To Improve Your Mood This Season, Try Baking, Studies Say

|Updated Dec 11, 2022
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Breaking news: One way to quell anxiety around the holidays is as easy as buying a box of cake mix and a pint of frosting, and start baking. Several recent studies suggest rituals such as baking are calming and can help adults boost their mood, stay present, reduce anxiety and even help cope with grief. The key is to find something you can do to feel like a "maker," whether it's baking, making crafts (or ornaments), cards, gifts, or other "do-it-yourself" or creative activities.

In a survey published by the Journal of Happiness Studies, 465 young adults claim they spend more than 3 hours a week participating in "maker" activities – which include creative endeavors such as baking, home improvement, crafting, or gardening – and these rituals acted as mood repairers that helped their ability to "stay present-focused." The findings of the survey also suggested that having a "maker" identity (where you create something with your own hands) was associated with improved well-being, linked to excitement or stimulation during these activities.

Another area that was positively impacted by culinary therapy, was grief counseling. In programs for people who had lost a loved one, cooking for themselves helped reduce complicated grief associations for people, according to a study published by the Journal of Palliative Medicine. No one is saying you'll stop feeling grief, but cooking and baking can help connect you with traditions or revive holiday memories that have positive associations.

A similar study suggests that engaging in cooking or baking increases mental well-being and has a positive effect on an individual who may feel overly busy and pausing to make a favorite recipe can help hit reset. In addition, research also shows that individuals who participate in support treatment groups found baking and cooking to help their mental health.

Baking for others is therapeutic

In addition to those studies, one expert, DonnaPincus, who is an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University weighed in. "Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression,” Pincus told HuffPost. “There’s a lot of literature for connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s painting or it’s making music [or baking], there is a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves.”

“Baking actually requires a lot of full attention. You have to measure, focus physically on rolling out dough. If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction,” Pincus added.

John Whaite, the baker who won “The Great British Bake Off” in 2012, has said that baking has been helpful for him in dealing with his manic depression.

Aas therapeutic as baking may be for us, it also gives someone else something to smile about. “Baking for others can increase a feeling of wellbeing, contribute to stress relief and make you feel like you’ve done something good for the world, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people,” Pincus told HuffPo.

So this holiday season, treat yourself and your loved ones to your favorite baked goods, made during a joyful (or at least peaceful) afternoon or evening, while you reap the benefits of staying present, calm, and mindful. If you really want to boost overall well-being, ditch the eggs and dairy since a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce the risk of depression.

Bottom Line: Try Baking to Improve Your Mood this Holiday Season

Choose from The Beet's selection of vegan dessert recipes or try one of Laird Superfood's vegan baking mixes, brownies, cookies, pancakes, and waffles, which are all packed with superfoods and other ingredients that help boost immunity. Baking healthier-for-you treats is even better for you, of course.