Knead to relax? How baking bread eases anxiety

The act of making bread isn’t just hype. There’s a reason it’s soothing to the mind, body and soul. Therapist Laura Rhodes-Levin, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma, says it eases stress and brings us a sense of satisfaction. “Anything that gets us into our bodies can be therapeutic,” she explains. “It focuses our attention on the task at hand rather than our anxious thoughts.” The joy of baking bread also engages our five senses. If you’re feeling worried bake your way through anxiety, and if you want to try something new following a recipe can feel very rewarding.

Video Transcript


- Baking bread has seen a huge surge during the coronavirus pandemic. The hashtag, breadmaking, has more than a half a million posts on Instagram. According to therapist, Laura Rhodes-Levin, baking is therapeutic because it helps ease anxiety. It provides a distraction from our anxious thoughts, comfort, and allows us to focus on the task at hand.

The process of baking bread, in particular, engages all of our five senses. Kneading dough is a repetitive activity that makes people feel purposeful and productive. While our body is busy, our minds have room to relax. Watching dough rise triggers pleasure centers in the brain.

The smell of freshly baked bread ignites memories and cozy feelings from childhood. Then there's the sweet sounds of crackling and popping as the crust contracts and cools. People also find comfort in carbs. Eating carbohydrates increases serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter, that promotes calm and sleep during times of stress. Following a recipe can feel very rewarding says Rhodes-Levin. It brings us a sense of satisfaction.