Marginal Focus

Cartoon lady writing to focus

Doodling is one of my favorite things. From napkins to class handouts, I find it to be both relaxing and focusing. When I found out about mandala designs, it made sense to me that people use them for everything from Hindu rituals to art therapy for prison inmates. A mandala is an intricate circular pattern that can be drawn, or colored in. It originated as a symbol for the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism. In the spiritual or ritual setting it is often used to focus attention or aid meditation. These days they are often used by art therapists as a way of focusing or calming a patient.

Studies have been completed examining the power of doodling. Yes, the Buddhist monks may be onto something along with those of us who always fill in the letters on a class handout.

Author Sunni Brown says, “Doodling is making spontaneous marks to help yourself think.” People who doodle while being exposed to verbal information retain 29% more than those who do not. Brown says that rather than doodling being a sign of losing focus, it is actually something that prevents distraction.

I realize that it may not always seem appropriate to doodle, especially if you want the person talking to be confident that you are listening. Think about this, though: There are three primary ways of learning — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Doodling has the capability to engage all of these at the same time. Don’t underestimate the power of those little curlicues in the margins of your notes. I think we could all use a little art therapy; and if you don’t know where to start, download a mandala to color, or just fill in the patterns of the closest napkin.


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