Call it whatever you want: stress baking, anxiety baking, procrastibaking. When people feel anxious, they look for something to do, a distraction of sorts, and baking provides just that for many people. There are a whole host of reasons for this: it’s just allowing yourself to be creative – adding flavor, changing color, forming shapes. Then you’ve got the sensory triggers. “The smell of spices and vanilla are comforting, and [they] often remind us of happy times. Olfactory scents are particularly linked to areas of the brain that involve emotions and memory,” she suggests. There’s also the magic of it all: “Mixing inert substances together, and watching them rise can bring out the mystic, or the chemist in all of us.”
Humans naturally crave routine, though, and that’s what’s at the root of baking. “There is a rhythm or pattern to baking, it feels familiar and can even lead to a mindful state.”
How to bake mindfully
It’s surprisingly easy to practise mindfulness in the kitchen. One of the joys of baking is that it’s very tactile. “Our hands are our most immediate tools and they work in perfect harmony with our brains and our emotions to manifest the diverse possibilities that grow in our imaginations.”
The simple act of kneading dough can be an almost meditative experience. As you work, focus on the sensation of shaping the dough, feeling the springiness as gluten strands form giving the loaf its texture. Enjoy the smell of the yeast and the flour.
Mindfulness, for the uninitiated, is the quality of being aware and engaged, leading to reflection rather than reaction. Many psychologists believe it’s one of the best ways to combat anxiety and depression. When you’re baking, you can’t help but be engaged; a lack of attention during an activity that requires such scientific precision could screw everything up. And when it seems like the world is ending, you don’t want fucked up cookies. So you embed yourself so deeply in the measuring, and the pouring, and the mixing, and the rolling, and the shaping, and whatever else your recipe asks you to do. And by the end, you’ve got a little less stress and a dozen more cupcakes.