Study Proves Doodling Is Good for Brain Health

December 25, 2016

12:45 pm

Doodling — a term almost as ridiculous sounding as “dongle” — might actually be a healthy habit for those hoping to spark their brain cells.

You don’t have to be running into a serious burnout to feel a lack of focus or a sense of being overwhelmed by your workload. Sometimes you’re doing too much to feel like you’re doing your best.

Of course, the solution is to do less. But as those workaholics among us know, it’s a lot easier to take a break if you can spend the time feeling as though you’re being productive. And luckily, there’s a perfectly fun hobby that studies have proven can help keep your attention sharp: Doodling.

The Studies

An often-cited study on doodling is the 2009 psychological experiment performed by Jackie Andrade, psychology professor at the University of Plymouth in England. Andrade asked 40 people to monitor a rambling, boring phone message. Half the group doodled while they listened, and the other half did not. The difference in memory afterwards? Doodlers remembered 29 percent more than non-doodlers.

And that’s not the only study! Wayyyyy back in 1938, another study, titled “Spontaneous Drawings as an Approach to some Problems of Psychopathology,” found that doodling could help cut down on stress. That paper even mentions that “such drawings have come to be best known as doodles.” Interestingly, the 1936 film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was apparently responsible for making the word “doodle” popular, meaning that studies on the subject have been around almost as long as the term itself.

Why It Works

We may have spent decades learning more about doodling, but we still can’t say for sure why it helps. Here’s an interesting theory, cited on the Harvard health blog:

We like to make sense of our lives by making up coherent stories, but sometimes there are gaps that cannot be filled, no matter how hard we try. Doodles fill these gaps, possibly by activating the brain’stime travel machine,” allowing it to find lost puzzle pieces of memories, bringing them to the present, and making the picture of our lives more whole again. With this greater sense of self and meaning, we may be able to feel more relaxed and concentrate more.”

Whatever the case, any entrepreneur can benefit: Just keep a sketch pad by your laptop and try a few spontaneous drawings or notes the next time you’re sitting in on a VC meeting or catching up on a lecture.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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