Doodling Has Value

Often if sitting thinking, or even whilst chatting on the phone or in person, we find ourselves doodling. Some of us just scribble and others create eye-catching pieces. Usually, whatever they are they find their way into the bin. Now it appears they may have value, and by this, I mean to be a benefit to us whilst we are actually doodling away.

I have previously touched on the benefits of art in a blog, but researchers are saying that even without having an artistic skill, by simply creating art in the form of doodling we are activating the reward pathway in the brain which produces the feeling of pleasure.

Study leader Girija Kaimal, of the College of Nursing and Health Professionals at Drexel University in Philadelphia, along with colleagues, recently published their findings in the journal ‘Arts in Psychotherapy’. We already know that previous studies have shown art to be beneficial for psychological wellbeing.

The research involved 26 healthy adults aged between 18 and 70 including 8 artists. The tests were split into three, colouring, doodling and free drawing. Each task lasted for three minutes with a break between each one. During each task functional near- infrared spectroscopy, which is an imaging technique, was used to measure the blood flow. It was found that all three of the art tasks led to an increase of blood flow to the prefrontal cortex of the brain. During rest periods it returned to normal. This is the pathway that plays a part in our emotions. It was discovered that doodling led to the greatest increased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, followed by free drawing.

They also discovered that colouring reduced the blood flow.  I find this interesting as initially I simply could not be bothered to give it a go and I now enjoy art.

Although more research needs to be carried out, it clearly indicates an inherent potential for promoting positive emotions through art whether someone is artistic or not. Doodling is something we are all capable of doing. It is a free pleasurable activity. The reason why I feel excited by it is as a stroke survivor, is that being right handed and having lost the use of my right side I have can see the potential benefits.

I spent many months in the hospital, in rehab, and at home, once physiotherapy and my occupational therapy had finished for the day and I was placed back in bed or in my chair, I could not do anything really to help improve my situation. At that stage it was too limited other than in my mind I was always positive and determined. If doodling was encouraged as part of our recovery program from the outset and family members were asked to encourage us to use the non-dominate hand, it could even be fun, and laughter is of course also beneficial.

The sheer nature of doodling is that it isn’t meant to look like anything, so nothing to be nervous about.

Win-win in my book. Start doodling.

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