Would you believe it if I were to tell you that Harvard says doodling is good for you? Yep, it’s true. One of the top academic institutions in the nation (can we go ahead and say the world?) actually ran a study on the power of doodling. They divided 40 study subjects into two groups, forcing each individual to sit through a two-and-a-half minute voicemail. One group was asked to doodle while listening to the message. The other group was supposed to concentrate on nothing but the sound of the voicemail.
Guess who was better able to recall the message? (The subject of this article probably served as enough of a spoiler alert already.) You got it: the group of doodlers. They were 29% better at recalling details in the message.
Maybe in some way, doodling gives our fingers a chance to wander rather than our mind. Or perhaps there’s a connection between the memory of muscle movement and the memory of facts.
The study didn’t go so far as to explain why doodling seemed to improve thinking and retention, only that it did. If you’d like to read the full article on the Harvard study over at the Harvard Health Blog, click here. It’s worth a read. It’s a pretty quick article, and there are some more good nuggets of doodling benefits over there.
So, now that we know that doodling helps with memory. How else is it good for us?
For one thing, examining our doodles can give us insight into what’s going on at a subconscious level.
For example, did you know that a chessboard is a common doodle for people who are patient, persistent, and … prone to mood swings? Or that the shape and position of a flower and its petals illustrate how you’re feeling on any given day? Stars are ambitious, and squares are related to active problem solving. This is all according to the article “What Your Doodles Really Say About You,” at Daily Mail. Click here for that article, featuring 15 of the most common doodles and what they mean.
But don’t go overboard analyzing your doodles. The more you start to think about what they mean, the less you’ll doodle, and the more you’ll move into drawing. Drawing is wonderful, but it’s more intentional than a doodle. It requires more concentration, and involves decisions about where to place the pencil, how much pressure to put into it, the shape of things relative to one another. In drawing, you’re likely thinking about what the final piece will look like.
While the output may be similar, the input is often different. I might differentiate the two by saying that doodling is about release, while drawing is about communication.
Personally, I find doodling meditative. There’s something so inherently calming about allowing the hand and the pencil guide you. It’s a way to quiet my mind rather than activate it, and it helps me find my zen.
Here’s a simple, fun exercise to get you doodling.
To complete the doodle in the photo at the beginning of the blog (and that I post again below), I drew 15 circles in a 3 x 5 grid. You can draw circles, or you can draw triangles or squares, or really any shape you like. Even stars if you’re ambitious! (Wink.)
Then I gave myself about 15 minutes to fill in the circles, and I set to it.
I ended up with little pictures, but you might end up with patterns or textures or themes. Who knows?
By creating several circles, and completing them quickly, I couldn’t think about what each circle would become. I just instinctually moved from one to the next. It’s far less pressure to fill in a bunch of circles than it is to pick what to draw in one large circle, so it opens you up to diverse creative discovery.
And the repetition of a single shape, rather than a page full of different shapes, reduces the need for the mind to think and recalibrate from one space to the next. It’s why you’ll often see a page in a notebook or a textbook full of similar doodles. It’s easier to doodle a bunch of flowers, or a bunch of faces, or a bunch of hearts, or swirls, or raindrops, or cubes, or whatever the moment may call for, and still pay attention to what’s going on or allow the mind to go quiet, than it is to completely switch up it up from one doodle to the next. As long as the shape matches, you can fill it in differently without thinking, because your mind has already, in an instant, imagined what fits in a circle.
You can do this shape doodle as a meditation, or you can try it while listening to a podcast or an audiobook that you’d like to remember better. Each time you do it, your experience will be different.
I’d love to see what you create, but the image comment plugins all seem to be outdated, and don’t work with modern WordPress. So, if you would like to share your experience, leave a comment. But if you’d like to share a photo of your doodle, tag me on Instagram (@ofloveandlightcreative) or post it to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ofloveandlightcreative/).
It would be a real treat to see what you come up with!
Here’s my picture again, uncropped, and without the title overlay:
ABOUT A TO Z CHALLENGE
This month, I am writing 26 posts starting with the letters A through Z, along with hundreds of other businesses and bloggers from around the world. I first ran into the A to Z Challenge many, many moons ago (circa 2011), when I was brand new to the online writing world. It was a great way to jumpstart my creative juices, and I had so much fun “meeting” men and women sharing what they love to do.
So when I opened Of Love + Light, I knew the A to Z Challenge would be the perfect complement to Daily Dose: Inspired. Enjoy!
ABOUT OF LOVE + LIGHT
Of Love + Light is a place for uplifting media, creative inspiration, art, nifty creative publications, and storytelling. I also offer editing, creativity coaching, and small business communications planning services. Founded by Alana Garrigues, Of Love + Light is your place to come, relax, feel inspired and loved, and share more of what’s good on this beautiful planet.
Of Love + Light has infinite possibilities, and YOU are a huge part of what this will look like. Want to talk? Send me an email!
“Doodling is Good for You” is the fourth article in the Daily Dose: Inspired series. Looking for a small something to get you inspired to take on the day? This is the place to come for a photo, a song, a pick-me-up quote, a little slice of happy. At least, these are the things that inspire me!