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AlisonBrill Posted by Alison T. Brill, MPH, Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

                                                                                                                                                FatherSonKitchenBakeCookies2

Mmm…who doesn't love the smell of fresh-baked banana bread? Comforting aromas soothe us and evoke feelings of warmth and joy. When I was growing up, my mom baked often and I quickly learned to appreciate the fine art of baking. From a young age, I was mom's kitchen helper. She taught me to think about where my food comes from, and to appreciate and enjoy the process of creating and eating tasty, healthy food.

Baking is a way to nurture our creative side – something we don't do enough of. When I'm feeling stressed or anxious, there’s something relaxing about losing myself in the process of stirring, mixing, and kneading and at the end, treating myself and others to something made from the soul. Doing something with your hands can be relaxing, similar to squeezing a stress ball or knitting. It helps take your mind off of your troubles, and releases negative energy that's stored – channeling it into something creative. For some people, the repetitive motion of chopping is calming. Baking is a creative outlet that allows for experimentation. Plus, you can eat the results – you can't top that (except maybe with a cherry)! For some of us, baking is a coping skill to deal with life's challenges, and a positive one at that – another one to add to your toolbox.

Baking also improves confidence. Keep in mind that baking, like any other activity, takes practice. On your first try, your goodies may not come out like you had planned, but don't worry. Give it another go and your treats will certainly improve! It's validating to watch a pile of batter transform into an incredibly delicious cookie. It’s important not to eat too many cookies, though! If I’m making cookies or muffins, for example, I'll add nuts, cranberries and cinnamon for that extra flair. The act of creating something delicious and producing an end product is very satisfying, especially when you’ve made your treat from scratch.

MuffinBananaNutNo store bought dessert can compare to a homemade one. Prepared cookie, cake and bread mixes are full of sugars, preservatives and ingredients you can't pronounce. You're not even saving any time – you still have to add all the wet ingredients – and the satisfaction that comes with creating your own delicious masterpiece is second to none. Try experimenting with different ingredients to add nutrition to your treats, like using whole wheat flour instead of white, arrowroot powder instead of eggs, and applesauce instead of oil.

As a frequent baker, I often end up with an ample supply of goods, more than I could ever eat (or should eat). While I sometimes bake for myself, I often bake for others. Let me tell you – people love receiving baked goods. Gifts that are homemade and tailored to an individual – whether it's their favorite muffin, or vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free treat – will make their day, and make you feel good for making that happen.

Some recipe websites are below. Happy baking!

General:
http://www.epicurious.com/, http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,low_fat_cookies,FF.html

Vegan: http://www.theppk.com/, http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/index.php

Gluten-free baking: http://glutenfreegirl.com/recipes/, http://www.artofglutenfreebaking.com/gluten-free-recipes/

 

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