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What Does Making Cookies Heal?

In discussions of mental health, what used to be called cooking, exercising and household chores has become reconceived and rebranded as therapy.

You can’t read about a traditional household activity in the New York Times without some allusion to its healing qualities, if that’s not already the central focus of the article.

Cookie and cake therapy are closely related.

There’s making cookies as therapy. Gardening as therapy, or rather therapeutic horticultural activities. Reading as therapy. Running as therapy. There’s even cleaning as therapy.

What’s up with this?

Perhaps it’s that with the growth of professional therapy we’ve come to apply the word therapy to any activity that’s calming and provides emotional restoration. As in: “I found it really therapeutic to have coffee with Jane.”

But I think there’s a deeper sociocultural phenomenon at play.

What used to be “life”–making cookies from scratch, patiently cleaning, poking around in the garden on a spring day–has become so abstracted from many of our daily lives that it’s an “other”.

As a result, activities such as growing and cooking food are reframed as providing not just calories but emotional sustenance.

I think it speaks to the fact that for many of us the suburban-commuter-social media-two parents working-or-single parent-hustle has drained lives of activities that really speak to fundamental human needs. Getting our hands in soil. Patiently making and breaking bread, together.

It’s a meaning deficit syndrome. In this context, mixing homemade cookie dough isn’t just fun, it feels deeply healing.



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