You know when you have so much to do that you just start cleaning the house to avoid it all? Or maybe you procrastinate one task so hard that you end up being super productive with another? That’s basically the principle behind what’s been called "procrastibaking."
We can also call it "stress baking," but "procrastibaking" just sounds so much better, doesn’t it? It’s a welcome distraction from whatever the hell is going on outside your four walls -- especially in March of 2020.
It’s happening constantly right now; there are even jokes roaming the internet about how everyone has somehow aligned with the fact that in a crisis, we must teach ourselves how to bake bread. Yeast is literally becoming sold out around the country while everyone turns to their loaf pans for a little solace.
But you know what? We’re A-OK with that. Baking is known for reducing stress.
The idea of completing a task, start to finish, with a visceral end result is soothing to a lot of us. You can’t get quite the same satisfaction from watching the last episode of the Netflix series you’ve been working through for a month (though it’s close).
Working with your hands is a gratification many don’t have, what with office jobs and corporate America. Creating something from scratch, with your own two hands, and having it come out good? Now that’s the stuff. It’s a way to express yourself and show off your creativity that isn’t quite as obvious as painting or music-making; maybe you’re a wild child that dumps a whole bag of chocolate chips in your banana bread, or maybe you don’t dare use even an extra tiny granule of salt in your soufflé.
That, and it adds structure to your day. Humans are creatures of habit, of routine, so following a recipe is like pouring a bucket of serotonin over our frazzled little heads. A lot of recipes call for extra planning -- chill a filling for a few hours before moving on, heat a pan before using it, cool those cupcakes before frosting them -- that can break up an otherwise monotonous, empty afternoon that may have sent you spiraling into the depths of the internet or meandering listlessly through your own thoughts. No, thank you.
Moreover, baking is a way to practice mindfulness (so, yes, baking is meditative). It forces you to focus your thoughts solely on the thing you are doing at the time, so you’re present and not letting your attention waver to other, potentially harmful thoughts.
"Baking actually requires a lot of full attention. You have to measure, focus physically on rolling out dough. 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," Donna Pincus, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, told HuffPost.
"You’re not spending time ruminating over your thoughts...if you’re doing something productive. And the nice thing about baking is that you have such a tangible reward at the end, and that can feel very beneficial to others," she said.
Not to mention that baking is a great way to connect with other people. Maybe you shouldn’t bring your neighbor a batch of fresh-baked cookies right now, but it’s something to remember for when we’re all hanging out again. In the meantime, baking blogs and social media accounts make it possible for you to share your baking endeavors and get some new ideas or tips from others.
"There's something really rich and rewarding about it for people who are feeling a bit lonely or isolated," Valerie Van Galder, the baker behind the Depressed Cake Shop blog, told Delish. "So often we knock social media, but I think this is a time when it actually can be really, really healing because it makes you feel much less alone."
So, queue up a dance playlist, whip out the rolling pin and see how good you can feel after baking one of these scrumptious (and slightly more challenging than your average place-and-bake cookie dough) desserts.