Science prescribes baking to cure a bad mood

Science prescribes baking to cure a bad mood

Could this be the reason many bakers seem so cheerful despite being up and working from the very wee hours? According to scientists, the cure for a bad mood might just be baking, and not only because you get to eat some scrumptious treats afterwards.

In a new study published in February by the University of Otago in New Zealand, researchers suggest that everyday creative activities like cooking and baking lead to increased wellbeing.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, reviewed the diaries of 658 university students who were asked to keep a record of their daily activities and emotional states over 13 days.

After analysing the diaries the researchers, led by Dr Tamlin Conner, found a pattern of the participants feeling more enthusiasm and higher “flourishing” (a psychological concept that can be described as increasing positive growth in oneself) than usual following days when they were more creative.

While the current study did not specifically ask the university students to record the nature of their creative activity, the researchers had collected such information informally in an earlier study.

Dr Conner says she and her team wanted to find out if engaging in everyday creative acts makes people feel better emotionally.

“There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning. However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional wellbeing,” Dr Conner says.

The researchers found that “positive affect” (PA) – which encompasses feelings such as pleasurable engagement, happiness, joy, excitement, and enthusiasm – on a particular day did not predict next-day creative activity.

“Our earlier research found that PA appears to increase creativity during the same day, but our latest findings show that there is no cross-day effect. Rather, it is creative activity on the previous day that predicts wellbeing the next,” she says.

Dr Conner and her co-authors write that: “this finding suggests a particular kind of upward spiral for wellbeing and creativity – engaging in creative behaviour leads to increases in wellbeing the next day, and this increased wellbeing is likely to facilitate creative activity on the same day.

They conclude that “overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning”.

The new results support the use of cooking and baking as a form of behavioural therapy to help improve mental health.

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