National Doodle Day: Could doodling be good for your mental health?

by Sarah Graham
Friday 06 February 2015
182 2163

Friday 6 February is National Doodle Day, a national event raising funds and awareness for Epilepsy Action, where supporters are asked to either do their own doodle or bid for their favourite celebrity doodle on eBay. But, as well as raising money for a great cause, National Doodle Day could also be a great opportunity to give your mental health a quick boost.

With the rise in popularity of mindfulness-based therapies, doodling and colouring books for adults are more popular than ever because of the therapeutic effects they offer. We asked RSCPP art therapists why getting your pens and pencils out, and doodling for National Doodle Day, could do you the world of good.

 

"Art is the best therapy of all, allowing us to express ideas, feelings and emotions," says Registered Art Psychotherapist Jan Carlton. "This can be done as a picture, story, abstract and even doodles, which can be drawn through free association."

For many of us, art may simply be something associated with childhood, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's no space for it in our adult lives. "Young children draw freely to communicate and develop their sense of self and others in the world - literally allowing their minds to grow," Registered Psychotherapist Kate Meadowcroft explains. "Whilst for most of us, drawing does not continue to be an innate activity into adulthood, many of us do occasionally find ourselves 'doodling' in response to a dull meeting, or as a way of calming ourselves during a stressful phone call."

For Jan, the power of doodling comes from its ability to ground you in the here and now. "Doodling is like diverting the mind from what I call 'monkey mind', when your thoughts are all over the place and you feel anxious," she explains. "It concentrates your mind into focusing on one process, the process of creation, in the here and now, not yesterday or tomorrow."

Kate agrees: "As an art therapist, I'm very interested in this unplanned mark making as the 'unwinding' of stressful, unconscious or withheld thoughts and feelings," she says. "So doodling can be relaxing and mindful - particularly when the focus is on repetitive mark making, rather than an end result - and it can also be therapeutic, because the patterns and forms give a 'voice' to less acknowledged or denied parts of the personality."

From a neuroscience perspective, Kate explains, "doodling, as a creative rather than analytical thinking activity, can serve to connect neurons firing in remote areas of the brain, thereby enabling spontaneous, intuitive insights that shed light on stuck problems and situations."

It's hardly surprising then that so many people have suddenly caught the doodling bug, with adult colouring books reportedly outselling cookery books in France last summer, shortly before the trend caught on over here.

"The current interest in colouring and doodling books definitely reflects our stressed out society's need for mindful, non-goal oriented activities," Kate says. "They offer time and space for over-loaded brains to empty out, and allow the deeper, more imaginative processing, which is essential for wellbeing, to take place."

Indeed, as Jan adds, "we benefit from the interaction of creating something from ourselves, and those benefits are then evidenced by something solid that we have shared of ourselves. So doodle away!"


Finding support


If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 06 February 2015