As a child, I was scolded for doodling. My absent-minded scribbles were distracting me from my schoolwork, I was told. As it turns out, my teachers were wrong. Mindful doodling, also known as meditative doodling, can improve concentration, relieve stress, boost creativity, and aid memory.
The science of doodling
Science attests to the power of doodling. In 2009, a psychological experiment showed that doodling helps us remember. Researcher Jackie Andrade played a long voicemail to a set of volunteers. Half were asked to doodle while listening, while the others were asked to simply listen. The doodlers remembered 29% more details than the non-doodling group.
How does doodling help us focus? Focus can be described as a muscle that needs a break now and then to function properly. For example, an hour-long technical conference call requires a great deal of attention. Doodling can provide a respite for your brain, allowing it to focus on the important details.
Info doodles vs mindful doodles
Doodling offers a personalized means of capturing complex information in a visual language format. These ‘info doodles’ are easy to digest pictures representing hard to digest information. For example, bullet journals, university lecture notes, and infographics all stem from the info doodle.
However, while meditative doodling may help your memory, they are not the same as info doodles. Meditative doodling is not about trying to remember, plan or design. Mindful doodling is free of conscious decision making. Free-flowing, spontaneous and open, it is a powerful tool for relieving stress and boosting creativity.
Above all, meditative doodling is as much about the creative process as it is about the end result. The goal of mindful doodling is to engage with your creation in a meditative frame of mind. The doodler slows down, focuses on the pen and paper in a mindful pose. It’s perhaps no surprise that practiced mindful doodlers report increased creativity, self-confidence, and well-being.
Art therapy for all
From simple free-flowing sketching at home to structured group workshops, mindful doodling comes in many shapes and forms. It bridges the gap between explicit narrative and implicit sensory experience, between physical art and hidden emotion. To illustrate this, therapists across the globe attest to the power of mindful doodling.
The positive influence of doodling is catching on worldwide. In fact, a school of doodling thought has even been trademarked. The Zentangle Method® was designed as an easy, relaxing, and creative way to create images by drawing structured patterns. Today non-profit organization The Zentangle Foundation® has over 4,000 teachers in over 40 countries. Its method is used in schools, hospitals, businesses, prisons, wellness centers, and private homes.
Meditative doodling is not just for the counselor’s coach, however. Perhaps its greatest asset is its versatility. Free-flowing doodling holds no barriers in terms of age, cost, or creative ability. Anyone can afford to do it, you don’t need to be a creative expert to give it a go and it’s as good for kids as it is for seniors. In short, meditative doodling is for all.
Are you ready to give meditative doodling a try? Here are five tips to help you get started.
Five tips for getting started with mindful doodling:
Get your mind and body ready for doodling. Organize a comfortable seating arrangement. You can use a beanbag on the floor with a hardback pad of paper or sit at a desk, as you prefer. Aim to make this space as nourishing as possible. Check your lighting, tidy away clutter, and make a happy space. Take a moment to reflect, be mindful of your present emotional state and when you feel ready, begin.
2. Let it go.
There are no mistakes in meditative doodling, merely happy accidents. Your creation does not need to be neat or ‘Instagram worthy’, but a reflection of you. Embrace the wonky lines, missed marks, and splattered shapes. Recognize these surprises and incorporate them in your doodle as you develop. You may even want to make these surprise gifts a focal point of your doodle.
Try using different materials. Ink, for example, flows more easily than a pencil, allowing you to focus on lines, shapes, and the free space. Use different textures of paper, colors, and materials. Switch up your doodling as often as you like.
4. Seek inspiration.
There are no rules to mindful doodling, however, you might like to explore with different patterns, shapes, lines, and forms. Research on Pinterest for specific ideas or seek inspiration in the art, nature, and life around you. Harness all your senses to guide your doodling. Mindful doodling is a wonderful sensory experience. Whether it’s the scent of freshly laundered linen or distant bird song, welcome your surroundings into your doodles as much as your internal thoughts and emotions.
5. Don’t overthink it.
Meditative doodling is free, spontaneous, and organic. It is not an exercise to perfect for the future, but a joy for the present. Draw what feels right to you and enjoy the moment.
Nina edits The Expater, a lifestyle blog for women living abroad. The Expater features life coaching tips and personal stories on all things international lifestyle, including relationships, careers, travel, wellbeing and beauty. Follow Nina on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.