Get Your Doodle On

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With pen and paper in hand, I’ve doodled while talking on the phone, while in a meeting, or while stuck at the airport. I have a tendency to draw circles or infinity signs repeatedly, looping them together to form a border around the page. I leave my doodles on scraps of paper, Post-It notes, and napkins.

We’ve all doodled, right?

Doodling appeals to most people because it’s “absentminded art.” Drawing without rules produces an organic image, and you don’t have to be a natural artist to create simple scribbles.

In the classroom and at work though, doodling has a bad rap. It’s frowned upon because it’s assumed that the doodler can’t focus or pay attention. But wait! There are scientific studies to back up the benefits of doodling. Rather than viewing doodling as a distraction, perhaps it’s a way of helping our minds process information.

The National Doodle Day website explains, “Doodling helps relieve boredom and frustration, and the urge to doodle gets stronger as stress levels rise.” So in a sense, doodling is a natural stress-reliever. It helps to calm us down. Surprisingly, it also helps us concentrate on important topics. TIME magazine published an article, “Doodling Helps You Pay Attention,” about Professor Jackie Andrade’s 2009 study.

Andrade’s participants were asked to listen to a 2 ½-minute voicemail message that rambles on about a birthday party. According to the article, “…the party’s host talks about someone’s sick cat; she mentions her redecorated kitchen, the weather, someone’s new house in Colchester and a vacation in Edinburgh that involved museums and rain. In all, she mentions eight place names and eight people who are definitely coming to the party.”

It was a complete bore, to say the least.

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Before the voicemail began, half of the participants were instructed to shade in some small squares and circles on a piece of paper while listening. The other participants were not instructed to doodle. All of the participants were asked to write the names of the people and places mentioned in the message. For the doodlers, this would mean switching between shading in the shapes to writing down a list.

Afterward, when asked to recall the people and places (orally), the doodlers were able to recall 29% more information than the control group.

The conclusion was found that doodling actually aids memory. Andrade suggests that doodling isn’t anything like daydreaming. Daydreaming requires more cognitive effort (aka brain power) because you start to plan for the future and explore endless options. While she explains, “Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention.”

So let it happen!

When listening to your English professor lecture about comma splices, just doodle. When involved in a conference call with your co-workers and supervisor, just doodle.

But take diligent notes too.

Are you interested in deciphering what your doodles reveal about your personality? For more information on doodling interpretation, check out this article.

love & peace,

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