The mental health benefits of baking your own bread

The mental health benefits of baking your own bread

Posted on 17. Sep, 2016 by in Bread and conversation

Hand made bread is delicious and, thankfully, it's much easer to buy it than it used to be.  Consumers' interest in high quality, small batch, local products is large and growing - in fact it's one of the main food trends and will continue for the next decade.  Small producers are at the leading edge of the food industry.  Arguably all innovation comes from them and then goes main stream as large manufacturers pick up the ideas and try to replicate them.  Today, farmers' markets, independent retailers, festivals and shows of every kind enable small producers to sell their wares - either helping them get a step up to larger businesses or simply maintain their business at the level of "small is beautiful".

Hand made buns

Hand made buns

Sometimes, though, it's fun and interesting, calming, and inspiring to try to make your own: from cheese to chocolate, cake to keffir and all things in between, you can give it a go.  If you love it - great!  Keep doing it.  If you don't love it, well you tried and maybe it's something you can repeat every few months or even just once a year, when the spirit takes you or when you need a lift.

Baking bread is a bit like that.  It's not for everyone all the time but it is something we can all do some of the time.  The act of mixing ingredients is soothing.  The repetitive action of kneading is meditative and it's a good stress buster.  The reason is because you don't have to think if you don't want to - you just do.  You can listen to the radio, talk to someone, think about something nice, or have a good cry.  What you cannot do is write, type, post in social media, or surf the net.  You also cannot iron, scrub, do laundry, stack shelves or answer the phone.  The opportunities for multi-tasking while you knead are limited.  So, surrender to it, immerse yourself in it, and just be.

Not much else you can do when you are elbow deep in dough.

Not much else you can do when you are elbow deep in dough.

One of the most important developmental steps for humans is learning to "self soothe".  As tiny children we run to our parents when we are hurt or upset. As we get older, we run to our friends.  There was a LONG time in human history (like, from the beginning of people until about 20 years ago) when, chances were, there was nobody to run to when we were hurt or upset.  We had to  be able to "self soothe" - it was not only a vital life skill, it was a critical part of being able to function as an adult.  "Self soothing" either helped us resolve a situation and move on, or helped us cope until we had the opportunity to interact with someone who could help us by discussing the situation.  In both cases, "self soothing" is a critical first step to coping with what life throws at us, and yet it is a step that people are either skipping or no longer learning at all.

Knead to do this

Knead to do this

Running to our "friends" in social media to report the receipt of little slings and arrows elicits a waterfall of silent responses which can make us feel better in the moment.  But do they really help us cope?  Do they really help us learn?  Further, what if it's three in the morning or we don't have a phone, or we don't have access to social media, or the battery has died or our "friends" are not responsive? What then?  Without the ability to self soothe, we have lost a vital coping mechanism - one that will take us through the crises at three in the morning or when we are in a foreign country with no access to wifi, or on an airplane or any of the other hundred occasions during which we don't have access to our "friends."  I am not judging.  I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to whining on social media but it does make me think about whether the ability to do so is reducing my ability to cope.  Is this one of the reasons people need "resilience training"?  And is that training appropriately directed?  Or, do we simply need to learn (or relearn) "self soothing"in order to learn (or relearn) when resilience in a situation is necessary, versus, when a situation is truly unbearable and the appropriate course of action is to leave it rather than learn how to put up with it better?

Knead to do that

Knead to do that

Reaching for the mixing bowl and kneading for 10 minutes helps provide perspective and enables us to engage with ourselves and our issues to begin the process of "self soothing".  Try it:  it's not an hour, it's not a class, it does not require you to leave your kitchen and you will get a great loaf of hand made bread at the end of the process.  We all have it within us:  dig deep, spend some time, and have something really worthwhile at the end.

Knead to make something really gorgeous

Knead to make something really gorgeous

Then, by all means, take a photo and put it out there on Social Media.

Inspired to bake?  Have a look at some great, simple recipes here.  Want to learn more about baking?  Come and take a course with us.  Learning how to knead may just change your life and besides, we look forward to meeting you.

 

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