Baking and the Brain

When it Comes to Mental Health, Sharing Pastries Takes the Cake

Raye Park, Justin Park, and Alyssa Chang

Raye’s kitchen has positive vibes that travel from her house to DIS daily.

Last week, I walked into Mr. Bergan’s room with a carrot muffin in hand. When I saw his eyes crinkle as he smiled wide, I knew he was going to love it. He and I were connected in a new way, beginning from the day I brought him a tempting treat.

Baking. For me, this is a word that conjures up the scenery of white smoke spouting out of a chimney of a gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. Every time I hear the word, I can taste the sugary scent of vanilla, the caramel brown color of the treats, and the glittering unicorn-shaped sprinkles on my tongue. Whether I’m making croissants, baguettes, biscuits, or cookies, baking always makes me happy. I’m 200% sure this sensation is universal – these days, even pets have their own dessert menus at franchise cafes.

Eating these goodies is a total pleasure in its own right — once you put a piece in your mouth, neural fibers are going to fire the taste through your whole body, delighting your brain with the flavor. A Colby Community Website also addressed that ingredients such as chocolate “contains a key compound called tryamine… it has the capacity to [increase] our levels of dopamine.” 

Baking is also a creative pursuit; this simple task can even advance your intellectual abilities and communication as you learn from your mistakes, create new recipes, and problem-solve to make up for missing ingredients. Like any charity work, the altruistic act of baking for others can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and connection with other people in the world. However, you can benefit from baking for yourself, too… eating a slice of chocolate cake is a form of self-love, right?

However, you can benefit from baking for yourself, too… eating a slice of chocolate cake is a form of self-love, right?”

Besides the simple pleasures of tasty food, those enjoying the treat are sure to shout out “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD, HOW DID YOU MAKE THIS?”, sparking a whole new conversation. Every time I bake at home with my family, the fact that I’m sharing these little moments with others always relieves my stress from the day. 

Cooperating with each family member brings great joy to the house. Elders gain better memory retention through such mentally stimulating activities, according to the National Institute of Aging. Consider getting your grandparents involved in baking, too.

Aside from just “feeling good”, baking comes with definitive benefits to your mental health. For one, cooking certainly does an excellent job in developing our social, emotional, and cognitive responses to external stimuli. Crafting something actively puts your five senses to use, creating focus and peace in our hectic lives. “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,” associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, Donna Pincus, told Huffington Post.

Why not try baking this weekend? The delight will make its way from a corner of your kitchen to all the corners of your mind.