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How Baking Could Help Stressed Brits Access Mindfulness And Relieve Anxiety

How Baking A Cake Can Make You Feel Less Stressed

Could our national obsession with baking be less to do with getting a sugar fix and more to do with tapping into the sense of peace and calm it instills?

John Whaite, previous winner of The Great British Bake Off, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost 10 years ago and has spoken openly about how he finds baking therapeutic.

"When I'm in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs - I am in control. That's really important, as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control," he says.

More and more adults in the UK are turning to mindfulness to relieve stress and anxiety, with many finding inventive ways to access the practice.

It looks like mindful baking might be the next big trend to hit Britain.

"The physical act of baking, the way that you knead bread for example, takes your mind out of the intellectual and connects you to your body," Julia Ponsonby, author of 'The Art of Mindful Baking' tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

Despite its growing popularity, mindfulness can still be a difficult concept to grasp.

The basic principle is to focus on the present moment in order to develop our awareness and eliminate unhelpful distractions from the world around us.

This is something baking often instigates without us even thinking about it, which may explain our national baking obsession.

Ponsonby's book aims to make mindfulness more accessible, by appealing to both novice and accomplished bakers who may not have experience in the practice.

She introduces readers to the concept through a series of exercises such as chocolate meditation, concentrated breathing and, of course, baking.

"For example when you’re baking sourdough, you’re letting things develop at their own pace and you’re observing them. I think not trying to control everything and accepting that things will happen when they’re ready is a useful tool to have in life," she says.

People were using baking as a form of therapy long before mindfulness found its way onto our radars

In addition to Whaite, novelist Marian Keyes has also said she uses baking to help with depression. In her book, 'Saved by Cake', she writes: "Baking hasn't cured me. But it gets me through … To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is: I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes."

Like other forms of mindfulness, mindful baking can help us to feel in command of our own thoughts and emotions because it forces us to slow down and focus on one task.

"We’re always afraid of missing out on opportunities, but when we slow down, we often become more successful in life because we gain a heightened sense of awareness," Ponsonby says.

Like the sound of mindful baking but not sure where to start? This should help....

Julia Ponsonby's tips for mindful baking:

- Give yourself time and space

- Bake with integrity: use ingredients that have been grown organically and sourced as locally as possible, so you know they will be really healthy as well as good for the environment.

- Prepare yourself: take a moment to centre your thoughts before you begin your baking project, breathing and envisaging your delicious, nutrition-packed, beautiful, baked goods in your mind's eye - how it might look and who you will share it with.

- Enjoy engaging in the whole process, whatever the outcome your baking journey will have been worth while, so don't get yourself in a stress about the results being perfect every time.

'The Art of Mindful Baking' by Julia Ponsonby is out now.

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