The Magic of Baking as Therapy
Every time I bake, I instantly feel connected to my mother. I feel grounded and balanced. It was also brought to my attention that I stand in Tree Pose while I bake. I wasn’t aware I was doing it until someone told me. Baking for me is a passion and a love that has been fostered in me since childhood. You don’t have to be a good baker to reap its benefits. Baking can actually be a great way to build your connection with your child.
I love baking and I love being a therapist. It’s a dream of mine to be able to combine these two practices together, and that will happen, but that is for a different day! When I think about therapy and wellness, I think about being connected — to our selves and to others. Connecting to our selves is about really knowing ourselves, inside and out. We become aware of our emotions, our triggers, and how painful experiences have impacted our feelings and thoughts. And through this process we learn about how to heal, how to become comfortable in our skin, and what we need to do to make changes in our lives. In some ways we become a new version of ourselves, a fresh product that we can enjoy and allows us to live in a healthy way.
Baking is also about connection — to our selves and to others. It’s a very sensory-based experience that helps you connect with your body and emotions. Take a minute and imagine the textures of the dough, the rhythm of the kneading, the smell of the yeast or the chocolate melting, the sight of the ingredients coming together to form this beautiful new creation, the sound of the mixture churning or the eggshells breaking, and the taste from the lick of the cookie dough from the spoon or the bite into the freshly baked cookie. All of these sensory experiences elicit emotional responses: joy, calmness, anticipation, maybe even frustration if it doesn’t come out as planned.
And if you’re baking with someone, you are experiencing all of these things together. You are learning how to take turns through mixing, seeing how on their own, all of the individual ingredients may not seem special, but when they work together they create something incredible. You witness the power of transformation – egg whites can turn into frosting?! You practice the art of mindfulness by needing to be precise with measuring. You get to have fun as you dot some chocolate on each other’s faces or laugh at how terrible the recipes came out! You get to enjoy the final product together and sit and reflect on the journey you took together in the kitchen.
So next time you’re at the store, grab some cookie baking ingredients and make a date with your kiddo to have some fun together. Remember the goal is to have fun and build connection. That might require some flexibility on your part in terms of being okay with making a mess and having things come out imperfectly. The mess in the kitchen is temporary, but the positive memory in your child’s mind and the connection you’re building will last a lifetime!
Written by Kelly DiBenedetto, LMHC, ATR
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