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The Surprising Science of Doodling

A doodle drawing with a fine-tipped black marker nearby.
La Corneja Artesana/Shutterstock

Zen doodling and other structured styles are increasingly popular. But if you’ve been doodling since you were young, you’ll be happy to hear that doodling of all types is beneficial.

Of course, in school, it was frowned upon. If you were caught doodling, it meant you weren’t paying attention in class. As an adult, doodling is what likely gets you through all work meetings, and you probably never miss anything that’s being said.

Why Is Doodling Not a Distraction?

Interestingly, a 2009 study found that people who doodled during a boring conference call remembered more about it than those who hadn’t. It’s believed this is because doodling helps keep you awake when your mind and body want to shut down—much like fidgeting.

Instead of dozing off during a lecture, when your body and brain aren’t stimulated by reading, talking, or movement, the act of doodling keeps you alert. It gives you something to do that keeps you focused on what’s being said.

It’s entirely possible that the movement of your hand as you draw flowers, squiggles, and hearts on your notepad is the only thing preventing you from closing your eyes and dozing off.

An increased ability to focus during conferences and lectures isn’t the only benefit of doodling. A few others include easing anxiety and emotional regulation.

Even if it’s subconsciously, you’re expressing your creativity. There’s a reason art is used as therapy. It can help people express emotions they don’t understand or know how to communicate verbally—and doodling is also art.

A Few Famous Doodlers

If you enjoy doodling, you’re among some pretty famous people. Many presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, doodled.

The book Scrawl: An A to Z of Famous Doodles is a collection of casual drawings by famous people, like actor Marlon Brando and Queen Victoria (you can check out some interesting excerpts in this review of the book).

Even famed author J.R.R. Tolkien was a doodler. Tolkien’s doodling helped him create his hobbit stories through various sketches of maps and more.

So, next time you need to focus or be inspired, grab a pen or pencil and start doodling. Don’t worry about what you’re creating or what it looks like— it’s the action that matters, not the finished product.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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