Two prominent world awareness days occurred this month, of which one was unlikely to have gone unnoticed. Nowadays we are familiar with the idea of being aware of our mental health, and with a booming wellness industry it becomes ever more accessible for us to implement small acts of self-care into our daily routine. World Mental Health Day 2020 took place on the 10th of October to bring awareness to the often silent, but detrimental, prevalence and importance of mental health.
However, 2020 had plans that meant a yoga class or an oil-scented bath may not make the cut. Lockdown caused Britain to have 60% of adults and 68% of young people reporting a worsened state of mental health during lockdown, according to Mind, a leading UK mental health charity. Lockdown meant that the resources people used to use to seek help and support were no longer available in the same capacity. This meant losing the things that we love and that make us happy – a hug with our best friend, a kick about with our team or a weekly piano lesson. For some, these things are critical in maintaining good mental health, so combined with less social interaction and more loneliness, it is no wonder so many have suffered in some way.
But there was one particular trend that people turned to to keep the blues away, the mind busy and a sense of purpose and achievement alive – baking.
Whilst for some people the cult-like pressure on social media to become the next Paul Hollywood may have ended up in tears and a lot of thrown-dough on the walls, for others getting the perfect rise on a sourdough loaf was a productive way to pass the time. Fitting then, that this month also celebrated National Baking Week.
Baking has revealed a slice of resilience amongst the British this year. In the face of adversity, the current series of the beloved The Great British Bake-off prevailed and managed to film during social distancing, achieved by isolating the cast and crew in the manor house before and during filming. A cosy blanket of a programme across the nation, it helps to have something to look forward to each week. Regular television programmes are known to have been used as a way to punctuate the weeks during lockdown, with household gatherings – be they physical or virtual - bringing stability and structure to a time of great uncertainty.
One could argue that baking represents a lot about human compassion. A cake of cherries and almonds can be baked to while away an afternoon and then eaten shamelessly on your own with a cup of tea and a film. A box of fairy cupcakes will cause small fingers to become sticky and faces smeared, as cataclysmic amounts of sugar are licked and consumed. We bake to celebrate. We bake to console. We bake to offer kindness to those close to us who need it. We bake to raise money for charity in playgrounds and village halls.
The fact is simple, everyone loves a baked good, and it does as much for putting smiles on those eating a dunked shortbread biscuit as it does for those who bake them. To be sure, everyone will have found their own way of managing their mental health over the last eight months. The pressure on Instagram to display a perfect banana loaf wasn’t for everyone and was dependent on the local availability of flour and a lust for competition, so it is important that we support and celebrate each other in whatever it is that we do to be kind to our minds.
Mind have created the hashtag for 2020 World Mental Health Day #DoOneThing. So, whether it’s folding, whisking and proving or running around the park, this day serves as a reminder to us all to do one thing each day that sparks joy and puts our mental health first.