with people.  Who doesn’t love a slice of warm sourdough bread?”

We all remember the news articles saying that supermarket baking isles were empty during the recent pandemic. In fact, a YouGov study revealed that 27 million people (53% of survey respondents) were baking during lockdown.

With so much uncertainty and fear being at the forefront of all our minds, as well as additional time on our hands due to furloughs and not being able to socialise as normal, it’s no wonder so many people took up baking.

Many of the people who turned on their ovens or installed proving drawers likely weren’t even aware of the positive impact the act of baking fresh bread and baked goods was having on their emotional well-being.

Although Val already understood the connection between baking and joy, she felt this even more during lockdown:

So, baking makes you happier?

loaf of freshly baked bread

It definitely can.

The brand Dr. Oetker carried out a study and two-thirds of the participants said that their emotions benefit from baking. A further 61% said that sharing their baked goods with other people made them happy.

And psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos agrees:

“Baking is a unique activity that has potential to combine both creative expression and social connection. The act of baking can have an almost meditative effect, allowing people to lose themselves in a creative activity that can positively impact our sense of well-being and connection with those around us,” she said.

Of course, we’re not saying that you can bake depression away – far from it. Mental illness requires a unique approach, whether that be face-to-face therapy or medication.

Is baking a form of therapy?

The therapeutic qualities of cooking and baking are being used more frequently by occupational therapists as an arm of treatment for a range of mental health conditions including depression, ADHD, anxiety and eating disorders.

Known as culinary art therapy, the treatment falls under behavioural activation treatment – a highly personalised form of treatment that helps people feel more relaxed and encourages them to find daily enjoyment as part of a wider therapeutic plan.

variety of macrons with a woman holding one

Why is baking good for your mental health?

There are numerous benefits to baking in regard to mental health, some of which include:

Creativity benefitsConfidence boost
Once you’ve nailed some of the basic recipes, baking can easily be one of the most creative projects you undertake. There can be so much freedom while still sticking to an exact process. You can try merging different flavours or decorations, whatever you fancy doing in the moment.In the charity Step One’s list of how baking positively impacts mental health, they state that people diagnosed with depression often experience poor self-esteem. But they also write that baking something that people find delicious can help the baker overcome these negative thoughts.
Stress reliefSharing baked treats
The term ‘stress baking’ was quite literally coined during the pandemic. The process of baking and following a recipe forces you to focus on the task at hand, resulting in stress reduction.
Whether you’re concentrating on measuring the exact amount of sugar, kneading dough or noticing the delicious smell rising as your cookies bake, it’s a fun way to put you ‘in the moment.’
Baking is often referred to as ‘meditative’ and is used as a practice of mindfulness, as you repeat the same actions (like weighing, mixing, kneading etc) again and again while giving the recipe your full attention.
Similarly, there are numerous mental health issues that hinder the ability to focus, but due to how intricate baking is, you’re forced to concentrate.
As mentioned earlier, many people enjoy baking as part of gifting away what they make. It can be used as a tool for showing somebody that you care. That you’ve taken the time out of your busy everyday life to buy the ingredients, bake, decorate and deliver them.
And it helps you as the baker to feel connected to others. An additional benefit is that, in some cases, it can conjure up pleasant memories that bring comfort, even if what you’re baking is going to be eaten by somebody else.

Baking puts you in control

In today’s world, and particularly over the past few years, there’s so much we can’t control, which has a negative impact on our stress levels. The 2012 winner of the Great British Bake Off, John Whaite, told BBC news:

“Baking helps lift my depression. It can’t cure it but it helps.”

When I’m in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs – I am in control. That’s really important as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control.”

For many, baking provides a sense of control. It’s up to you what you put into your mixing bowl, or how long you leave something to prove.

This reiterates that while baking is in no way a ‘cure’ it can make everyday life more relaxing and enjoyable. It seems to be a hobby used by many alongside additional mental health support and medication. 

These are just some of the benefits of baking. Whether you follow a recipe or go wherever inspiration takes you. Giving yourself the space to experiment and create can induce positive feelings and improve our everyday lives.

If you’re yet to experience the joy that comes with taking a fresh cake out of the oven. Or feel the excitement when a loaf of bread has doubled in size while proving. We’d love to help get you started.

Appliance City sells high-quality kitchen appliances from well-known and reputable brands. Shop and buy everything you need online to start exploring the wonderful and therapeutic advantages of baking.