In these uncertain times, I think baking can help everyone, the same as it helped me.
A form of mindfulness
Back in 2009, I made an important discovery. I was making a chocolate and vanilla marble cake, as I waited for the results of my health check-up. Normally, I would have been an absolute nervous wreck, but when I was baking my mind was worry-free. Instead of fretting, I was utterly absorbed in the process of measuring ingredients, mixing and decorating. Baking became my own special form of mindfulness, as I redirected my anxious thoughts into dreaming up exciting new flavours and forms for my sweet creations. In emergency situations, whenever anxiety raises its ugly head, I quickly run to the kitchen, grab my scales, spatula, and mixing bowl, and start work on a ‘999 cake’.
Boost your creativity
Baking is not only a coping mechanism, it also works as a long-term solution for an anxiety disorder. When you get into baking, you start experimenting more, and having a creative outlet like this is an essential ingredient for happiness. In such a positive frame of mind you are much less likely to be struck by an anxiety attack. What’s more, with the rising popularity of baking shows on TV, you never know where your first attempts at baking might lead! What started for me as a short-term way to deal with anxiety became not only my saviour, but also a huge passion in my life; I now bake with victims of gender-based violence around the world.
As well as all the other benefits of baking, the ‘cherry on top of the cake’ has to be the pleasure of seeing others enjoying eating what you have lovingly made. Sharing a still-warm-out-of-the-oven pie with neighbours or colleagues brings people together. After all, who doesn’t love cake? Inviting friends round for a freshly-baked carrot cake is an excellent excuse to meet up (a useful “999” option when anxiety hits). And let’s not forget that giving something you have baked as a present is a great ice-breaker when meeting new people (a common cause of anxiety). And as for the cake itself? Well, that can have great health benefits too. For example, the smell and taste of the cinnamon in a carrot cake has been scientifically proven to increase the feel-good endorphins in the brain, making us happier and grateful to be alive.
A few therapists are starting to recognise the value of baking alongside the usual art therapy and mindfulness courses. If, like me, you need a creative activity to keep your mind occupied and anxiety at bay, I suggest you give baking a whirl. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, and you can do it any time of day and night, as long as you have access to an oven (but saying that, I even managed to bake using hot sand in Africa!).
The mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn once said “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” and I agree with him; I learned to surf the waves of my anxiety by baking, and now teach others how to whisk themselves away to a happier, calmer place..