Look, Draw, Thrive: Drawing for Mental Wellbeing

The art of seeing has to be learned
Marguerite Duras, The Lover, 1984
Having a creative practice can be very beneficial for your mental health. From improving memory to releasing emotions and stress, these practices are fun, engaging and sometimes easier than a meditation.
It’s important to notice that the key fact is not to “care” about the end result but to enjoy the process and loose ourselves in the moment.
Here is some research about the topic and key benefits:

1. Improve concentration/ focus and strategic thinking

Creative practices such as drawing help claw back what social media have taken away from us: focus and concentration. Research has found that drawing while in a meeting or phone call helps recall more details

2. Improved observational skills

Have you been on long walks these past two years? Our brains have evolved to miss most of what we “see”, we filter information as needed and some things are recorded in our subconscious while other completely pass over us. Mindful sketching makes us look with intent and purpose. It allows us to direct our view and increase or limit our focus. 

3. Great for de-stressing/ relaxation

Drawing, like many other crafts and arts can help with relaxation and stress relief because it forces us to pay attention to the now and the environment that surrounds us. This is very similar to meditation. Spontaneous drawing can also help with stress as it serves as a relief from continuous concentration.

4. Increase in happiness

Studies show that our brain’s reward pathways become active during art-making including doodling, drawing, painting. This could mean there is an inherent pleasure or reward in the activity itself rather than the end result. An ongoing practice for yourself (not to sell, show), just for yourself to enjoy can easily improve your mood in a regular basis, leading to life satisfaction.

5. Improves your memory

A few studies have shown that doodling helps improve your memory as well as visual cues to remember names/ stories/ places. People that had drawn items could remember 30% more than people than had only read the words.
Studies have shown that doodling while performing another task such as listening to a video or phone conversation actually improves the recollection levels and the performance of both tasks.

6. Living in the moment

Mindfulness is about being in present, living in the moment. Meditation allows you to think of now, today, this minute… drawing has similar effects being called an “active meditation” where your brain concentrates on what is happening at the moment.

Further Reading

About drawing:

About meditation and observation