Cooking and baking is a popular hobby that can be used to help with mental health. Many clinics and counselors are incorporating cooking or baking into therapy plans for people dealing with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.

Cooking has therapeutic value physically, cognitively and socially. Here are a few reasons why: 1. It is relaxing.

It’s Physical

When you think of cooking and baking, you probably imagine the same thing: people in kitchens chopping, mixing, stirring, cutting, and blending ingredients to produce something delicious to eat. But what exactly is the difference between these two activities? At first glance, they seem to be the same: both involve edible ingredients and heat, and require a certain level of skill and knowledge to produce desired results. However, they are actually very different. Here’s how they differ:

Cooking is a general term that includes many types of food preparation.

It’s Creative

Unlike other hobby activities that are often considered sedentary, cooking is actually quite physical. The chopping, slicing, mixing and measuring are all great for your arms, legs and back, as well as your mind. This activity also promotes mindfulness and encourages you to stay focused on a singular task, rather than letting your mind wander.

Cooking is not just a physical or mental activity, but a creative one too. You can express your creativity in many different ways, from deciding what ingredients you will use to how you will prepare the food. Even following a recipe can be a creative process as you think of ways to improvise or change it to make it your own.

The act of creating something with your own hands is very grounding, and is an activity that is accessible to most people. In addition to helping you feel productive, baking provides a sense of purpose because you are making food for yourself or others. You are fulfilling a need, and that is an important aspect of any therapy.

Baking also helps you to practice a technique used by therapists called behavior activation. This type of therapy is used to treat depression and anxiety by increasing your contact with sources of reward. Taking steps to bake a cake or cookies is rewarding, and it also motivates you to continue to work on other projects that will help improve your mood.

It’s Social

The act of cooking also fosters connection with others. Group cooking has been shown to have psychosocial benefits (as has other experience-based group activities in therapeutic settings). Moreover, many of the skills involved in baking and cooking – planning, organization, adaptability, and decision-making — are core competencies that contribute to social and emotional learning. Long term studies have shown that people who learn these skills at school do better academically, are more likely to be team players and show empathy, and have less drug use.

Cooking can help you feel accomplished and boost your self-esteem because it requires a lot of concentration, coordination, and confidence. It can also be a form of meditation and allows you to get into a “flow state” where your senses are focused on the moment. Plus, it’s a fun activity that can be done with friends or family and produces a result that you can enjoy or share.

Psychologists say that cooking and baking pursuits fit a type of therapy called behavioral activation. This approach is aimed at alleviating depression by boosting positive activity, increasing goal-oriented behavior, and curbing procrastination and passivity. It’s also a good way to practice mindfulness and improve your concentration. As a bonus, you’ll probably eat more healthily and save money by doing your own cooking at home!

It’s Relaxing

Whether you are cooking a tangy tuna steak or baking a decadent cherry galette, the act of getting hands-on in a kitchen can have mood-boosting benefits. That’s because the activity forces you to put aside any unnecessary thoughts and just focus on the task at hand—which keeps your mind from dwelling on negative emotions like anxiety or fear.

It also allows you to immerse yourself in the sensory experience. The smell of baking chocolate, the sounds of kneading dough, and the taste of a finished product can all help to distract your attention from any negative feelings you may be experiencing.

The sense of accomplishment you feel when completing the cooking or baking process can also be beneficial to your mental health. It can boost self-esteem and confidence, especially when you produce a result that is edible, as evidenced by research from Haley and McKay (2004).

So, if you are staying home during the coronavirus outbreak and need to keep yourself busy, consider whipping up some comfort food or a fun dessert recipe. Just make sure you are using recipes that are easy and nourishing—and don’t be too hard on yourself if your baked goods turn out to be less than perfect. After all, it’s a learning experience. Plus, the end result will be tasty (and filling). And who doesn’t love a little self-care?

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