Getting What You Knead


Rising Up,” a report by the British campaign “Real Bread”, finds that 88% of those with mental health issued surveyed report bread making helps with a sense of achievement, 87% report feeling happier, and 73% felt calmer or more relaxed. “When I’m in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour, or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs — I am in control,” says John Whaite, winner of the U.K.’s Great British Bake-Off. “That’s really important as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control.”

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Of further interest:
Feeling depressed? Maybe you need to knead: New research reveals how baking is helping to lift thousands of people out of depression (The Independent)
Can baking make you happier? (BBC News)
Can baking improve mental health? (The Guardian)
John Whaite: How baking helps me battle depression (Yahoo)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Sounds to me like the real problem here is that people like them are being brainwashed into feeling they have no control. Cooking is supposed to be stressful. I feel confident in betting that these people were all also on neuroleptic drugs, and probably had been for years, and therefor were so lethargic and dysfunctional that just knowing they could do ANYTHING would probably make them feel better.

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  2. Would just about any productive activity do? My guess is: yes and no …

    Bread ain’t magic (and I am far too prone to slather it with butter – a risk factor not present with woodworking or sewing). But consider this: It’s quiet. It smells good. It’s soft. You use your hands, and use them a lot. You probably use some other muscles too. When you’re done you’ve got something that’s good to eat, and that right there can calm your nerves. And you’ve got something that tends to make other people happy too!

    That puts it head and shoulders above most of the things we do at work, whether diddling a computer or running a punch press. And better than most of our noisy, screen-centric forms of “entertainment.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom here if you don’t get too hung up on a single gimmick. By all means, if you’re gluten-sensitive, make guacamole or something. Make music or work in the garden, if that’s what turns you on. But working with your hands, and seeing a result, is something that’s much too rare for far too many of us.

    Too bad no one can patent it, eh?

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