Doodling has often been associated with distraction, inattention, or boredom—but what if we told you the opposite was true? Doodling isn’t the meaningless or frivolous activity many people have taken it to be. In fact, more and more research suggests that spontaneous drawings and doodles actually benefit our brains immensely.
What does doodling do?
Improves Stress Relief
Keep calm and doodle on. Research has shown that the repetition and rhythm of sketching activates a relaxation response, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and countering our body’s fight-or-flight response. As a result, the repetitive motion of moving a pen across the page and making the same shape or mark over and over again is relaxing on a physiological level.
Enhances Concentration & Memory
Despite popular belief, doodling can deepen our focus, concentration, and ability to recall information. When we draw an object, our minds actually become deeply attentive, not distracted. For example, in a popular Harvard study, 40 people listened to a dull, rambling voicemail. Half of the group doodled while half of them did not. At the end, both groups were asked to recall the information in the voicemail. Those who doodled recalled the information 29 percent better than those who did not.
When we have to pay intense attention to something for too long, it can strain the brain and cause us to lose focus. Experts think doodling relaxes the brain enough to improve concentration and the ability to retain information. Doodling calms the mind and prevents mental strain while also creating just enough stimulation to keep the brain “online” and present.
Doodling is not mindless distraction. On the contrary, doodling invites us to focus more deeply in the present. Not unlike meditation, doodling helps calm a racing mind and bring it to a quiet, restful mental space. This type of mindfulness encourages people to be aware of present feelings or thoughts without judgment. It is the opposite of letting our mind drift away and becoming overwhelmed.
Drawing and doodling are great techniques for grounding oneself in the present and achieving a peaceful sense of self-acceptance. It is incredibly freeing to allow the mind to let go of certain ideas and expectations. Doodling in this state of self-acceptance and mindfulness is not only relaxing, but it helps that person to potentially discover or unlock something unexpected—whether that be in their sketchbook or in their life.
Doodling unlocks your unconscious creativity. When the mind is relaxed, it is the most creative. For example, one notable study found that drawing quieted the left hemisphere of the brain to better access the creative right hemisphere of the brain. As a result, the stress and distractions that cloud the mind fade away to the background. It lets the intuitive and spontaneous side of our brain take over and flow freely, opening the door to the unpredictable. Many find spontaneous drawing to be a recharge for their creative battery.
Would You Like to Try Meditative Doodling?
Join instructor Sarah Hanson of Hanson Art & Design in her online Meditative Doodling class. It is an intuitive drawing practice that combines guided meditation, mindfulness, and drawing to relax the mind and let creativity flow freely.
Students will learn the basics of several creative techniques, enjoy relaxing meditation, and find new methods of art making. Through repetitive patterns and deliberate pen strokes, you will create a unique piece of abstract art and achieve a relaxed state of mind.