Pretty much everybody remembers doodling as a kid, right? Maybe even last week? You’re listening to something–a lecture, a meeting, a podcast–and you’re zoning out while your hand makes idle drawings on the paper in front of you. Whether that’s spirals, intricate geometric shapes, faces or even flowers, you’re doing something really good for your brain when you doodle. Yes, really!
It turns out that there are a ton of reasons why doodling is good for you. While it may seem like a distraction, spontaneous drawing can actually help you retain more of what you’re listening to, develop the creative side of your brain, and help you stay on task. There’s even a whole type of drawing geared toward improving your brain called Zen-tangling. We’ll get into that and the other benefits of doodling.
People who doodle all the time know the benefits of free drawing, but science now backs them up. A study published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal lists a lot of mental benefits of doodling, including benefits for creativity, concentration, and overall cognitive health. Let’s look at the ways drawing can benefit your brain.
Attention and Memory
Drawing while you listen to something important may sound like a distraction, but it can actually help you pay attention to what you’re hearing. The study showed that test subjects who were allowed to doodle while they listened to a long, complicated audio file retained over 20% more than subjects who just listened and didn’t draw. Researchers theorize this is because drawing activates parts of the brain responsible for focus.
- How to Sharpen Your Memory with Doodling – If you need to attend a webinar, lecture, or sit through a long conference call at work, set aside some blank paper and grab your favorite pen. Or pencil or crayon! Just stick to one implement though so you don’t get too into your drawing.
Focus and Creativity
When you draw, you activate parts of your brain that don’t always get tapped in this technological age. Drawing is also an age-old practice, and human beings are hardwired to engage in this sort of idle creative behavior. Remember drawing as a kid? When you doodle as an adult, it wakes up the creativity we all had as children and puts us in that learning mindset too.
- Wake Up Your Creativity with Doodling – This one is easy! Just let yourself doodle at least three times a week. You can color, draw Zen-tangles, or just scribble! When you regularly let yourself express yourself artistically without any judgment or goal in mind, you wake up your creativity even on projects that have nothing to do with art.
Lasting Cognitive Benefits of Doodling
Improved focus, recall, and creativity don’t end the second you put down your pencil. Science backs up this idea that regular doodling is good for your brain because it lets it take a rest from focusing in other ways. This creative, unfocused activity basically rests your brain Psychologists and researchers agree that doodling can relieve stress, as our brains use images to process our experiences and feelings. When you doodle regularly, you can lower your stress levels, train your brain to focus better, and firm up connections in your brain.
- How to Improve Your Brain with Doodling – As you doodle, don’t limit yourself to just drawings. Let yourself add words to your doodles or draw lines between topics. Even if you don’t think you’re a great artist, you can visualize your thoughts just by drawing circles, flourishes, arrows, and lines connecting words.
Turns out, doodling is good for you in a ton of ways, so give yourself permission to scribble in notebooks, on sticky notes, napkins, or whatever strikes your fancy! And don’t ever feel silly for doodling, because you’re joining the ranks of some of the smartest people in the world. Even 26 US Presidents were doodlers! Tell that to your boss if they wag a finger at you for doodling during that conference call. 😉