Turns out, there's a pretty compelling reason to make that banana bread.

Karla Walsh
April 08, 2020
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Take 60 seconds to scroll through your Facebook and Instagram feeds. Go ahead, we'll wait.

If our collective networks are any indication, you probably saw oodles of coronavirus news stories, some cute snapshots of parents homeschooling their kiddos and plenty of mouthwatering images of baked goods. But why is everyone suddenly getting the urge to break out their beaters?

Turns out, baking can be an active form of therapy.

"The process of baking, and the end result, often bring up positive feelings and thoughts from the past that can be soothing and comforting during periods of increased stress," says Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D., author of Life Will Get Better and the founder and director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Michigan.

It engages most of your senses—sight, smell, touch and taste—so baking counts as a mindful activity if you're able to focus on the bowl of batter. (And not the news reports coming from the TV over your shoulder. Turn that off for a bit.) As you settle into stirring or scooping, you might even enter a calming zen "zone" that is sometimes referred to as "flow."

"Plus, making things for other people also brings in positive feelings of gratitude and helping others that are known to improve mood and reduce stress," Beurkens says. So even if you have to drop your loaf of bread or batch of brownies off on a friend's doorstep, you'll still reap those benefits.

We're all craving connection right now. Oh yes, and carbs too. (Here's why you crave carbs when stressed—and what to do about it.) In place of dreamy vacation images, our social sharing landscape has become a lot more real, a lot more homey, a lot more about making the most of what we have...and a lot more about making little moments sweet in tiny ways.

An easy baking recipe—like banana bread—is the perfect fusion of all those things: It's an easy win (a batch of the quick bread is often done in less than an hour, with no yeast required), and makes the most of past-their-prime bananas from your pre-quarantine shopping trip that you didn't have time to snack on before they turned brown. Once it's baked, banana bread is cozy and comforting to eat, yet showy enough to want to capture photos of and post on social media. Plus it's nearly endlessly customizable.

We're not alone in our adoration of banana bread. Compared to other all-American foods like hot dogs and apple pie, and other baked goods of the moment, like sourdough bread, banana bread has seen a massive spike in search trends in the last three months, according to Google Trends.

While we lean into non-perishable staples, fret about how long produce lasts, what to eat first, and how to store fruits and vegetables to extend their lifespan, the magic about bananas used in these sweet bread recipes is that they actually get better with age. As the starch breaks down into sugars, their natural sweetness intensifies.

What a sweet way to make the most of what we're lucky to have a lot of now: time.