by: Luz Dayrit, PT, DPT
Although more countries around the globe are slowly reopening, the world is still out of the safe zone. In fact, in the US alone, the number of coronavirus cases is now at a million. Unfortunately, this is not stopping a few from leaving their homes, and easing coronavirus restrictions has encouraged more people to stop social distancing completely. The different opinions about the state of the pandemic are adding frustration and anxiety across the world. Fortunately, people of the internet have decided to channel their energies positively. One hobby that everyone is getting into this quarantine season is baking. For the past weeks, people have been posting pictures of the Focaccia bread that they made or the banana bread that they just learned to do, and it has been shared on different social media sites for the world to see. Whether they got inspiration from the Great British Bake Off or out of necessity, baking is helping people cope easier with their pandemic related-stress and anxieties.
Baking does more than satisfy sweet cravings. According to experts, baking has the ability to make problems disappear- at least for a while. Baking may seem like a lot of work, but it can be relaxing. Unlike other hobbies, baking is sequential. It consists of instructions and procedures that need to be done in order. Instead of getting lost in the statistics of the COVID-19 cases, baking directs the attention to the recipe at hand. Baking allows people to be mindful and to be nowhere else than in the comfort of their own kitchen. As baking is very technical, people have no choice but to focus on the precision of their steps and measurements. Measuring one cup of flour or two tablespoons of butter precisely takes great concentration. It makes people aware of what they are doing. In other words, it makes people think nothing else than the process of baking itself. As Philip Muskin, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and the secretary of the American Psychiatry Association, puts it: “Baking is mindful. Mindfulness means paying attention to yourself in the moment and not being in the past or the future, but really being there,”
People have gone through a lot during this pandemic that it has made them feel numb. With daily news of people dying and losing their jobs, it is understandable if people don’t feel as alive as they used to feel. Baking gives people the opportunity to feel a sense of “life” again through their senses. Being in the kitchen is sensory overload. On one side of the kitchen, there is bread baking in the oven. On the other side, there is red colored frosting sitting on the counter. So baking in the kitchen allows people to be surrounded by a harmony of different smells and textures, and being around these stimulates their senses. It makes their senses excited. Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychology professor from the University of Texas in San Antonio, calls baking a “gift to the senses”. In an article from Delish.com, she said, "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”. The ambiance of the place influences the senses so much. If the place smells good, or if the bread tastes good, then it is likely that the person behind the kitchen would also feel good.
Creative pursuits are discovered to have magical effects on mental health. Although baking may seem very technical and “ by the book”, baking can also be a form of self-expression. From adding color to the frosting to molding the dough a certain way, baking allows people to be artists for a day. As baking is also about precision and measurements, this favorite hobby also brings out the inner scientists in people. In other words, baking gives people an escape, a place where they don’t have to take things too seriously. Besides the fact that baking can produce something delicious and pretty, it gives people a sense of satisfaction, as well as, confidence in their abilities.
Since the start of quarantine, The hashtag, #stressbaking, has been on the top of everyone’s social media feed. Under the hashtag, people are sharing pictures of the baked goods they just made and it is inspiring other people to do the same. One thing that baking showed during this pandemic is that it can also bring people together. Through these apps, people can share recipes and pictures of what they baked, and it is putting a smile on everyone’s faces. Staying at home may save a lot of lives, but on the downside, it can affect mental health negatively. So through sharing recipes and photos, people can bond over their love of baking and be happy, even in quarantine.
No matter whether a person is a beginner or a pro baker, baking is an activity that everyone can try. Baking may not seem like everyone’s idea of fun, but it has the ability to inspire creativity and peace in these hard times. One thing that baking has proved to do is that it can bring people together. People don’t have to experience this pandemic alone. Through different social media apps, people from every walk of life can bond over their favorite recipes and photos. In #stressbaking, it is important to know that it is not only about the product, but it is also about the process. As long as the person is having fun baking, how moist the bread is, for example, doesn’t matter so much anymore. The COVID-19 pandemic is definitely a slice of life that no one was expecting. Baking reminds people that in these hard times there is still good worth seeing.
Sarah Weinberg. Baking is the best way to alleviate stress-Yes Really ; March,25,2020