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Mental health is important at every stage of life. It affects or controls how we think, feel, and act. An area of global concern, mental health awareness is still in the incipient phase, where there is a need to highlight the consequences and gravity of the problem at hand.
Mental health is the agglomeration of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being that affects one's ability to act, think and feel. It also helps determine the way we relate to others, how we handle stress and imperatively how we make choices in life.
Even in 2021, amidst all the awareness and breaking down of stigma around the topic, people are still hesitant in getting help when necessary. Hopefully, with time and reformations, the stigma attached to mental health and its aspects is slowly but becoming detached, shining a light on the importance of mental health awareness and getting treatment at the right time, for those necessary . According to the WHO, India is the most depressed country, with 6.5 per cent of the population suffering from some form of serious mental disorder .
Baking For Mental Health: Does It Help?
Maintaining your mental health is not a one-way journey, but a combination of a positive attitude, a healthy diet, regular habits etc. Studies have shown that people who have hobbies they passionately love have been shown to have less stress and a reduced risk of depression .
From listening to music, working in an NGO, gardening to collecting stamps and cooking and baking, hobbies that are beneficial for one's mental health are many . When you focus your mind on an activity that you are genuinely interested in, it helps offer an unparalleled level of engagement, reduces stress, improves feelings of anxiety or depression, improves participation in social events and more .
Baking, as a hobby, aids in improving mental health, with benefits that include increased mindfulness, satisfaction and sensory pleasure . When followed as a form of behavioural activation (helps us understand how our behaviour influences our emotions), baking has been shown to help bakers struggling with depression and other mood disorders .
Amidst the pandemic, the number of bakers has increased exponentially - while on the external view it is a hobby for making some extra cash, experts link it to the heightened stress and anxiety caused by the lockdown and the new normal .
So, does baking really help with improving your mental health?
According to a UK study, one in three Brits turns to baking to help them de-stress after a busy day at work, while 61per cent said that sharing their baked goods with others makes them feel happy .
Reasons why baking is great for your mental health:
1. Baking can reduce stress and anxiety
Calming, rewarding, and providing focus, baking can be a great way to help you de-stress and reduce anxiety. Baking is proven to help lower our stress hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine. High levels of stress hormones can cause sleep problems, low immunity, high blood pressure and more. When the levels of stress hormones are reduced, you're simultaneously minimising the anxiety and stress that your body is exposed to.
Many people already find everyday household chores like washing the dishes, sweeping the floor or preparing vegetables relaxing and their way of quieting their mind. A study confirmed that individuals who participate in small creative projects like cooking and baking feel more enthusiastic about their activities the next day .
2. Baking can boost self-confidence
While everyone has doubts about themselves from time to time, low self-esteem can leave you lacking in confidence and enthusiasm. When you bake for yourself of other people, you're setting an achievable goal for yourself. ‘Behavioural activation' is a therapy used to treat those suffering from anxiety and depression; this method is a way to combat doubt and low mood by increasing productivity in a realistic and achievable way .
Accomplishing something in the kitchen can help raise your self-esteem, as it is a positive outcome of your hard work and dedication.
When receiving praise and feedback for your baked goods, this will help to outweigh the self-critical thoughts you experience throughout the day. This can help you feel more confident and more able to tackle bigger and smaller challenges in your life.
3. Baking can improve creativity
Tapping into your creative energy can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and improve your overall mental and physical health. The average person has over 6,000 thoughts per day; a creative activity such as baking can help focus the mind by calming the brain and body .
Creativity goes beyond making you happy in the present. It also is an effective way to reduce the symptoms of dementia, improves memory and cognitive abilities. Your memory improves when you become more imaginative, so get creative with baking by adding colour, texture and decorative features.
4. Baking can help build relationships
Group participation in baking activities can help build social growth through shared interests and common goals. Baking can help develop someone's ability to mix socially, make friends and learn skills that will help them to interact more effectively .
Baking with family, friends or organised groups can provide individuals with the opportunity to connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation and exclusion. Isolation isn't healthy as it can trigger or deepen feelings of depression. When we are feeling down, baking with others can transform those negative feelings back into a positive state.
The feelings of safety, trust and belonging increase when socialising with friends and family. These emotions can help form a strong and healthy relationship. Individuals can still feel a sense of support and belonging when virtually sharing a slice of cake or cup of tea.
5. Baking is great for physical health
Being physically active has been shown to reduce stress, anger, depression and improve overall mental and physical health. Not only does baking help emotionally, but it helps contribute to physical wellbeing by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and production of stress hormones .
From rolling out pastry to kneading the dough, baking and cleaning up afterwards can be a real workout and calorie-burner. In fact, you can burn more than 200 calories by wiping down the surfaces of your countertops.
On A Final Note...
Getting help for your mental health is the same as going to the doctor for a physical illness - there is absolutely no difference. It is the perception and lack of awareness that makes one important than the other or getting help for mental health being a taboo.
If you think you need help, please reach out.
With inputs from https://delamere.com/addiction-treatment
Mental Health Helpline Numbers
1. COOJ Mental Health Foundation (COOJ)- Helpline: 0832-2252525 | 01:00 PM - 07:00 PM ( Monday to Friday)
2. Parivarthan- Helpline: +91 7676 602 602 | 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM (Monday to Friday)
3. Connecting Trust- Helpline: +91 992 200 1122 | +91-992 200 4305 | 12:00 PM to 08:00 PM (All days of the week)
4. Roshni Trust- Helpline: 040-66202000, 040-66202001 | 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM (Monday to Sunday)
5. Sahai Helpline: 080-25497777 / Email at - SAHAIHELPLINE@GMAIL.COM | 10 AM- 8 PM (Monday to Saturday)
6. Sumaitri: 011-23389090 / FEELINGSUICIDAL@SUMAITRI.NET |2 PM- 10 PM (Monday To Friday); 10 AM - 10 PM (Saturday and Sunday)
7. Sneha: 044-24640050 (24 HOURS) / 044-24640060 | Email at- HELP@SNEHAINDIA.ORG |8 AM - 10 PM
8. Lifeline: 033-24637401 / 033-24637432 | Email at LIFELINEKOLKATA@GMAIL.COM | 10 AM - 6 PM