Smiley faces, bubble letters and a random assortment of animals.
All of those things might inhabit your old notebook from high school — all along the margins, in between bullet points and on the front cover. While those doodles may be just that —meaningless doodles — they likely helped you get through the day.
However, if you’ve ever been to school, then you know doodling is frowned upon. Yes, teachers certainly have a point. They put a lot of time and effort into class, so you should pay attention. This doesn’t mean you should give up doodling, though.
There are many benefits of doodling. In fact, regular doodling might actually make you a better worker, student and person. Here’s why.
Find a Creative Outlet
Doodling is more than just a way to waste time. It’s a creative outlet that lets you express yourself, and creative outlets have many emotional and physical benefits.
For one, creative outlets relieve stress, and doodling takes your mind off of everything that might be bothering you or weighing you down. In that moment, you can just focus on the doodle. It offers an escape from a stressful environment.
Having a creative outlet can also improve your mood. Through art, you can bring out your emotions and inner dialogue onto paper, whether it’s drawing or writing. Not only can that be freeing, but it can also help you to better understand what you’re feeling or thinking — which might make it easier to let go of what’s bothering you.
Yes, your doodles are fun and creative, but they might also be triggering a part of your brain that boosts memory.
People who doodle are able to recall dull information better than those who don’t. This most likely happens because doodling is a form of exercise for the brain. While most people’s brains are resting on the couch, yours is constantly running on the treadmill. This makes it easier for you to remember information because your brain is already working hard when that information comes your way.
Also, some people are more visual learners. Seeing something in front of them that they can relate to is much better than reading a line of text. The information then comes easier to them because their brain is working and the information has been absorbed in a more creative way.
Discover Great Ideas
Your brain is an idea factory, but most of the time you’re using your brain energy to think of other things that distract this factory — or trying to come up with a brilliant idea on the spot, which is normally tough to do. When you do something creative, it gets your idea factory up and running.
Take this example: In school, you may have done a free writing exercise. For a certain amount of time, you write without thinking. Anything that comes to mind goes on paper. At the end of the time period, you see what you’ve written, and you might have noticed your mind went to places you wouldn’t have imagined.
The same goes for doodling. You’re working the creative part of your brain. When you do this mindlessly, your brain is in a state of creating and generating new ideas.
This could help you with other aspects of your life, too. Sometimes it’ll force you to think about things you try to avoid or to help you solve a problem you’ve been dealing with. Doodling creates a comfortable place for these ideas to flow.
Many people might view doodling as an activity that decreases productivity. It might be seen as a distraction, which, of course, is bad. However, the reality is doodling can make you much more productive.
There are usually many things happening at once that distract you, and while you may get stuff done, you’re wasting an awful lot of energy to get there. The key to productivity is getting your mind in a calm state that’s ready to focus on one task at a time. Doodling can act as the catalyst that calms your mind. When you’re doodling, you’re focused on one thing: the doodle. You can then take that energy into your work and use it to focus.
Doodling can also be a creative way to plan out your tasks. Sketching a grid that plans out each task can be beneficial for your productivity.
People today are under tremendous amounts of stress as they try to navigate an ever busier world filled with electronics, pointless tasks, and juggling family and other responsibilities. Mindlessly doodling is actually a lot of fun, so it leads to stress relief. This makes it easier to concentrate, and you’ll perform at your optimum when you turn your attention to the task at hand.
One director of human development indicated that our doodling isn’t as random as we think. We use it as an outlet for the things that trouble us or what we’re trying to work through. Similar to dreams, we may not fully understand the meaning behind the doodles, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help our brain process situations and worries.
In fact, scientists now believe doodling fills the gaps in the stories of our lives to help us make sense of things. Tragic things may create a lot of lapses in our brains, which we have a hard time processing. One of the reasons it’s hard to get past an argument with a co-worker is that we can’t understand the entire reason for the event. We keep trying to fill in the pieces.
Researchers think doodles act as a sort of time machine that helps us find lost pieces of a story and create a full picture of our lives that makes more sense. This alone relieves stress because our brains are no longer scrambling to make sense of the incomprehensible.
If you feel overwhelmed or on edge, try doodling for a few minutes and see if it helps alleviate the symptoms. The most you’ll lose is a few minutes of time, but you may find the exercise makes you more focused and productive and takes away that near feeling of panic. Doodling isn’t as mindless as you may think, so scribble away and lower your stress levels.
Improve Listening Skills
Did you ever have a teacher point out your doodling and tell you to stop daydreaming? It turns out the opposite might be true, and doodling might help improve concentration and listening skills. One professor believes people who doodle are actually in the mode of pure listening that is only achieved when the focus is on the words and not other distractions in the room. When you put emphasis on pen and paper, you aren’t looking at the expressions of the speaker or the clock on the wall.
Scientists now think doodling helps you listen to the details you need without absorbing so much that none of it sticks. Your mind doesn’t wander, but it also doesn’t go down rabbit trails as you overthink a statement by the speaker. Let’s say someone starts talking about failures last quarter and you know you were responsible for a big mistake. You might begin dwelling on that instead of hearing what the person is saying. For anyone who has ever picked up a pen and started sketching while on a conference call, this is good news and another tool to use in making sure you hear what other people say.
Keep in mind that to others, doodling may still look like you’re disconnected from what is going on in the room. Some people see it as a sign of disrespect, so be aware of your surroundings and don’t doodle if you fear it might insult your boss or a co-worker. You have to do it strategically. You may even want to offer a presentation on why doodling helps with listening skills, productivity and creativity before you start doing it during your manager’s next speech.
It may seem childish and like a waste of time, but doodling can have a profound impact on how you make it through the day — and life. Doodling is actually a good thing. So during that next meeting or important phone call, don’t be afraid to doodle a little more.