We ask — can something as simple as reading and drawing for well being really improve our lives? Life seems increasingly chaotic, an ever-faster rush towards goals that we often can’t see or even understand. At the same time, we are enjoying a relentless rise in digital technology with all the benefits that gives us. But this engulfs the very heart of how we communicate, think, and experience. It brings with it a common feeling that we are missing out on something simpler and perhaps more joyful.
Reading, Drawing and Mindfulness
Increasingly people are beginning to connect the idea of ‘mindfulness’ to their own personal well being. We see mindfulness as a process of appreciating the very moment you are in now. It’s an ability to ‘take in’ your thoughts, your physical sensations, your surrounding environment. To practice mindfulness, you need some inner space. When seeking space in our day-to-day lives, what simpler way is there than by turning to some daily drawing and reading for well being?
Reading has health benefits
It feels intuitive that reading and mindfulness, and reading and well being are interlinked.
Stress is at the root of more than 60% of all illness and disease, so say the American Medical Association. Psychologists at the University of Sussex discovered that reading can reduce human stress levels by as much as 68%. Even a quiet read of around 6 minutes was demonstrably enough to slow the heart rate and relax muscles. And it works not only as a distraction, printed words engage the imagination; creating an altered state of consciousness, and that stimulates creativity.
And drawing has health benefits too
So what of drawing for well being? Creative activity makes us feel contented and fulfilled. It feels intuitive for us to create, as it did to our oldest ancestors back in prehistoric times making their mark on shadowy walls of caves and rock. Creative expression is a deep-rooted part of what makes us human. The physical act of drawing, its combination of movement, tangibility, and focus, helps create a state of calm in a similar way to reading. Art psychotherapist Karin Angstrom believes that as little as 10 minutes a day is enough for positive effects. A little bit of drawing and mindfulness can go a long way!
Whatever our creative passion, we’ve all known that feeling of getting swept along with what we are doing. It’s a common response to creating anything, and we instinctively know it feels good. That’s the key thing about drawing and mindfulness. We can develop our brain’s capacity for creative thinking by regular drawing, as much as an athlete can by regular physical training. In turn, we improve our ability to communicate, and this ability equips us to better cope with the world around us. Drawing for well being can really change the way we feel about our lives.
Doodling triggers pleasure – no skill required
Great, so take up reading and drawing for well being — but what about those of us who don’t feel we are artistic? Can we benefit too?
A study at Drexel University in Philadelphia found that doodling causes a blood flow increase in your prefrontal cortex. This is also where we find the brain’s reward center, and it is here that our brains release feelings of pleasure. The study found similar effects for coloring and free-drawing. Researchers also reveal that this effect is not connected to how good or bad you might think you are at drawing — everyone can benefit.
It’s brilliant news — drawing for well being is not a reward reserved for the already talented artist!
Overcoming the blank page syndrome
If all this is so true, if reading and drawing for well being is offering us so many benefits, then why is it sometimes so difficult to get started? This brings us back to our first point, hectic lifestyles. It’s as if we live our lives in shorter blocks now. It seems our ability to slow down and focus is reduced, and yet that’s something we probably still crave naturally. Perhaps it’s a skill that many of us want to re-learn?
When we first came up with the concept here for Doodle Reads our aim was to carve out a little daily space for mindful focus and creative thinking. Make reading and drawing for well being part of a routine. We all find so many reasons why we can’t take up a pencil to draw, or open the book we bought during our last holiday to read.
The key to this problem is to build some regular time for drawing, reading and mindfulness into your daily routine. Pick a moment that will give your the breathing space you need. It might be your morning coffee breaks, your lunchtime, or during your train journey home. You’ll need something good to read and a notebook, journal, or sketch book in which to get doodling. Read a short burst and make some doodles. Use the inspiration from your book to stimulate your own bursts of creativity. If that’s too complicated simply doodle in the margins of your book, why not!?
Our ‘Read + Doodle Book’ puts it all in one place
Our Read + Doodle Book helps you to overcome any of these hurdles quickly and effortlessly. Its short story format (in punchy daily episodes) means that you need only take a short break out from your busy day. Six or seven inspiring minutes of reading then leads to 8 or 9 minutes of creative expression through easy doodling. And there is no blank page syndrome here. The daily doodling page is pre-filled with colorful artwork and ideas just waiting for you to add your creativity. It all adds up to 15 rewarding minutes each day. Regular reading, drawing and mindfulness — the benefits are clear!
Find out more about our book “Read + Doodle Book 1” here.
Available now in paperback from Amazon.