Throughout life, people spend a lot of time engaging in cognitive activities that keep their brains highly active. From studying at school to learning to play an instrument or problem-solving at work, people generally continue to develop their cognitive skills. However, at retirement age, the necessity to complete tasks that involve cognitive functioning decreases.
While retirement is a time for taking a well-earned rest, one of the negatives is that if our minds become less active, we are more likely to suffer memory loss, and some studies have shown, such as this one by Neurology, show that keeping our minds active can prevent dementia.
Therefore, doing regular activities that involve cognitive functioning is vital to preserving cognitive fitness. Games such as Sudoku, crosswords, and doing creative activities such as drawing, arts and crafts, and baking goods are all good ways to keep your mind actively working regularly.
The act of baking is a great activity that can boost cognitive fitness and brain health, even showing ways to reduce stress. Many people do not realise it is so beneficial, stimulating the senses in many ways.
Numerous aspects of cooking involve thinking and focus; from shopping for the required ingredients to following the recipe, measuring out ingredients, and the act of creating the baked product.
With it being World Baking Day 2022 on 17 May, it is a great time to find out more about the cognitive benefits of baking.
Benefits of baking for mental health
Even tasks that feel like you are not concentrating on such as stirring mixing or kneading when bread baking, help you to be mindful and remain focused on the task. Culinary Art Therapist Julie Ohana has shared her views on how cooking and baking improve your overall mental mindfulness and communication. She also advocates cooking as a therapy that can help to boost your mental health, which was verified in a study by a well-known baking brand, Dr. Oetkar.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many people turned to baking and cooking to help with stress reduction and to decrease boredom during the lockdown. Many also found it helped to boost their mood during a time of much uncertainty when it came to the world’s physical health.
With lots of people being furloughed from work, cooking and baking gave individuals an activity they could complete at home and keep their minds agile. The finished product of the task also helped provide a sense of achievement and purpose, at least for the more successful attempts at baking (let’s not talk about our burnt banana bread!)
Since then, more people are seeing the health benefits of baking and cooking, from the mental aspects to having a better understanding of what types of food you are eating and what healthier recipe options are available.
Connecting with others
Sharing baked products with other people and cooking for friends can also be good for forming bonds, as the person receiving the food will appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into baking or cooking a meal, compared to putting a ready meal into the oven, for example. Sharing your creations with groups and contacts on social media was another way people kept in contact during the lockdown.
Providing food for others helps you to feel a stronger connection and many older people, may not feel as helpful with children or grandchildren as they used to be. Baking them bread and providing your loved ones with cakes or other baked treats will show them that they are loved and cared for and give the baker a feeling of doing something useful and good.
Many psychology experts state that baking is a form of altruism, giving the baker a well-being boost through their sense of accomplishment.
As you get better at baking your favourite items, your memory should retain the recipe information so each time you bake again, you will be able to prepare the item faster. Once you have mastered your favourite recipes, you can then move on to more complicated recipes and set yourself some good challenges.
Watching The Great British Bake Off will give you an idea of the different types of challenges that you can set yourself to improve your skills and impress other people with your culinary skills.
One of the other great things about cooking and baking is that you can save money by making bulk portions and freezing them. This can cut down the cost of your food shopping and you can also save time preparing a meal every day if you just need to defrost and reheat a meal instead.
Whether you are a novice baker or already have some good culinary skills, as you get older, baking regularly will help boost your cognitive functioning, as well as all the other health benefits we have mentioned.