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Have you ever gotten in trouble for doodling on your school papers? Or maybe you tend to look distracted during presentations and meetings at work because you’re drawing rather than engaging with the speaker.
Well, your teacher or boss might be surprised to find out that doodling actually offers big benefits for your brain. So rather than trying to squash the habit, take advantage of it to boost your concentration, creativity, and ability to learn—all while improving your drawing skills.
For insight into the benefits of doodling and some creative exercises to get you started, read the guide below.
What Is Doodling?
It’s common to aimlessly draw when your mind is otherwise occupied, such as during a phone call, meeting, or lecture, or when you want to meditate or relax. This is the art of doodling—the act of drawing, sketching, or scribbling without a final goal or product in mind. In fact, doodling can be considered a type of process art, which means that the actual act of doodling is more important than the finished product.
Doodling is unique to each individual drawer, so there are no guidelines around what a doodle should look like. For some, it’s repeated lines or shapes; for others, it’s drawing the same word (like your name) in a variety of styles. What you choose to doodle depends on what you’re comfortable and familiar with—but there’s no wrong way to do it!
Benefits of Doodling
Doodling is anything but mindless—it offers many benefits for your mind and body! Here are just a few examples.
Enhance Concentration and Comprehension
It’s a well-established fact that doodling can enhance concentration. In 2009, psychologist Jackie Andrade published a study that revealed that doodlers remember more information than non-doodlers after a lecture or meeting. The author theorized that doodling occupies your mind just enough to keep you from daydreaming or zoning out, allowing you to actually pay attention to the information being presented.
If you’re feeling stressed, doodling can be an effective coping mechanism. Especially repetitive, rhythmic drawings—like series of lines or marks—are thought to combat the body’s fight-or-flight response. And, making art in any form has been shown to lower cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone.
Doodle to Relax
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Less stress can certainly improve your general mood, but the mood-boosting effects of doodling go even further. Researchers believe that doodling can allow individuals to work through and express their emotions. This healthy release frees up space in the brain and, ultimately, has a calming effect. Further, the art-making process can enhance blood flow to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which has been shown to trigger positive feelings.
Doodling can also be a valuable tool to enhance your creativity and refine your ideas. Many writers and poets—like Alexander Pushkin and J.K. Rowling—were known to doodle faces and characters in the margins of their writing to serve as inspiration. According to author Sunni Brown, doodling can help you process information by stimulating different parts of the brain, ultimately allowing you to develop new ideas.
How to Doodle
Doodling is meant to be aimless and random, but it’s easy to get stuck if you’re not sure what to draw. If you want to try doodling, get started with these four exercises.
Because they are simple and easy to draw, patterns are perfect for when you want to allow your mind to engage elsewhere—during a class or meeting, for example—while you draw. One easy approach to doodling patterns is to start by drawing a few open shapes on your paper, like several different sizes of hearts. Then, fill in each heart with a different pattern: straight lines, zig-zags, polka dots, waves, and so on.
Drawing this flower-like shape is easy and relaxing. Start by drawing a simple center shape, like a circle, with four semi-circular petals surrounding it. Then add another row of petals, and continue adding rows outward until your flower reaches your desired size. Bonus: Challenge yourself to add some variety—for example, fill in every other petal with a pattern, or vary the shape of the petals.
Doodling cartoon faces is easy, as they’re made up of just a few simple shapes and lines. While drawing realistic faces can be intimidating, don’t worry about your doodles looking true to life. Just focus on adding the essential features: eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, and a chin. Get creative! Part of the fun of doodling faces is trying different face shapes, hairstyles, and expressions.
Start this exercise by using a pencil to draw one continuous line all over your paper, using loops, curves, and angles to fill up the page. Then, use a pen to outline interesting shapes within those pencil lines. You might find animals, flowers, or abstract shapes. This is a great way to get your mind in a state of flow and see things you might otherwise overlook.
Doodle Your Way to a Healthier, More Creative Self
Whether you want to pay better attention in meetings or simply relieve stress, doodling offers a wide variety of benefits. So never feel guilty about the drawings in the margins of your papers—they may be the key to a more creative, focused you!
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