Ah the holidays. It seems as though once Halloween is over ‘ol St. Nick comes bustin’ down doors. Christmas lights are up, turkey is in the oven, people are playing Dradle, and once you get on the holiday train, it is full speed cruising through December 31.
It’s the weather, finals, gift giving, and relatives season. It goes by fast and makes you feel like you have been blown down by a blizzard at the end of it all. But it doesn't have to be.
Baking is an age old tradition that all of our ancestors participated in on the daily. So why did we stop? Here are ten reasons why you need to start baking this holiday season.
- It lowers stress - Dedicating time to focus on following simple directions helps your brain become clear. When there is a lot of things going on in your life, I find that by stopping and focusing my crazy energy on a simple recipe allows me to take a deep breath and step away from everything going on in my life. When my treats are out of the oven, I'm ready to face the task of processing everything going on in my life. It is almost like my brain takes a little nap, but instead of laying on the couch doing nothing, I am actually making something productive out of my brain nap.
- Comfort Food Makes You Happy - Especially after Thanksgiving, everyone is fully aware of how happy your soul was after finishing off that plate of pie. Sure that turkey may put you in a food coma later, but it is pie that really makes me thankful for Thanksgiving. Something about butter and carbs are just make you feel good, as long as you don't look in the mirror after (see #7)
- Boosts Self-Esteem- Even if your cake is not perfectly piped with roses, creating something from scratch gives you a sense of satisfaction. John Whaite, winner of a baking TV show in 2012, describes baking as an escape from his depression. He states that baking is "making something destructive into something constructive, and at the end of it you've got something to be proud of, something to eat, something to show off". Pulling something out of the oven and being able to say I made that! leaves a smile on your face. It is incredible to see what you can create out of some butter, flour, sugar, yeast. It is even better when you get to show off your creations to your friends. 1
- It Is Meditative - Measuring flour, stirring together eggs and water, gently spreading frosting onto a cupcake. Baking has many meditative properties. Nothing has to be perfect, and that is the beauty of it. It doesn't require a lot of thinking and can be as simple as measure, pour, stir, bake. In a study on mediation, it has been proven that mediation will lower your stress.Nothing better than to whip up a batch of Grandma's Minty Muffins to get your zen back. (Study cited # 2)
- Boosts Endorphins - Vanilla has proven benefits of aromatherapy. Vanilla is said to boost endorphins that send calming signals to your brain. Throw some into your next batch of cookies and it will be like the Pillsbury Doughboy sent calming waves through your oven. Not only does your baked goods taste like happiness, they smell happy too. 2
- Boosts Creativity - Baking doesn't have to be a perfect equation. As long as you have a basic recipe to follow, the world is your playground. Feeling fruity? Throw some blueberries into those muffins. Need chocolate to sooth your soul? All it takes is a bag of chocolate chips in your bread. In a study on creativity, psychologists found that creativity has a positive effect on performance outcomes, such as baking. When you are baking, you are putting something together to create an end result. When you have influence on how to combine ingredients and what ingredients to use the happier your end result will make you. 3 (Study Cited #3)
- Allows You to Make Healthy Choices -Baking doesn't have to be entirely unhealthy. You don't need to feel guilty after eating all of those brownies. Instead, sneak in a little black beans into those brownies and instead of just spreading health in yourself, you can sneak some in your family and friend's lives as well. It is like you have become the Health Fairy. Black beans are much lower in fat and provide a great source of protein to your brownies. But brownies aren't the only baked good you can turn into something good for you, click hyperlink 4 to find more ideas! . 4
- Good Physical Exercise - Need a good arm workout? Whip up a batch of bread and after ten minutes of kneading, your arms may have the desire to fall off your body. You don't need a stand mixer to make every recipe, instead put in some good elbow grease with a wooden spoon. Physical exercise is a great reliever of stress for any young adult. Recently there was a study done on how college student's stress levels change if they add in a physical activity class to their schedule. While baking isn't exactly the same as weight training, it is something that boosts physical activity. Making bread will burn much more calories than taking a loaf off the shelf from a supermarket. For bonus points, take a lap around the block while you are waiting for your goodies to be done in the oven. (Study Cited #1)
Redheadlins showin' off our bread we made
- You Can Do It By Yourself Or With Others - If you want some alone time, baking allows you some peace and quiet while mulling over a simple activity to gather your thoughts. Or, if you want to get all of your family and friends involved, baking allows you to be a social butterfly. No more boring group trips to the movie theater, instead spend some time having a cookie decorating contest. Baking adapts itself to a singular or group activity.
- Spreads Holiday Cheer - Everyone loves when someone drops Christmas cookies off at their doorstep. In an interview with a fellow college student who was overly stressed about finals, she said she would be "extremely pleased " if someone gave her some baked goods over the holiday season. She said "it's calming to be totally focused on something that isn't related to what stresses me out, plus it's nice to know someone was thinking of me, and consuming them is a pleasant experience." I think she was hinting at me baking her some, but hey, gotta spread the cheer right? (Study Cited #4)
So get out there and bake something! You will be happier, less stressed, and calmed. Whether it is for you, your horse, or your neighbors, spread some holiday cheer! (A yummy chocolate chip cookie recipe)P.S. College student without an oven? Check out mug cakes, they are microwavable and take less than 10 minutes!
1: "Can Baking Improve Mental Health?" article
2: "8 Ways to Naturally Increase Endorphins" article
3: "How Creativity Makes Us Happier" article
4: "Just Desserts: Diet Friendly Baking Tips" article
1- Barney, David, Lindsey Benham, and Liz Haslem. "Effects Of College Student's Participation In Physical Activity Classes On Stress." American Journal Of Health Studies 29.1 (2014): 1-6. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.