Here’s Why Cooking and Baking Make You Feel Good, According to Science

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

People who love to bake really love to bake. They’ll jump on any opportunity to whip up a treat to share with others and put their stand mixer to work. But it turns out there might be another reason why baking and cooking make some people feel so good.

A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that those who engage in creative projects (like cooking and baking) are happier in their day-to-day lives. After following 658 participants over the course of two weeks, the researchers found a correlation between everyday creativity and positive psychological functioning.

Translation? Subjects participating in creative tasks report being more energetic, calm, and happier the next day.

“There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning,” says Tamlin Conner, a psychologist with the University of Otago in New Zealand and lead author on the study, in a press release. “However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional well-being.”

Why is this the case? One reason could be that baking is an outlet for some people to express themselves creatively, much like painting or writing.

“Baking has the benefit of allowing people creative expression,” associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, Donna Pincus, tells 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.”

Pincus also makes the case that the amount of focus required can serve as a de-stressing tool.

“Baking actually requires a lot of full attention,” she tells HuffPost. “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.”

The connection between cooking and mental health is effective enough that culinary therapy is a tool to help some people tackle depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

“CAT (culinary art therapy) combines emotional well-being with a very practical real need that we all have,” Julie Ohana, a Michigan-based culinary therapist, tells Munchies. “We all need to eat. And certainly we are all better off if we know and not only feel comfortable in the kitchen, but if we can actually enjoy our food prep time and it makes us a better person.”

Do you feel happier when you bake or cook? Let us know in the comments!