This will come as no surprise to anyone who's gotten lost in the repetitive motion of rolling out dough: all of that holiday baking could be really good for your mental health.
The notion that cooking and baking could provide a form of therapy has been around for years, but in December, it becomes even more important. According to the National Institute of Health, people experience more depression than usual around Christmas. So why not use the cookies you're already making as a way to help alleviate it?
As the Wall Street Journal reported this week, many treatment centres are using cooking and baking as a means to help people with mental health and addiction issues. While no one is exactly sure why it works, we have a few suggestions:
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Baking demands exact measurements and ingredients, and rushing through it will only result in a less delicious product. Doing things at a slower pace can help you feel calmer — especially during this time of year when you feel like you're constantly rushing.
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So many of us are tied to screens for our jobs and leisure time that we forget how satisfying it can be to use our hands. According to psychologists Carrie and Alton Barron, half of our brain's cortex is mapped to the hands
, so it's just as important to use them to create things to keep our brains healthy.
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While it's lovely to have some quiet time to bake, if you have a friend or family member who wants to take part in the activity, all the better. Working with someone to achieve a goal — even something as small as a tin of muffins — can boost your mood instantly.
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You've heard of aromatherapy, but have you ever thought about it as applied to the smell of baked goods? Whether it's because freshly a baked cake reminds you of happy childhood memories or the scent of vanilla is a throwback to your junior high perfume, these kinds of scents tend to boost positivity. Plus, according to Calm Clinic, if you start associating smells with relaxing, you can call them up anytime in the future to help you breathe a little easier
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Having a routine is something that is cited as a key tool to success for many CEOs
, so why wouldn't that be the case for mental health too? Get into a regular baking (or cooking) routine can give a sense of discipline to your week.
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Following a recipe is fantastic, but one of the best parts of baking comes with the decorating portion of the project where your creativity comes into play. The opportunity to express yourself (yes, even if it's just with icing) can improve your mood, as well as your ability to communicate.
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It's something you hear a lot this time of year, but you should keep it in mind for all 12 months: giving to others will make you feel even better than receiving
, making you feel more confident and like you belong, according to Mental Health Foundation. And really, who keeps all their baked goods for themselves?