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How to bake mindfully for stress relief and happiness

Woman mindfully icing cupcakes

Mindfulness practice is touted as a natural, accessible antidote to life’s stresses. Being in the present and focussing on a simple activity or the breath is a great way to leave the day’s tension behind. Healthy Food Guide takes a look at how baking can be a mindful activity that not only makes you feel better but has the added bonus of having delicious results.

There might not be one perfect recipe for happiness but flour, butter and eggs are a good place to start. Baking and mindfulness can go hand in hand. From the sensory act of stirring, kneading or whisking to the methodical process of following a recipe, there are numerous ways in which rustling up a batch of biscuits can make you more mindful. We chatted to the chief science officer at Headspace, Megan Jones Bell, to find out a little more about the link between baking and mindfulness.

What makes baking a mindful activity?

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. The methodological process of baking allows you to focus your full attention to the present moment and let stressful and busy thoughts leave your mind.

Time spent in the kitchen can be used as a time to wind down and switch off, allowing your mind to notice thoughts drifting in and out while remaining focused on the physical tasks your hands are involved in.

Baking can be a way to ground yourself in your physicality. It is a highly sensory process that encourages people to become more aware of physical sensations such as the smell of the ingredients, the feel of them in your hands, the sound of the mixer and how they look when they change state as you combine them together. It’s a very grounding process. You are more invested in the act of doing which helps you appreciate the process and outcome more.

Repetitive and simple tasks such as mixing or kneading can be very relaxing. They encourage mindful thinking as your movements mirror your breathing – providing you have an anchor to concentrate on.

How can you become a more mindful baker?

1 Stimulate your senses

When baking, encourage yourself to become aware of your senses by noticing how the ingredients look, smell, feel and taste. Admire the array of colours and textures of the ingredients and notice how different their forms may be. See how the ingredients change state as you whisk and fold them and then further when you combine them together.

Take advantage of the tactile nature of the activity and enjoy the process of using your hands to create something from scratch. The act of kneading dough is particularly meditative, as you work to shape the dough repetitively. Notice how your efforts change the consistency of it as it forms into a stretchy mass.

2 Spend time away from devices

Headspace’s mindfulness exercises are great to listen to while you bake, encouraging you to unwind, de-stress and focus. After you have started the session, leave your phone or tablet on the side, print out the recipe or use a cookbook and encourage your mind to be in the present moment, setting aside other concerns.

Try to enjoy the journey baking takes you on, not just focusing on the end goal but making the most of the experience. Headspace has an exercise on mindful cooking to help you train the mind to be fully focused on the recipe or meal at hand. These same practices can be incorporated into your baking routine.

3 Be grateful

Throughout the process of baking, be thankful for the ingredients you have access to and your ability to transform them into something delicious.

Can baking really make you happier?

Mindfulness is beneficial to well-being. In our tech-focused world, finding an activity that requires you to put down your phone and get creative and hands-on can be really beneficial to your mental wellbeing. By leaving stressful thoughts behind, you ease up space in your mind to be creative, so experiment with recipes and be adventurous with decorations.

Nourishment feels good

Baking and cooking are fundamentally about nourishing ourselves, so the process of making something wholesome from scratch can be incredibly satisfying. The patience the process requires can make the reward at the end even sweeter than the treat itself.

Sharing is caring

Another great benefit of baking is sharing the product at the end. Making others happy is a great way to boost your own mood too.

Want to get involved in some baking yourself? Check out our healthier cake, biscuit and bread recipes.