An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but a cookie can chase away the blues.
It sounds too good to be true, but psychologists say that they have found that cooking and baking are effective ways to treat depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.
The culinary arts fit into the therapy category of "behavioral activation," which alleviates symptoms of depression by "boosting positive activity, increasing goal-related behavior and curbing procrastination and passivity," the Wall Street Journal reports.
Moreover, cooking can relieve stress and even build self-esteem, particularly when coupled with other treatments like talk therapy or medication. When the mind's focus shifts to following and executing a recipe, its attention shifts away from the negative thoughts and emotions that tend to drive depression.
The perks extend past the baking process, too. Sharing food with others fulfills a primal need for human connection and bonding, according to Helen Tafoya, a clinical manager of psychosociological rehabilitation program at the University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center in Albuquerque.
"The ability to eat and share food is very, very primal," Tafoya told the Wall Street Journal. "Eating or breaking bread with someone has healing capacities beyond anything that we can really quantify."
Because mental illness can leave people feeling isolated and disconnected socially, sharing a cookie or sitting down with a friend to enjoy a meal together can alleviate that loneliness and boost confidence.
So next time the blues have got you down, or typical therapy methods don't seem to be doing the trick, take to the kitchen. Good food won't only nourish your body – it will also nourish your mind and your mood.