Something good to eat? Sure! And every occasion seems to be the right one, from a birthday to any occasion. Yet cooking desserts – pies, cakes, brownies, muffins, donuts and so on – would seem a far deeper activity. The beneficial effects go beyond the kitchen, especially in a Christmas atmosphere, on the psychology of people. Of those who make them, desserts, and of those who receive them or eat them.
“Baking desserts has the benefit of freeing people’s creative expression” – Donna Pincus, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Boston University, explains to HuffPost USA – there are many publications that talk about the connection between creative expression and general well-being.
Whether it is painting, music (or sweets) there is a decrease in stress deriving from having an outlet and a way to express oneself.
On the other hand, the expert adds, stress is in turn connected to many types of mental and physical problems and churning out sweets can be – at least for those who do not live the cooking performance with further anxiety – a way to communicate their feelings. And to better manage that stress, freeing it through a mechanism that, moreover, recalls that of the gift in anthropology: a gesture capable of producing strong bonds between people. Just think, for example, of the role of food in times of suffering, such as the disappearance of some family members.
“Those who find it difficult to express their feelings might find it useful to show gratitude, or affection with baked sweets,” added Susan Whitbourne, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts. Obviously the right balance would be that food and sweets were accompanied and traveled in parallel to the physical and verbal expression of their emotions.
But cooking sweets for yourself and for others is, in addition to a therapeutic channel, also a form of awareness. In some ways it can produce benefits similar to those of meditation, always in terms of stress reduction. Furthermore, behavioural activation passes through culinary therapy as well as art therapy…
“Cooking sweets means thinking step by step and following the details of the present, but it also means thinking of the recipe as a whole, of the dish as a whole, of what it will be, to whom it will be destined, to the moment in which it will be shared, so it is a great way to exercise the balance between the present moment and the general picture,” explained Julie Ohana, social-health worker and culinary art therapist.
Almost always, cooking desserts for others is therefore a gesture of altruism that can increase the feeling of well – being and, as explained, improve relations with friends and relatives. It is still a question of a sacrifice made for someone else and therefore it has a symbolic value: “The greatest benefits will manifest when you are not sweet to look for or overcome others, but when you simply want to share the dish with people you believe will appreciate it. As long as you are good!” Whitbourne concluded.