Can baking treat depression?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

I can smell and taste the happiness from here.

Sometimes people say, “I feel depressed,” when they are in a sad mood or don’t feel like doing anything. Most of the time, the feeling doesn’t last for more than a day. Come morning time, they are back to normal! However, when someone is clinically depressed, their sadness can lasts for months and years at a time. Doctors usually prescribe medicine to cure depressed people, but John Whaite, who was diagnosed with depression, believes he has found a better way to treat himself: baking.

Last year, Whaite won The Great British Bake Off, a baking show where contestants compete to be named the UK’s best baker. Since the show, he has made several appearances on cooking shows and written a couple of cookbooks. “Baking helps lift my depression,” says Whaite.

What is it about baking that is so therapeutic? “When I’m in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour, or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs – I am in control. That’s really important as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control.”

So, should everyone get in the kitchen and mix some eggs and flour together for delicious pastries? According to Dr. Mark Salter, a consultant psychiatrist working in east London, it sure can’t hurt! Baking and cooking are activities that build confidence in a person, especially because they can savor the delicious result of their choices. However, Dr. Cosmo Hallstrom, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warns that the activity shouldn’t be overrated. There are numerous hobbies that can help fight depression, like painting and exercise. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to get in the kitchen and make a fresh batch of cookies. Just don’t eat them all at once, or you’ll get a tummy ache.

Featured image courtesy of Chorley Little Theatre on Flickr.