Bored? Chances are you just grabbed your phone and checked out social media before clicking this article. Before the days of social media and 10-second cat videos, though, procrastination often came in the form of a pencil and doodling in a notebook.
For all the glorious distraction that technology brings to our lives, it may be time to put away the electronic devices and reach for our sketchbooks next time we’re bored. This is because recent research has shown that doodling can actually be good for our attention.
Participants in a 2009 investigation listened to a ‘monotonous mock telephone message’. Half of the group doodled as they listened and the other half didn’t. Their memories were then tested after the call. The group that doodled surprisingly recalled 29% more information.
Though the findings are far from conclusive –the investigation was carried out on a relatively small sample of 40 people- it does provide interesting. The paper, written by Jackie Andrade, also suggests several reasons why doodling may be an aid rather than an enemy of focus.
Doodling is a form of fidgeting. Fidgeting, contrary to many people’s beliefs, can actually be good for us.
Biologically speaking, our bodies are wired to combat boredom. The earliest human beings had to be constantly alert to danger. Alertness was crucial for survival. To this end, fidgeting may be your body’s instinctive response to the onset of boredom and distraction, a last-ditch attempt at maintaining an alert mindset.
Preliminary research also suggests that fidgeting can combat negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle sat in an office or in front of a screen. The findings of a 2015 study show that “negative associations with fidgeting, such as rudeness or lack of concentration” may be off the mark. Rather, they’re the body’s way of keeping alert when it senses a lack of activity.
The Resting Doodler
Aside from improving focus, doodling may also provide the respite needed in intervals for the brain to maintain that focus. A lot of strain is placed on the brain when it is paying continuous attention to a stimulus, a bit like a computer overheating.
Sketch For Less Stress
Doodling, unsurprisingly, may relieve psychological distress. One of the benefits of doodling is that it can relieve stress, which itself impairs our ability to pay attention and to focus on the task at hand.
Going even further down the rabbit hole, our improvised, unplanned sketches may also provide a window into our subconscious. Dr. Robert Burns, a former director of the Institute for Human Development at the University of Seattle, believes that doodles can be used to diagnose a patient’s emotional problems.
So, far from being the artistic equivalent of an incoherent ramble, a doodle may serve as a very useful therapeutic tool. According to Burns, ‘even at their simplest, the idle jottings we repeat in the margins of our notebooks can evoke childhood memories and associations that provide clues even to our obsessions.’
The Oxford dictionary defines a doodle as something that was scribbled absent-mindedly. While it’s true that your mind may not be fully engaged on what you’re jotting down on that notebook, it’s become clear that so much more is going on beneath the surface. So next time you’re boredom tempts you to scroll through cat pics, try doodling those cats instead.
Featured photo credit: We Heart It via weheartit.com
|||^||Want to increase your productivity? Study says: Look at this adorable kitten, The Washington Post|
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|||^||A Formula for Perfect Productivity: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17, The Atlantic|
|||^||If You Think Your Brain Works Like A Computer, Scientists Prove You Wrong, Lifehack|
|||^||The Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto, Manifesto|
|||^||Why do we doodle, The Register|