A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology late last year found that individuals who frequently take a stab at small creative projects, report having a higher state of mental health and functioning. In a more recent study, it was discovered that little bursts of creativity each day can go a long way towards preserving your happiness and satisfaction as you hustle and bustle in your daily life.1

Cooking and baking ranks as one of the most satisfying and creative outlets, even if you have never stepped foot in the kitchen You need not be a baker, or a chef to reap the health benefits listed below. Making something homemade, or even semi-homemade for a friend, family member, or a special someone, can go a long way towards keeping you happy and mentally sound.

  • Baking/cooking keeps you focused on the task at hand. Since baking is a very precise science, it serves to distract all of the negative emotions or worries you might be presently experiencing. Your full attention is needed, so your mind cannot wander off into scary territory. If it does manage to do so, it is easier to regain focus.
  • Baking is a de-stressor tool aiding in stress reduction. Simply chopping up vegetables with a knife can work out your frustrations. If you try your hand at baking, a rolling pin works wonders.
  • Baking teaches you about mindfulness. It teaches you about being in the present moment and enjoying every second of it.
  • Cooking can increase your altruistic reserve. Instead of focusing on yourself, when you are making something for others, your attention naturally shifts towards other people, and making them happy. Inviting others for a homemade meal, regardless of how it comes out, (take out as a backup works wonders too!) makes others around you not only more appreciative and comfortable, but also puts a smile on your face as well. This happens because we tend to mimic the behavior of those in our immediate environment.
  • Cooking, besides being therapeutic, can also be meditative. Perhaps the repetitive twirl of your standing mixer can cause you to get in a semi-calming trance, which actually helps to keep you focused, sharp, and your mind clear. All of these qualities are very eerily similar to those found in various types of meditations all over the world.
  • Baking stimulates your endorphin levels. As you gather the ingredients you might need to assemble your dish and engage your five senses with touch and smell for instance, your level of dopamine gets triggered, thereby activating the rewards, and pleasure centers of your brain.
  • Feel good nourishing activities generally make you feel better. Psychologists and researchers alike have found a strong link between any kind of creative expression and ones mental health, mood, and overall well being.
  • Trying something new and stepping out of your comfort zone, not only makes you courageous, but simultaneously you have the added bonus of exercising your brain muscles, and increasing your cognitive reserve. New neuronal connections are built which helps your brain stay sharp.

It is important to note that baking/cooking isn’t for everyone, so if you find yourself feeling really stressed out by the process, simply stop, as that defeats the whole purpose! Find another creative activity for you to engage in that evokes your senses, and makes you feel accomplished, yet calm. Knitting, painting the deck, drawing, planting in the garden — the list of activities are endless so it is best to engage in something you think you can truly enjoy. Now that summer is in full swing, the time is ripe to experiment with your creative juices to keep you feeling at your very best!

References:

  1. Conner, T. S., DeYoung, C. G., & Silvia, P. J. (2016). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. Journal of Positive Psychology1-9. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049