Baking: My #BestMedicine for Finding Inner Peace

I still remember my first experiences baking, when my mother would make our family’s annual Christmas cookies. Even when we were young, she would include my brother and me, allowing us to pick out the cookie cutters and decorate with colored sugars and sprinkles. The warmth of the kitchen, my mother’s patience with us as we stole pinches of dough to eat, the old Christmas music cassettes belting the classics in childish sing-song … it all created an atmosphere of caring and safety that has always stayed with me.

Those feelings haven’t dissipated over the years. In fact, from my first attempts at baking chocolate chip cookies when I was 10 to my adult experiments with savory pies and exotic cupcakes, I have always found a sense of calm while baking; it’s truly my #bestmedicine for whatever may be bothering me. Perhaps it’s an echo of those bygone childhood years, but there’s something soothing about the process. When I have a wretched week or a really bad day, I find myself turning to baking as a means of finding my center — and I’m not the only one: Some mental health providers have experimented with cooking for therapeutic means.

The Right Recipe for Relaxation

Whether it’s challenging myself with a new recipe or returning to the comfort of an old one, when I bake my whole focus is applied to gathering the ingredients, following the directions for measurements and mixing, and molding the dough or spooning it out into cupcake tins so my confections are ready for the oven. It forces me to relax and take my mind off any problems that have been bothering me lately. Sometimes, it feels as if whole months of irritation can be baked away into a cake or a batch of cookies.

By the time the mouthwatering aroma of my latest concoction fills the air, I always feel a sense of healing from whatever stress-inducing thing sent me scurrying to my recipe book that day. There’s a visceral delight in prying a cookie off the baking sheet, almost too hot to eat, and taking a bite. In that moment when you taste your success — in all its buttery, sugar-filled glory — there’s nothing else to think about but how delicious your end product tastes and the knowledge that you brought this delightful creation into existence. Talk about reveling in your success!

Sharing My Handiwork

I used to bake for a family of four, but now that it’s just me and my husband, I often find we have lots of cookies or cupcakes — and not enough room in our diets to eat them all. However, this excess allows me a final joy derived from my baking: making someone else’s day by sharing. On top of feeling like I accomplished something, I get to enjoy the surprised smiles of friends and family as I present them with whatever culinary delight I’ve made this time. I get to take a crummy situation and mold it into something that allows me to spread joy to others. That’s why baking is my #bestmedicine.

Does baking and/or cooking work for you as a way to relax? Share your favorite recipes with us on Twitter!

Image source: Bigstock