Science of happiness #1

Anna Jastrzembska explains why it’s okay to have another slice. Or two.

19th October 2015

creepy cupcake web

Don’t throw rocks at me, but having spent my summer on technology detox I have never heard the words “The Great British Bake Off.”

That’s why it came as a shock to me when one Wednesday two friends of mine left a pub around nine after drinking barely a pint and before a mandatory dessert. With all due respect, choosing to watch people bake on TV over enjoying the melting sensation of still warm chocolate in your mouth seems to me irrational at best. Because even though I might not understand the hype around “The Great British Bake Off,” I perfectly get the joy of eating cake and baking in general.

Baking is literally what happiness is made of. With the right set of mind, it helps release all four main “happy hormones”: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is released when you strive towards a goal, so that you can experience the pleasure of reward. Baking a perfect (or at least edible) pumpkin pie totally counts as a goal. As about endorphins and serotonin, scientists constantly widen the range of foods that release them. It started off as chocolate, then it was carbohydrates, now they argue that eating any food can release at least one happy hormone, as long as you enjoy it. And who doesn’t enjoy cake? The effects of endorphins and serotonin on our organism are amazing, too. Endorphins relieve pain and boost pleasure, while serotonin, apart from improving our mood, also makes us more friendly and sociable. The last happy hormone- oxytocin- is a bit more tricky, but I believe that the secret is that sharing is caring. Oxytocin is a hormone of love and baking with your friends or for the loved ones surely must trigger it somehow.

Baking is literally what happiness is made of. With the right set of mind, it helps release all four main “happy hormones”: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin

To put a cherry on top, baking is considered a therapeutic activity that helps people struggling with mental problems. The combination of focus, creative input and physical movement, often with a social factor, is meant to be especially good for depressed people. Baking helps restore the feeling of control, that is often lost in depression. It’s a great motivation to get out of bed- follow the recipe and you end up with a sweet reward. Creating something that is associated with goodness, love, nurture and beauty lifts feelings of helplessness and despair. The happiness of cake is recognized to this point, that Depressed Cake Shops started opening around the world (the closest one in Glasgow). The charity project raises awareness of mental illness and therapeutic qualities of baking through selling grey cakes.

So if you are upset that “The Great British Bake Off” is over, maybe it’s the time to wake your inner baker and have a house baking night?

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